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Scout Report

Scout Report: Trincão | Barcelona’s newest youngster

Mateus Carvalho writes a detailed scout report about the Portugal and SC Braga winger, Trincão.


When in late January Barcelona announced the signing of Francisco Trincão for a fee of 31 million euros, attaching to his contract a release clause of 500 million euros, many scratched their heads. Who was this left-footed Portuguese winger playing at SC Braga, a fringe contender in the Portuguese championship? The head scratching continued when SC Braga’s president, António Salvador, said that Trincão would “define a decade” in football.

However, for the more attentive, the Trincão signing was no surprise. In fact, a transfer to one of Europe’s biggest clubs was bound to happen sooner or later, ever since the young Portuguese starlet was named best scorer and one of the best players of the U19 European championship, where he led the Portuguese team to the title.

A product of SC Braga’s academy, with short spells in Vianense – his hometown club – and FC Porto at the beginning of his youth playing career, Trincão had to battle for a place in Braga’s first team. Irrespective of the potential that was identified in him from an early stage and his national youth team curriculum, Trincão only asserted himself as a starter at SC Braga in the middle of the current season, when coach Rúben Amorim took over. He then became an integral part of SC Braga’s amazing streak of wins which helped them catapult to a 3rd place in the league standings and to a Portuguese League Cup title (defeating giants FC Porto and Sporting CP in the final four of the competition).

Offensive profile

Trincão is, first and foremost, a left-footed right winger. Indeed, he plays mostly from the right side, using inward movements in order to create and exploit the space between the midfield and the defence and, in a more advanced phase of a play, between defenders. He does so mainly in progressive runs (some of them starting in his own half) or by designing combination plays mostly through quick one-touch passes (in SC Braga, these combination plays are mainly performed with the right full-back, as demanded by their 3-4-3 tactical formation).

But, contrary to what it might seem from this analysis of his most common patterns of positional play, Trincão is not a predictable player. We cannot fully catalogue all plays he might run, because, as a primary ball-handler in SC Braga’s offensive schemes, he can play anywhere in the front line, as you can observe in his heatmap from this season:

Trincao’s heatmap.
Source : Barca Universal

It is interesting to see the various yellow dots that spread all throughout the pitch. Offensively, this indicates the inward trajectory of most of Trincão’s actions (on and off the ball) as well as the vast array of areas which he steps in, always with a sense of purpose. The map also shows that Trincão tends to drop deep into his own half. This mainly is due to his willingness to help the defence, recover the ball and run quick counterattack plays, mainly with progressive runs. We can see in the videos below some more video examples of Trincão’s set of offensive solutions:

Here we can observe Trincão’s good tactical sense of the defensive process, positioning himself in a place where he could affect the opposition’s attack and catch them off guard. He recovers the ball and carries it in a progressive run from the right flank all the way to the centre of the pitch. He then passes the ball to a teammate on the left and cuts through the defence’s lines, all the way to the left corner of the opposition’s box. In short, he goes from one flank to another, creating space and disturbing marking arrangements, in order to receive the ball in a privileged position and make an easy assist to the centre forward. We can watch another example of how Trincão exploits his freedom to move all throughout the offensive line below:

An all-around contributing offensive player

55th minute of an absolute deadlock match between SC Braga and Vitória FC (0-0). Trincão, who was left for the first time out of the line-up by Rúben Amorim, is subbed in. Braga ends up winning the match with a clear 3-0. The press was delighted with Trincão’s influence. But was this a mere coincidence?

In fact, Trincão is a highly influential player. His contributions cannot be separated from SC Braga’s success, as he was one of the players inserted by coach Rúben Amorim in the line-up that started SC Braga’s winning streak mentioned in this article’s introduction.

