Tactical analysis of Joao Félix: a difference-making transfer
The Portouguese attacker offers vision, goals and finesse as Atlético Madrid look to capture the highly-rated start from Benfica in the coming days.
Atlético Madrid are chasing Joao Felix after Antoine Griezmann informed the club and the wider world that he would not be continuing at the club next season. Felix announced himself last season at 19 years of age as one of the most promising youngsters in world football. While he is far from the world class talent that Griezmann is, his goalscoring, creativity, ability to unbalance a defense and his vision in the final third are all good enough to see him rated as a €120 million player.
The demand placed on him at Atlético will be a lot higher than that at Benfica but his 20 goals and 11 assists last season as a teenager have him held in high regard with some even comparing him to Ronaldo even if his national team manager, Fernando Santos, says the pair can't be compared.
Joao Felix has earned the reputation as a second striker in the 4-4-2 employed by Bruno Lage at Benfica. WIth Seferovic as the focal point, Felix plays in the hole behind him and in a traditional number 10 spot but with the instinct of a goalscorer and plenty of movement in the opposition penalty area. At Atlético, he could play in a similar role, with Costa and Morata as the pure number nines. The Portuguese has also played on both wings especially at the start of the season. There, however, he tends to lose his effectiveness and his decisive presence. If Morata and Costa find themselves on the field together, Felix can be shunted out wide and he can play a role there. It is this versatility that makes his contribution in a Simeone side possible.
Speed and creativity in front of packed defenses
Joao Felix' talent allows him to shine in different situations. Knowing the dual identity of Atlético, a team who can take control of the game or unbalance sides on the counter attack, the Portuguese can offer something in every setting. He is impressive in the building of transition and can free himself and the team with his first touch. Blended with his speed and his ability to spot a pass, he is lethal on the counter. The 19-year-old is averaging three dribbles per game and he attacks the area, breaks lines and has pin-point passing into open spaces.
Loses his man, takes control of the ball and starts a counter-attack
Joao Felix also shines in attacking positions in front of low blocks and in and around the penalty area. His ability to offer himself between lines, turn and free himself with one or two touches is notable. He displays finesse in one-on-one situations, is willing to shoot from distance and shows intelligence in exploiting numerical weaknesses with a change of play. He likes to pop up on the left or in more central positions and unlike Griezmann, he does not get too involved in initial build-up play, which is something the French attacker was developing with the passing of time and something Joao Felix might improve on.
He looks for the ball between defenders and sends his teammate free as the third-man involved in the play
Decisiveness in the penalty area
His prolific return last season with 20 goals has a lot to do with his movement in the penalty area and his decisiveness. Whether he has to check his run or drive straight into the box, he has an instinct to know which is necessary. He can lose defenders with his movement too and he is willing to shoot off his weaker left foot, which unsettles defenders - this is an area he could do with improving though. He knows when to jump to ensure he meets the ball at its highest point with his head even if he doesn't generate much power on these efforts (three headed goals this year).
Hangs back to take advantage of defenders watching the ball
The defensive aspect
Simeone places utmost importance on defensive duties. Despite his natural talent and explosiveness in attack, he is currently in the process of learning how to position himself to be most effective as a defender. He is good at pressing and is naturally sticky and hard to get rid of but he often loses his man and doesn't know how to position himself to prevent attacks. When he plays on the wing, he tends to neglect his defensive duties and only has two recoveries per game. He is not easy to get around but has a ways to go and Diego Simeone is sure to help him develop and improve this area of his game.