Over the past few years, the footballing community has started to pay more attention to the role of the defensive midfielder, as the key to everything that happens in both attack and defense on a football pitch. The likes of N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Rodri, Fabinho, Kimmich and Declan Rice have all given data analysts much to scrutinize over the past few seasons, and are all seen as one of the most important players to their teams, if not the most important piece to the puzzle. But top quality defensive midfielders are still difficult to find, and there’s a vast discrepancy in hype level between those at the very top of their game, and those below that status, to an extent that is not seen in any other position.
These days, every single club in the world is in search of a top quality defensive midfielder, either to provide back-up to an already existing world star, or to transform their team in completely new ways. It seems inevitable that players like Declan Rice or Yves Bissouma will make a step up to one of Europe’s elite clubs soon, but another lesser known name that’s been catching the eye this season is Olympique Lyonnais’ Bruno Guimaraes. Here is an analysis of why the Brazilian is turning heads, and why he should be on the radar of every single top club in Europe.
STYLE OF PLAYEmbed from Getty Images
Bruno Guimaraes is essentially your quintessential defensive midfielder. Playing as a hybrid number 6-number 8 as part of a double pivot in Peter Bosz’s 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-2-1. He does everything that you would want a top midfielder to do, from tackling to intelligent passing, elegance in possession, chance creation, on-the-ball dribbling power, and superb awareness of space. Among FBRef’s closest comparisons based on statistical output, the 24-year-old sits in the company of Fernandinho, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Marco Verratti. This elucidates one crucial facet to Bruno’s game. He’s capable of being a Jorginho/Fabinho styled ‘regista’, but possesses greater dribbling power that allows him to break lines on a dribble, get his team up the field and provide variety to his threat level. He ranks within the 98th percentile of players in his position in both progressive passes (7.49) and progressive carries per 90 (8.13), showcasing the variety by which he can disrupt an opposition’s block. With 67 passes per game, the Lyon midfielder would also fit in excellently well at a possession-based club, providing the perfect long-term replacement for someone like Fabinho or Fernandinho. He hasn’t played as much as the sole defensive presence in a 4-3-3 like the aforementioned Brazilian pair, but his statistical output suggests he’d be more than capable of doing so. In fact, his vast skill-set simply means any club would be lucky to have him at their disposal, regardless of formation, and that he’d be able to adjust to just about any team’s style of play.Embed from Getty Images
There aren’t many holes in the Brazilian’s game, but one of his weaknesses in comparison to others of his position would be his shooting boots. Guimaraes has taken just 0.11 shots on target per 90 minutes this season, and is yet to score a goal. He is certainly not a goal-scoring midfielder, and much more of a creator instead, with his 3 assists providing a crucial impact to Lyon. Further, while he likes to dribble and carry the ball, he is not quite as effective compared to the most elite defensive midfielders in Europe. His total of 51% of dribbles completed is lower than that of Marco Verratti, Mateo Kovacic and Fernandinho by at least 30% this season. Bruno still has room to grow and aspects of his game to improve, but he’s shown brilliant form in Ligue 1 this season, and an incredible adaptability to Peter Bosz’s changing formations.
WHICH CLUB SUITS HIM BEST?Embed from Getty Images
Since the January Transfer Window opened at the start of 2022, Bruno Guimaraes has been linked to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Newcastle United. Ironically, the club on that list that seems most likely to sign him – Newcastle, is the one that he’d likely fit in the least. Eddie Howe evidently wants his team to be better in possession and in transition, two areas that Guimaraes excels. But there’s no guarantee that Bruno would knock Jonjo Shelvey out of the defensive midfield role in Howe’s current 4-3-3 set-up, with Shelvey a leader and exceptional long passer that’s able to open up the game and carve opposition defenses open. However, it’s possible that Howe doesn’t use him as the number six, but actually as more of a number 8, due to his exceptional on-the-ball prowess. Howe could then go 4-2-3-1 with Joelinton as a more natural number 10, or the manager could deploy a Bosz inspired 3-4-2-1, utilizing Kieran Trippier’s attacking quality as a wing-back.Embed from Getty Images
He could be the team’s Mateo Kovacic figure in any formation, and the team’s more progressive carrier in a midfield two alongside Shelvey, who could continue to be the more progressive passer. Beyond Newcastle, he could do wonders at Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, who desperately need a ball-playing central midfielder, and one that possesses an ounce of discipline to their game. That fits the description of Guimaraes, and would allow him a seamless transition from one 4-2-3-1 to another. The same could be said for Manchester United, who could use an upgrade on Fred in that double midfield pivot. But in truth, every club should be looking at the 24-year-old Brazilian. If you had to pick the next Fernandinho, Rodri, Fabinho, Jorginho or even Sergio Busquets successor, Bruno would be high up the list. He’s perhaps even a more mobile version of most men on that list, with a confidence in carrying ability that resembles a smaller Declan Rice. For the meantime, the 24-year-old could use a club like Newcastle as a gateway toward realizing his dream of playing Champions League football for a top level team.
