Last week, we have used stats to conclude a final shortlist of three players as Mitrović’s potential replacement. In this analysis, we will delve into Paulinho from Sporting Braga, since he is the best choice regardless of whether Fulham gets promoted to the Premier League or stays in the EFL Championship.
This is part three of the recruitment analysis series. In this tactical analysis in the form of scout report, we will first use data to manifest Paulinho’s profile compared to Liga NOS’ strikers and Aleksandar Mitrović. Then we will see what his attribute can potentially affect Fulham’s tactics.
Now we first look at some important metrics compared to strikers in Liga NOS. The first metrics we look at are aerial duels and the success rate:
Paulinho has 4.53 aerial duels per 90 with a success rate of 43.81%. As we can see from the scatter plot graph, these stats are quite decent among all Liga NOS’ strikers. His success rate is above the average whereas the aerial duels per 90 are below the average. This means quite decent effectiveness in combating aerial duels while he doesn’t have many combats in aerial duels. After seeing the first metrics, we now come to the offensive duels:
As you can observe from the visualisation, Paulinho has 7.03 offensive duels per 90 with 30.67% in the success rate, which is all below the average level amongst these Liga NOS’ strikers. This means his stat in offensive duels is not really outstanding, similar to Mitrović. Then let’s take a look at xG per 90 and goal conversion rate:
As you can see from the graph, the spot of Paulinho is located in the second quadrant, which means that his xG per 90 and goal conversion rate all exceed the average level. He has 0.1944 in goal conversion, which means that one shot of his leads to 0.1944 goals. Furthermore, he possesses 0.53 in xG per 90, which is in the top ten of all these Liga NOS strikers.
Thus, now we have already compared his stats with other Liga NOS’ strikers. And now we will compare his stats with Mitrović to have a deeper understanding of his statistical profile. Firstly, we compare their goal-scoring stats first:
We can see from above that they both have decent xG per 90. However, Paulinho can score more than expected since his goals per 90 is more than his xG per 90 (0.54,0.51). On the other hand, Mitrović’s goals per 90 equal xG per 90. Thus Paulinho can score more than expected than Mitrović.
On top of this, when we look at the goal conversion rate of these two strikers from above, Paulinho is also slightly better than Mitrović (0.1791 vs 0.1783). Also, Paulinho excels in the success rate of aerial duels (43.81% vs 39.72%).
However, when we look at the aerial duels per 90 from above, we can clearly see that Mitrović combats for more (9.12) than our Portuguese striker (4.53).
Now, we have already had some brief impression on Paulinho. In the next sections, we will delve into some matches and see how he really affects team’s performance.
After knowing his statistical profile, we now delve into what Paulinho can bring to Fulham offensively. Paulinho is strong in the physique. This enables him to hold up his matchup and shield the ball, with laying-off to his teammates later. What’s more, with a similar height to Mitrović (187cm and 188cm respectively), he can also win aerial duels with a decent success rate, which is mentioned in the previous section.
For Paulinho, his off-the-ball movement is the main weapon. While standing along with the last shoulder of the defensive line, he tends to run in behind the opponent’s defensive line, providing an in-behind pass option. This kind of run can also help stretch the opponent’s defensive line and create space for teammates between the lines to receive. Thus, this in-behind run can potentially offer Fulham with direct play-in-behind tactics, and also space for his teammates between the lines. Let’s see one example of this:
In the above scenario, Braga was already attacking in the final third. The ball carrier was facing the opponent’s goal and had the vision of run-in-behind Paulinho. That was the trigger for him to boost and run in behind. As Paulinho tried to attack the space behind the defensive line, the defender had to track him and this created space between the lines. The highlighted teammate was unmarked in this situation due to Paulinho’s stretching play, and he was another option for the ball carrier to pick to finish. Hence, Paulinho can potentially provide Fulham with this kind of scenario in the finishing stage.
Apart from attacking the space behind the line and stretching the play, he could also drop back to the midfield area to help link the play, just as what Mitrović does in Fulham. While Mitrović mostly links the play by passing back to the free pivot, Paulinho can pass square or forward to progress the play in a tight area with his passing ability:
In the above image, Paulinho dropped to the midfield area to help sort the play out. He was defended by two opponents and facing backwards. He also touched his touch backwards, decoying the opponent to focus on the back-pass option. However, he picked his teammate on the sideline, who was unmarked in this situation. His teammate latched onto the ball and progressed the play. With this kind of movement along with his passes, Paulinho could potentially help link the play in the midfield area with more progression for Fulham.
After talking about what his off-the-ball movement can potentially bring to Fulham, we now take a look at his on-the-ball ability. The left-footed has 17 goals in Liga NOS now, ranking the second in the league and also 7 assists in 28 matches. Now let’s take a look at his finishing first.
