Francisco Trincão 2019/20 – scouting report
Fresh off the heels of Francisco Trincão’s 31 million euros transfer from Braga to Barcelona, the press was quick to flash the “New Ronaldo” headlines.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Wrong in the sense that the player-type isn’t the right fit. As you’ll recall, Cristiano Ronaldo started as a true winger, transitioned to an inverted goal-scoring winger and is in the midst of his final transformation as something closer to a striker.
Trincão engages the game a bit differently. Rather than go-it-alone match-winner with freakish athleticism, his style is highly connected with his teammates and builds off of them through combination play. He’s a very fluid player who is highly skilled in locating space and exploiting it. Watching him float around the pitch is very different than Ronaldo’s style, but still highly enjoyable.
In this scout report, we’ll go about this one a bit differently than my previous player analysis articles, evaluating Trincão in terms of his technical, tactical, physical and psychological capabilities. But, before proceeding to those sections, a tactical analysis of is usage at Braga is fitting.
Trincão heat map shows that he is most commonly found in the right-half space or wing. When Braga attacks, there 4-4-2 defensive shape transforms into a 3-4-3 with Trincão moving high into the right-half space. Looking closely at the map, it’s brightest in the right-wing, just outside of the half-space. A left-footed player, Braga typically inverts him on the right-wing, encouraging him to cut inside and link up with his teammates.
Analysis of his movement and Braga’s attacking tactics indicate that the side frequently starts on the right, using the pairing of Trincão and the right-back, Ricardo Esgaio, to attack the opponents. After the bright yellow circle, there are a few patches of yellow scattered about the pitch. The patch on the right-wing, parallel to the 18, is typically where you’ll find him running at a defender or looking for a cross. The patch in the corner of the 18 is a typical destination when he’s looking for a return pass from Esgaio or there’s a switch of play in the attacking third. Defensively, the yellow circle in the Braga half gives an indication of where he receives in a transition to attack.
Though the heat map tells the story of a fairly standard winger, Trincão is anything but that. He’s equally adept at playing left, centre, or right. In fact, he frequently pops up in the middle of the pitch to assist with the build-up or take advantage of space between the opposition lines, not unlike an Argentinian who plays for his new parent club. To get a grasp of why he’s so effective roaming across the pitch, let’s take a deeper look at the skillsets at Trincão’s disposal.
Trincão’s an incredibly gifted, technical player. In fact, his mastery of the ball and ability to utilize a variety of ball striking-techniques at an elite level are among his greatest strengths. He’s well-suited for a possession-based attacking team, particularly one with quick ball circulation, combination play and limited touches per individual possession. If Barcelona popped into your mind, you now understand why they acquired his rights.
In terms of his passing ability, the 77% passing success rate, 36% success of through passes and 39% completion of long passes seem an indictment of his quality. Those aren’t great numbers, but it’s important to remember that he’s ultra-aggressive with the ball. In just 848 minutes, he has already produced six goals, three assists and 19 shot assists. His crossing rate rests at an excellent 56% and he has shown well in penetrating passes into the box (63%). That’s in part down to his passing ability, but also due to his skill on the dribble.
At first glance, his dribbling ability seemed rather inconsistent. Watching most winger, you expect them to take a 1v1 any time they’re isolated against an opponent with space to run into. I didn’t see many of those, forcing me to check the stats. To my surprise, Trincão averages a 55% success rate, which is quite an impressive tally. That discovery directed me back to the film.
One thing I noticed is that he typically engages in 1v1 duels in tight spaces, which with lots of activity around him. Whereas most wingers like the space on the wings to kick into sixth gear, Trincão specializes in incorporating the movement around him into his 1v1 decision making. With excellent body and ball control, he manoeuvres well in tight spots, rooting defenders to the spot and gliding around them.
One of the reasons he’s so effective in this area is that he’s frequently able to commit his defender to the tackle. With the defender’s momentum carrying him forward, Trincão will call upon his range of ball-striking techniques to pass beyond the defender. Continuing his run, the youngster will look to receive the ball again, allowing him to get behind the first defender and running at the next line. That threat opens up dribbling opportunities as the defenders are unsure of how to approach him. With that said, he did struggle against some of the best defenders in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. The more patient the defender, the more difficulties Trincão experienced. Forcing him to make the first move can leave him flat-footed as he tends to rely on his ability to bait an opponent into an aggressive approach.
In the away leg against Marítimo, a combination with Esgaio sent the right-back to the touchline. Trincão angled his run to make himself available for the negative cross. Esgaio’s delivery was played to feet, altering Trincão’s approach, but he adjusted well, opening up his hips and firing a shot with his instep into the roof of the net. Technically, he was wrong-footed on the shot, but his technical quality is at such a level that he didn’t need to smash his attempt with the right foot. Given his angle to goal, his decision enabled him to hit the target with a venomous shot.
The next example of ball mastery comes against Rangers in the Europa League. After a clearance, the ball bounced out to Trincao, who gave his defender the impression he’d dragged the ball wide. Instead, a half-volley to his central teammate allowed Braga to launch a counterattack from a central area with space in front of the ball-carrier.
