Scouting report: What would Lucas Paqueta bring to Arsenal?
Cast your mind a few weeks back and Arsenal looked destined to sign a left footed Brazilian attacking midfielder. Now in the middle of July and with Raphinha on his way to Barcelona, the name has changed, with Lucas Paqueta reportedly being lined up to join the Brazilian contingent at London Colney. The former AC Milan man is an attacking midfielder who has excelled at Lyon playing in a dynamic midfield containing former Arsenal target Houssem Aouar. While Aouar was originally identified as an alternative for Odegaard, Paqueta is seen to facilitate the position next to the Norway captain, on the left side of a midfield three.
Why do Arsenal want Lucas Paquetta?
Having just signed Fabio Vieira, it’s easy to assume that the need for another left footed attacking midfielder would be redundant at Arsenal. Raphinha was clearly identified as a wide player, and in Martin Odegaard Arsenal already have a left-footed midfielder who can operate between the lines, so do they really need Lucas Paquetta?
In Vieira, Odegaard and Saka, Arsenal already have three midfielders who can cover the right hand side of midfield and are adept at operating in the right half space. We’ve seen how well Arsenal can build their attacks with their right hand trident of Tomiyasu, Odegaard, and Saka, and with Vieira providing cover for the afore two mentioned, Arsenal are covered for that zone of the pitch. What Paqueta will provide are similar qualities, in ball progression, chance creation and goal threat, however in a different area of the pitch where those qualities are missed, on the left hand side of midfield.
As with other managers that implement positional play, Arteta likes to operate with five attackers and five defenders, Previously when Arsenal played a 4-2-3-1 formation, we saw Kieran Tierney bombing forward on the left hand side with Granit Xhaka positioning himself as a third centre-back to cover the space on the left that Tierney vacated. While the former Celtic man is definitely more comfortable in forward positions, Arsenal did suffer in defence with Xhaka’s lack of mobility in defence a weakness. Last season when Arsenal moved to a 4-3-3 formation the roles on the pitch changed and we saw Kieran Tierney operating in a more inverted, conservative role with Granit Xhaka pushing forward as new left sided eight of a three-man midfield.
What that meant was that the Swiss international was operating in more advanced positions than he was used to, leading to his lack of ability in and around the opposition box becoming more exposed. While Xhaka did perform his role to the best of his abilities, it’s obvious that someone more adapt to playing in offensive midfield positions and providing more versatility in passing and dribbling, can elevate the team to a higher technical level. Enter Lucas Paquetta.
What would Lucas Paqueta bring to Arsenal?
As a more naturally attacking midfielder, Lucas Paqueta would be a much needed goal threat from midfield for an Arsenal side that has struggled to find the back of the net in recent years. Paqueta recorded nine goals and six assists from 35 matches played last season, a vast upgrade on Xhaka who found the net only once and assisted a further two goals all season. According to FBRef, the Brazil international recorded brilliant underlying statistics also.
Paqueta has recorded a 0.59 npxg+xa per 90 (non-penalty expected goals + expected assists), that puts him in the top 88 percentile compared to other attacking midfielders and wingers. Whilst his attacking qualities are encouraging, they won’t be his main responsibility, as receiving the ball in promising positions and playing it to the forwards will be more common actions for him.
Compared to other midfielders, Paqueta has a 9.25 progressive passes received per 90, putting him in the top 99 percentile. It’s clear that Paqueta won’t hide and will always make himself available for passes from the defence or deeper midfielders like Thomas Partey. From the data, the Brazilian has shown he has the courage to receive the ball in forward positions and the dynamism to make something happen when he receives it. We’ve seen so far from Arteta’s tenure that on the ball ability will only be recognised if it’s accompanied by an outstanding work ethic off the ball, and this is truly an area where Paqueta stands out.
At 6ft, Paqueta already has the physical stature and durability to perform well in English football. In Martin Odegaard we’ve seen a midfielder who understands his responsibility off the ball and Paquetta isn’t too dissimilar. Playing for Lyon, Paqueta recorded 23.67 pressures per 90, in the top 96 percentile, as well as 2.89 tackles per 90 putting him in the top 99 percentile compared to other attacking midfielders.
Paqueta truly mixes flair with determination and will be relentless off the ball. Youri Tielemans is another player who has been mentioned as a potential move for that left eight position, when comparing his off the ball stats to Paqueta, it’s evident the Brazilian stands out. The Leicester man only recorded 16.73 pressures per 90 and 2.16 tackles per 90.
While stylistically Tielemans may be more comfortable in a deep position than Paqueta, he won’t be able to replicate the Brazilian’s tenacity and physical intensity without the ball, a potential sticking point as to why the Tielemans transfer hasn’t gone through – just yet.
How will he combine with other players?
As reported by The Athletic, Arsenal are in talks to sign Oleksandr Zinchenko. After missing out on Lisandro Martinez to Manchester United, the Ukrainian is a suitable alternative who would be comfortable playing in a more inverted left-back position, helping with build up play and to stop counter-attacks in a similar way to Takehiro Tomiyasu on the other side.
In Zinchenko, Arsenal would have a midfielder who’s defensive awareness, mobility and ball progression would offer a combination of qualities seen in Kieran Tierney and Granit Xhaka, allowing for a more attack minded midfielder like the Brazilian to excel on the left hand side of midfield. It’s imaginable how a left side of Zinchenko, Paqueta and Martinelli could replicate a similar partnership we’ve seen from Tomiyasu, Odegaard and Saka, giving The Gunners better balance.
Is Paqueta the only option?
Lucas Paqueta is by no means the only option. With a reported price tag of over £50 million, Arsenal would not be unwise to look elsewhere for other alternatives. What Arsenal need is to fill their technical deficiencies on the left hand in the same way they did on the right with Tomiyasu and Odegaard. While that can be found from various different players like James Maddison and Lorenzo Pellegrini, it can also be facilitated by offering better technical foundation at left back and Left wing, maybe in the form of Oleksander Zinchenko and Emile Smith-Rowe. Although other players can be found, Paqueta’s combination of technique mixed with his relentlessness off the ball make him unique and Arsenal would do well to find another midfielder who offers a similar harmony of qualities this summer at the same age profile.
Lucas Paqueta has already had one big move in his career to A.C. Milan that didn’t work out and while the circumstances may be different, Paqueta may be waiting for another opportunity to prove himself.
Over to you Arsenal.
Yusuf Malik. Twitter: YMalik77
CALLING ALL ARSENAL FANS! Anyone who would like to contribute an Article or Video opinion piece on JustArsenal, please contact us through this link…
JUST ARSENAL SHOW – Our Optimistic Gooner Matt Smith discusses Arsenal’s transfer window
Please enjoy, watch and subscribe to JustArsenalVids