The numbers prove Trincão’s influence on his team and support Rúben Amorim’s decision to make him a regular at SC Braga (his successor, Custódio Castro, has maintained Trincão in the line-up). With Trincão on the pitch in the Portuguese Liga, SC Braga collects 1.95 points per match (the team averages 1.79 points per match since the beginning of the Liga). In the aforementioned winning streak with Rúben Amorim at the helm and Trincão on the pitch, SC Braga mustered 2.44 points per match (!). If we look at ‘plus minus’ collective metrics, with Trincão on the pitch, Braga has scored 30 goals and only suffered 16 (a positive differential of 14 goals). This amounts to a ‘real plus-minus’ (per 90 minutes) of +1.17 goals scored.

But ‘plus minus’ metrics are limited. They can indicate a player’s influence but not explain it. So how can we sustain the assertion of Trincão’s influence? In this section, I will try to answer this question from an offensive standpoint.

Offensively, he is a jack-of-all trades type player. In 90 minutes, he can be the goal scorer, assist-maker, help with the build-up or progression of play, take several dangerous crosses, explore the space between the defence with creative passes or his dribbling skills. But let us delve into the data.

xG (Expected Goals)

Goals Differential
0,42 0,67 +0,25
xA (Expected Assists) Assists Differential
0,43 0,25

-0,18

Note: All stats presented are calculated per 90 minutes.

Source: Wyscout and FBREF

As shown above, Trincão puts himself in a good position (and probability) to score or assist at a fairly frequent rate (the expected metrics show it). He has even managed to beat this model in terms of actual goals scored, registering a significant positive differential. He has not fared so well in what pertains to assists, but the success in that metric depends from the finishing of another player. Despite that and if we look at overall direct goal contributions (goals plus assists), Trincão registers a differential of +0.07, with 0.92 actual goals and assists per 90 minutes. If we factor in suffered penalties and shots that led to easy second-chance goals (i.e. the goal scorer had only the goalkeeper between him and goal after the latter has defended a shot by Trincão), Trincão registers 1.09 actions per 90 minutes that directly contribute to goals.

The Portuguese winger averages, per 90 minutes, 4.46 touches in the opposition’s box, 3.50 progressive runs from his own half to the opposing half, 5.20 dribbles and 6.68 offensive duels. In what concerns crosses he averages 3.44 attempts (also per 90 minutes), at a success rate of more than 50% before the coronavirus break and of 45% now (still a fairly decent percentage of success). In this regard, he has even affirmed himself as a set-piece taker (right leaning corners mostly). There is no denying it: Trincão has managed to muster a pretty impressive offensive track record.

Furthermore, and at 1.84m he can help win the ball trough headers, coupling his tall and unusual frame for a winger with the strength and composure to hold off or surpass the opposition in physical duels. He should be encouraged to train his heading finishes, as he often appears in areas of the opposing’s box in which he could attack teammates’ crosses.

But his main trait is undoubtedly his stellar technique, able to differentiate him even from his more experienced peers. The way in which his glues the ball to his feet and away from the defence is indicative of this. As for his pace, he is an astoundingly fast player, on or off the ball. However, it needs to be pointed out that, when pressured and surrounded by more defenders, he often tends to unproductively dwell with the ball instead of releasing it to a nearby teammate, in what ends up slowing down his team’s attacking manoeuvre.

Passing

Francisco Trincão passing profile [2019/2020]
Passing type Per 90 minutes Percentile value
Passes to penalty area 4,35 91%
Smart passes 0,85 57%
Final third passes 3,82 65%
Forward passes 9,45 67%
Progressive passes 4,56 44%

Per Wyscout, a smart pass is a high-risk and creative pass that leaves attacking players in a good position to score, by leaving between 2 or more opposition players. Stats from Wyscout.

Francisco Trincão’s profile passing is quite heterogeneous (mainly if we look at the percentile values displayed above) and shows one of the areas of his play that the young winger can still develop. Although he is not a bad passer by any stretch of the imagination, he could definitely improve the efficiency of his passes, something that can, in my view, be achieved through better decision-making processes. He sometimes holds on to the ball for too long instead of looking for passing lines. Other times we might see if him fail easy passes in the build-up just because of his urgency and eagerness to speed up the attack (something that is not bad in itself and that is probably demanded of him, but he can definitely improve his decision making in these type of situations).

