Highly-rated Brazilian players have been making their mark in European football for years. The likes of Ronaldinho, Robinho and Neymar have all shined at some of the biggest clubs on the planet. The latest addition to this club is the 22-year-old striker Joelinton.

Joelinton Cassio Apolinário de Lira, commonly referred to as Joelinton, has signed a £40 million deal with Newcastle United. The Brazilian has agreed on a six-year deal to become Newcastle’s first recruit of the summer transfer window.

Signed from Hoffenheim to replace Salomón Rondón, Joelinton’s best trait is his ability to link attacks. But, as the focal point of the team, Joelinton was excellent at creating the space for his team-mates to score. His hold-up play is impressive. He also boasts an impressive 82.5% passing accuracy that most midfielders would be proud of.

The club’s record signing has the potential to be one of the most versatile forwards in the Premier League.

This tactical analysis will profile Newcastle’s striker Joelinton.

Background

Joelinton joined Sport Recife in 2012 and spent two years playing in the youth team, before making his debut for the senior side in 2014. He signed a five-year contract with Hoffenheim in 2015. He then joined Rapid Wien on a loan.

Almost completely two-footed, Joelinton already had Campeonato Pernambucano and Copa do Nordeste gongs in his trophy cabinet. Two years in Austria served him well. After 21 goals in 79 games and significantly more muscle mass, he returned to Hoffenheim in summer 2018.

In his first game back, netted a hat-trick in a 6-1 win over at 1. FC Kaiserslautern and went on to have a successful campaign. Joelinton scored seven goals in 26 Bundesliga appearances last season.

In July, he signed a contract with Newcastle as their forward.

Newcastle

The failure to secure the popular and efficient Rondón meant the Magpies were in desperate need of some firepower. But with Joelinton’s arrival, it does at least give Newcastle a focal point in attack. The club was lacking in the Premier League Asia Trophy clash with Wolves, as they lost 4-1.

Steve Bruce is a big fan of his work-rate. With the decent pace and the skill to link play or tuck chances away with either foot, he can offer mobility across the final third. The Brazilian can hold the ball up and bring others into play. He relishes dribbling into space.

His debut started brightly when he weaved his way into the Preston North End box. He won his side a penalty within seconds of his introduction in the Magpies’ friendly at Deepdale.

In addition, Joelinton can drop into the No 10 position to receive passes on the half-turn and run at opponents. He is also a forward who can operate wide on the left or right flanks. Bruce can deploy his new man in any of the attacking positions, depending on the match situation.

Comparisons with Rondón

The former Hoffenheim ace is very similar to Rondón but is arguably more mobile and better at coming short for the ball to make things happen. Even though his 11-goal haul last season was one less than Rondon, he can provide more in various positions.

Being 6ft 1in tall, he can bring others into play. By this, he relieves the pressure from his defence. The 22-year-old is far more versatile and is capable of operating on either flank. Using his skills and tricks to run at defenders, he averages around five dribbles during 90 minutes.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Joelinton’s passing map
Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Rondón’s passing map

Rondón was the focal point for the team. Joelinton, meanwhile, was the quintessential modern-day No.9 for the Germans. He dropped deep, drifted into wide areas, and linked play.

He’s not a target man in the form of Rondón. Although he’s physically imposing, he has alternate tactics of the added emphasis on technical play over physical duels.

Ayoze Pérez and Rondón ended last season in fine form for the Magpies. They scored goals at will to keep the side comfortably above the relegation zone. Joelinton could be the player to make an instant impact, carrying on the work of last year’s top scorers. The Brazilian has played in both Europa League and Champions League recently and he can push the club back towards the European spots in the coming years.

Playing Style

The forward enjoyed a fine debut season in the Bundesliga. Striking up an understanding with Andrej Kramaric, they finished in ninth position, just three points off a Europa League spot.