Compared to Mitrović, Paulinho is more like a run-in-behind finisher while Mitrović will try to wait in the box for the crosses to come in. The two images below are their shooting maps and some relevant stats of their shots:
The first one is Mitrović’s and the second one belongs to Paulinho. We can see that Paulinho has a more disperse range while Mitrović finishes and scores more centrally in the box. On top of this, Mitrović scores 11 goals after the cross while Paulinho scores eight, which means Paulinho also has the ability to score in Mitrović’s pattern. Nevertheless, Mitrović can shoot from outside the box while Paulinho doesn’t take many shots in that area. Thus, Paulinho can offer Fulham a wider finishing range but not from a long distance.
As the stats in the first section suggested that he is decently effective in finishing, we now take a look at a classic example of his finishing style:
The ball carrier was facing the opponent’s goal and had space and time to hit the final pass. This was the trigger for Paulinho to attack the space behind the defence. Then he boosted to the space behind defence while the ball carrier chipped the ball over the defensive line. Then Paulinho didn’t wait for the ball to fall on the ground. He took his first touch directly shooting at goal with a volley. The ball hit the post and it was a bit unlucky for Paulinho. Paulinho will try to finish early and this gives him chances to hit the target even in some tight spaces. This kind of finishing style will potentially give Fulham more shots and more opportunities for goals when they encounter tight defending block.
Apart from his finishing, he also has 7 assists in Liga NOS this season. This is due to his creativity in the box and good decision-making when he is not available to finish. While he often runs in behind and stretches the defensive line, space between lines will be exposed for Braga’s midfielders. Paulinho is aware of this and will try to lay the ball off to his teammate into that space. Below is an example:
As you can see from above, Paulinho latched onto the ball when running into the box. This dragged the opponent’s defensive line into a deep position and created space between lines, as the midfielders didn’t recover on time. Paulinho perceived this and he back-heel passed into the space between lines, where his midfield teammate followed up and shot right on the post. Thus, Paulinho could offer some creative solutions in the box.
While Fulham is a pressing team, Paulinho can also become the initial presser for Fulham. However, what he is really good at is his positioning. When he is not the ball-side presser, his positioning is effective to eliminate many passing options for the opponent. This could potentially help Fulham to set pressing traps and stay higher up the pitch. Let’s look at an example of this:
The above image manifests the pressing situation of Braga. In this scenario, Paulinho was the covering player while his partner stepped out to press. We can see that Paulinho’s covering position was fabulous: he controlled the passing lane to the pivot, and also the potential route for switching the play to the weak side. As his pressing mate forced the ball carrier to play back, Paulinho also read his teammate’s body shape and ready to be the next presser while containing two passing channels. With this positioning, Fulham can potentially move higher and win the ball higher up the pitch.
While the positioning of Paulinho is excellent, he still has something to improve in defending technique. When he tries to press the opponent, he will run in too close and be bypassed by the opponent easily. This might ruin the team’s pressing trap and the ability to contain the opponent in the back will be affected.
The above is an illustration of this. Paulinho was the first presser in the mid-block. He went for pressing and his teammate read the trigger and ready to move up together. However, Paulinho stepped out too close to the opponent and he was bypassed. The ball carrier was then unmarked and the whole block of Braga had to continue their mid-block defending and even dropped off. Thus, the pressing distance and the timing for decelerating of Paulinho can unbalance the pressing structure of his own team.
After discussing his offensive traits and defensive contribution, we now take a look at his contribution in transition. Firstly we will focus on the offensive transition. As we have mentioned in the offensive attributes part, Paulinho is an in-behind-runner. Consequently, he can serve as a play-stretcher and a forward passing option for the team. This could help speed up progressing the play as the ball carrier could have a forward passing option to pick. Now let’s take a look at an example of this:
In the above scenario, Braga recovered the ball on the right flank. As soon as his teammate recovered the ball, Paulinho attacked the space behind the defensive line. This offered his teammate with a quick penetrating option. While his teammate couldn’t release the pass immediately, the far side forward could also exploit the space stretched by Paulinho.
Penetrating the whole block is always preferable for the attacking side. However, sometimes it cannot be fulfilled since the opponent drops quickly. Should this scenario occur, Paulinho will drop in front of the defensive line to link the play, and even pass forward to penetrate the line. This can potentially provide more solutions for Fulham while they can’t penetrate the defensive line in the first round of offensive transition. Now let’s take a look at an example:
Braga was not able to penetrate the line immediately after they recovered the ball due to the quick pressure of the opponent. Hence, Paulinho recognised this and dropped to support his teammate. As he received the ball, he turned and faced forward. Then he hit a penetrating pass, creating a finishing opportunity for the teammate that ran in behind the line.
In terms of defensive transition, he could also offer some recoveries after he loses possession. When he loses the ball, he will try to chase back and tackle from the opponent’s back, stealing the possession back. Even if he cannot get the ball back, he will try to commit foul to slow the opponents down and delay their progression.
Paulinho can offer Fulham with what Mitrović can contribute at the moment, such as linking-up the play, combating for aerial duels. Paulinho can also offer something that Mitrović cannot offer at the moment, like running in behind. However, Mitrović’s pressing technique is better.
Paulinho is 27 years old now. His market value is £4,000,000 but he has some rumours with Milan of Seria A. Considering all the factors above, it is quite a good choice for Fulham if Mitrović is about to leave.