COMPARISON TO EUROPE’S ELITEEmbed from Getty Images
Bruno Guimaraes is the type of defensive midfielder that excels in just about every aspect of the game. So as he captures the attention of Europe’s elite, we thought we’d compare him to some of the game’s other best defensive midfielders, who also excel in just about all areas of the game. We’ve compared him to seven of the Premier League’s top midfielders in Fernandinho, Rodri, Fabinho, Kante, Kovacic, Jorginho and Rice, and the unequivocal standout in his current league in Marco Verratti. Following the data search we excluded Jorginho from the final analysis, given his vast differences in style of play and statistical output from the others (he ranked last in many categories). So with that, here’s how Bruno Guimaraes, the rising Ligue 1 star, compares against Europe’s elite.
The above infographic compares Bruno’s passing percentage statistics up against seven other top level defensive midfielders, combining scores from both pass % and long passing % (passes longer than 30 yards). Rodri ranks as the undeniable leader when it comes to long passing percentage, and Bruno cannot come close to comparing. His short passing and overall passing percentage stand out however, with only Marco Verratti beating his 92.6% pass completion rate. He ranks sixth in this category, which seems low, but we must remember these are the cream of the crop we’re talking about.
The above infographic compares Bruno Guimaraes’ progressive passing and progressive carrying up against seven of Europe’s elite, on a per 90 basis. This could be a function of France, as the top two in this category are Marco Verratti and Bruno himself. But regardless of difficulty of league or team style of play, this is still incredibly encouraging. A club like Newcastle desperately need progressive passers, and Bruno would excellently improve Howe’s team in that regard. He also ranks higher than players like Rodri and Declan Rice, who always seem to be on the ball for their teams. He ranks second here, behind just his Ligue 1 mate Marco Verratti, beating all Premier League comparisons.
The above infographic compares Bruno Guimaraes’ tackling numbers up against seven of Europe’s elite, on a per 90 basis. We compared tackles won and tackle percentage, by averaging a player’s ranking in both categories, rather than combining totals, as it would have led to players high in tackling percentage to win out.
On the surface, Guimaraes’ tackling percentage is nothing extraordinary. However, it compares well to those around him in similar positions, and vastly outperforms the likes of Fabinho and Fernandinho. Rodri ranks highest in tackle percentage to little surprise given his exceptional standards in transition, while Kovacic ranks highest in volume of tackles won, followed by the Lyon man. Lyon’s possession sits at 58% this season, so it’s not as though Guimaraes has had to be any more busy than his Premier League comparisons. Instead, he’s chosen to beproactive, and has been successful across the board in getting stuck in and winning those proactive challenges. His low 0.11 yellow cards per 90 also ranks second best of the players we studied, behind only the enigmatic N’Golo Kante (0.09).
The above infographic compares Bruno Guimaraes’ chance creation in the form of key passes per 90 minutes, and shot-creating-actions (SCA) per 90, against our crop of top level midfielders.
League of difficulty has to be taken into consideration, but it’s incredibly encouraging that Bruno Guimaraes sits top of both categories here, including Marco Verratti – a Ligue 1 midfielder that plays for a team with better players and higher possession. Again, Kovacic and Fernandinho are his closest comparisons for creativity, and he also wins out on xA (expected assists). This would be massive for a club like Newcastle, who so desperately need other methods of scoring goals in the second half of the season.
The final infographic compares Bruno Guimaraes’ dueling numbers in terms of aerial ability and dribbling ability up against seven of Europe’s elite, on a per 90 basis. For this category, we combined average scores again, due to the lack of genuine compatibility between the two statistics. For example, Kovacic ranked last in aerial ability, but second in dribbling. It is however still useful to put these characteristics together, as it shows a player’s versatility to perform two essential tasks in the game.Embed from Getty Images
Not for the first time, Rodri and Verratti are the statistical leaders, with Bruno ranking second to bottom and fifth in his dueling comparisons. It’s worth noting that if the third duel of tackling had been included, the 24-year-old would not have finished last. However, he’s neither magnificent in the air or completely comfortable ghosting past defenders yet. That will come with time, but this is the one category that Bruno will have to drastically improve quickly, especially in the demanding, physical environment that is the English game. His high progressive carry numbers suggest that when given more space and time, he takes full advantage. But when under a bit more pressure, the Brazilian may be more likely to falter. Given how he ranks in other categories, a club like Newcastle should use this knowledge to put Guimaraes in situations that bring out his strengths, and not his weaknesses.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Bruno Guimaraes compares incredibly well to the top midfielders around Europe, and it’s no surprise that he’s on the radar of every top club as a result. Newcastle United are favourites to sign the Lyon man with only a few days left to go in the January transfer window, and the stats suggest that he would be a revolutionary signing for the Magpies, even if he could realistically punch higher at this time. While other top clubs could use him more, Eddie Howe’s possession-based 4-3-3 could be the perfect stepping stone toward the deep-lying-playmaker realizing his dream of playing Champions League football for one of Europe’s elite.
So there it is! A player analysis of Bruno Guimaraes, and why he’s rightly sought after by all of the top clubs around the world. Be sure to check out more from our Data Analysis, Recruitment & Scouting sections, and more Player Analyses! Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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