Often deployed on both wings, he is excellent as a creator. His muscle and quick feet allow him to drop deeper, receive passes, and work them into teammates. He has the creativity and vision to play his tactics through balls. This allows him to be a counter-attacking conduit as he has a beguiling turn of pace to outmuscle opponents.

The statistical analysis account for 45.6% of the goals on target. He also can average 56.3% accurate crosses while long passes accuracy holds for 60%. He has a good record of recovering in the opposition half which has an average of 62.9%.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

During his year at Hoffenheim, Joelinton was largely used as one of two strikers in a 3-5-2 formation under Julian Nagelsmann. For Newcastle’s new signing, that meant also playing as a number 10 in a 4-4-2 diamond shape, or as one of the wide attackers in a 4-3-3.

He prefers to withdraw from the opposition’s defence and receive vertical passes to feet instead of simply holding possession and setting runners away. He also looks to spin in behind those defenders by using his strength to hold them off. In the following picture, that explosiveness to burst away, particularly against isolated defenders he may have tempted out of position, can be seen.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

That versatility means he remains effective when receiving under pressure from behind. Combining with runners who may be better positioned, he then penetrates the penalty area after releasing that runner. He can also dribble in a typically Brazilian way, working the ball on to either foot before powering beyond the defender. In the following picture, his creative tactics of footwork can be seen.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Standing at 6ft, Joelinton does pose an aerial threat but it is his technical ability and work rate that stand out the most. He is just as capable of leaving defenders on their backsides with sumptuous skill as he is with his sheer strength.

That makes him seem like a decent replacement for Rondón. Joelinton would almost certainly have the beating of his predecessor for pace. He is known for his neat dribbling, close control, and energetic pressing, which has drawn comparisons to Roberto Firmino. From a tactical perspective, he will offer similar versatility to his fellow Brazilian.

Rondón opts to hold the ball by using his body as a shield, but Joelinton tends to approach things differently. In the following picture, he dribbles and uses his technical quality to escape pressure rather than simply positioning his body between the ball and his opponent.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The Brazilian is a versatile attacker who can cover the wide positions as well as the attacking midfield. Nagelsmann mainly used him as a central striker the last term, either alone or in a front two. He also deployed him on either side of a front three on occasion and also as a second striker.

If Nagelsmann switched to a back four, he frequently used Joelinton as an attacking midfielder. He would use his strength to outmuscle the opposition defensive midfielder and connect play in the final third. The Brazilian would also connect play in the half-spaces working one or two touch passing moves with the wing-back while cutting inside from the wide positions to work shooting opportunities.

The link-up play in different areas, owing to Nagelsmann’s rotations, has improved his interactions and tactics while playing centrally where so many of Hoffenheim’s chances are created. This can be noticed in the following picture.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

He is known for creating chances for himself from a distance when there is nothing else to work with inside the box. The tactical analysis of his play shows an average of 3.05 touches in a box. He will drop back and demand the ball during build-up play. He relies on technical ability more than physical prowess. On the occasions he is involved in the penalty area and in a position to shoot, he is proving a composed, accurate and clinical finisher. This can be seen in the following picture.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The striker usually drops to receive vertical passes from the half-backs. Then mostly he plays lay-off passes to the wing-backs. The opposition’s centre-backs track the dropping strikers which creates space behind them. After the lay-off pass, the striker attacks the created space with an aggressive vertical run.

In the following picture, Joelinton drops to provide an option for Adams and plays a lay-off pass. He then immediately attacks the created space.

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Joelinton 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Joelinton’s primary objective is to score goals. The Brazilian is aware of his surroundings and knows how to get in good scoring positions.

Conclusion

The striker would need patience and could be in a better position to excel. He would add value with a team that has a proven goalscorer as his own goals will grow incrementally. Whilst not being especially prolific, Joelinton will likely offer Newcastle what he does in goals in assists as well. Instead of using his body as a shield for the ball, he tries to dribble around defenders. His tactical play under bruce would be something to look forward to. Newcastle will continue their preparations for their Premier League opener at home to Arsenal on 11 August.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #11: July 2019 - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

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