Shot selection

The tactical freedom (or even responsibility) to appear in more central areas of the pitch and to go into the opposition’s box (instead of playing exclusively on the flanks as some previous coaches demanded of him has inevitably led to Trincão taking more shots (39 this season in the Portuguese Liga). And he is displaying a good level of success with 8 goals so far at an average of 0.21 goals per shot taken (in the top ten of this category in the Portuguese Liga).

In this respect it is noteworthy that he usually tries to take effective and high probability shots. We do not usually see Trincão taking far-flung shots with a visible low probability of success, as we can see some inexperienced wingers and attackers do. To the contrary, he is already a very ‘cynical’ finisher. To illustrate this point, we can, for example, look at the 1.55 opponents (besides the goalkeeper) that stand between him and the goal when he has elected to take a successful shot.

Defensive contributions

Trincão is a fearless and willing defender. With an aggressive mindset, he is very often found pressuring opposing defenders. And effectively so, as he often can directly intercept balls or lead to bad passes or a ball steal from a teammate. He shows an uncanny good tactical sense (for player of his age) of how he should position himself when pressuring an opposing player.

Circled in red, we can see Trincão pressuring an opposing full-back. He doesn’t get too close to the player he is trying to pressure, exposing himself to a possible dribble or long pass over him. Instead, he merely cuts the most promising passing line (marked in yellow) of his opponent, who in this frame has already understood that and prepares himself to (blue arrow) pass the ball to the goalkeeper. This play ends with a long ball of the goalkeeper which is recovered by SC Braga in the midfield.

A Braga defender shoots the ball to the midfield where a Boavista midfielder is placed. Understanding that his team is most likely losing the ball, Trincão drops deep and performs two simultaneous pressure actions (blue arrow and red arrow, respectively), forcing the opposing player pressured last to play a long ball that is recovered by SC Braga’s defenders.

This season, he has registered 8 tackles as well as 11 actions that lead to a ball steal for his team. For example, in a match against Boavista, in which the Portuguese starlet and his team were pretty uninspired offensively, Trincão managed to intercept the ball 3 times and win the ball over 5 times, through his pressure which led to bad passes and long balls from Boavista’s players that were easily recovered by SC Braga. In this match he bypassed 1.7 attackers per defensive action, meaning the number of Boavista’s players that lost the possibility of receiving the ball due to a defensive action performed by Trincão.

However, he needs to control his aggressiveness while defending so that he can use it only to his advantage. Case in point: he registers 13 committed fouls to date in the season, an average of 1.09 fouls per 90 minutes. We could already see him committing avoidable fouls in the end of a match in which SC Braga was desperately looking to score. Those fouls were not conducive to the creation of a goal scoring opportunity.

As we saw above in Trincão’s heatmap, he tends to willingly drop deep and position himself in order to recover lost balls and start counterattacks. In this frame of Clip 3, we can isolate just that and see where Trincão was positioned, something that allowed him to easily recover Moreirense’s bad pass.

Conclusion

To look at Trincão and not grasp his immense potential would be a mistake. There is no doubt in my mind that he is poised to develop into a star-calibre player and, as such, I tip my cap to Barcelona for signing the Portuguese winger.

However, it is also as important not to be carried away by the hype surrounding Trincão. At Barça, he will not be a primary ball-handler (as he is in SC Braga), at least for the beginning of his spell at the La Liga giants. He will most likely receive the ball at a lesser frequency and the opposing defences will grant him less space to perform and display all his creativity and attacking prowess. But these traits are there. So, in the end, for Trincão it will just be a matter of using and taking full advantage of his set of offensive weapons to adapt to all challenges that we might face – and doing so at an increasingly effective rate. He could find no better mentors than in Barça’s world class attackers.

Note: All data in the piece is as of 29th June 2020.


Read all our articles about Young Players here.

Mateus Carvalho

Portuguese and lifelong fan of Sporting CP and Liverpool FC. Tries to juggle his law studies with football writing and analysis. Follows football and basketball competitions from all over the globe, having developed from the latter a passion for statistical analysis.
Mateus Carvalho

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