Moments later, Esgaio played a pass to Trincão and continued his run. Rather than playing the way he faced or dribbling into the space vacated by Esgaio, the forward played a clever flick down the wing.
Individual and team tactics
Top technicians don’t receive that tag simply because they have a bag of tricks they can pull out at any moment. Rather, it’s the ability to fit that ball mastery into the context of the match that makes a player’s technique standout. Ball mastery is the first half of that equation and understanding of context is the second.
Due to his excellent technical ability, Trincão is at times guilty of trying to do too much with the ball. Rather than playing the simple, high-percentage pass, he does have a tendency to play the million-pound pass too often. His technique and individual tactical, also known as decision making, creativity currently led to too many smart passes. Part of that is due to his age. At just 20, he’s still a relatively young player. He’s also getting his first taste of first-team minutes. If he’s experienced enough success at the top level to earn consecutive Player of the Month awards, imagine the havoc he wreaked at the youth levels.
Developing in this area of the game is surely the reason Barca loaned him back to Braga for 18-months. This is not to say that he has a poor understanding of the game. Far from it. Watching him play, you can see Trincão actively scanning the pitch and correcting his body orientation so that he’s able to quickly move from one action to another. Among the misplaced smart pass he made, several should a lack of understanding with his teammate. This is reasonable given his emerging place in an established team. If anything, he often assumes the movement of his teammates or that they see what he sees. Time, experience and developing his cohesion with the squad will fix those issues. Even with the required growth in this area, his dynamism has averaged 0.42 xG and 0.43 xA per 90 minutes. When you factor in his actual goal-scoring average of 0.64 goals per 90, he’s accounting for 1.07 goals per match. Since Braga’s 29 January match against Moreirense, that goal and assist per 90 stat has jumped to 1.39.
His greatest assets in this developmental category are his understanding of space and ability to manipulate the opposition to gain time, be it for himself or his teammates. Since he’s incredibly skilful, it’s common to see him roam to get on the ball, frequently moving into the central channel if a gap in the lines emerges. Trincão is a player of the total football mould, interchanging with teammates and occupying space because he sees opportunities for success. This quality is probably the single greatest indicator of future success in La Liga with Barcelona. Given the complexity of their attacking movements, Trincão’s learning curve should not be severe.
As we saw in the technique section, Trincão does enjoy a good, smart pass. However, though he’s able to execute those passes, he can use them too frequently, leading to poor individual tactical execution. In this instance, the Portuguese youth international started on the right-wing, then moved inside to receive a pass from Esgaio. His right-back was at fault for trying to progress play through the congestion on the wing, but Trincão didn’t help matters. Though he got the ball to his feet, he really didn’t have a plan to play out. The best options were playing the continued run of Esgaio or allowing the outside-back to run by him before playing centrally, either with a pass or using the defender’s backtracking momentum against him with the dribble. Other options include drawing a foul or pulling the ball back and sending it to Ricardo Horta on the touchline. Instead, Trincão attempted another flick behind his plant leg. Horta did not anticipate the pass, so the ball rolled out of play.
Moving now to the positive, roughly a minute after scoring a goal of his own, Trincão collected a wayward pass in the right-half space and dribbled up the field. His defender managed to funnel play wide, but the Barcelona signee beat his mark on the dribble, then cut to the inside.
Around the kickoff spot, he passed to Wilson Eduardo. With the right-back coming out to meet Eduardo and the two forwards occupying the centre-backs, Trincão darted into the left-half space.
His intelligent reading of the play and movement earned him a return pass.
As Trincão made his way into the box, he picked out Rui Fonte at the near post and delivered a perfectly placed and weighted pass to his teammate. It’s the youngster’s understanding of space and love for the ball that set up this goal.
Physical and psychological profile
Trincão’s not the fastest or quickest athlete, but he understands his physical limitations and his decision making tends to acknowledge his limitations. You won’t see him engaging in many 1v1 duels with superior athletes. Instead, he looks to use the positioning and runs of his teammates to set up combination play. That said, Trincão possesses excellent body control and is a deceptive player, showcasing his intelligence, creativity and positive mindset to pin the opposition and carry a threat going forward. Though he’s only played the full 90 minutes on seven occasions this season, the stamina he has shown on the pitch indicates that this is a strength.
With those physical tools, Trincão is a very active player. He averages 3.5 progressive runs and 4.5 touches in the box per 90 minutes. Full of enthusiasm and seemingly always ready for his next involvement, this is a player who exudes both courage and confidence. Even despite his big-money move to Barcelona, Trincão doesn’t appear to have let the transfer affect his Braga form. When evaluating a player’s mental approach to the game, examining smaller details, like communication and posture, are important, but the best indicators are their willingness to suffer. Are they going to backtrack defensively or engage in the counter-press? Are they willing to continue running behind the lines to stretch the pitch even though the past few runs were unfulfilling? Watching Trincão perform, it’s clear that he brings an excellent mindset to the match.
After a Braga attacking corner was punched away, Tabata, the Portimonense winger, picked up the loose ball and rushed at the last defender. You can see Trincão at the top-right of the image starting to backtrack.
With the last defender beaten, Trincão quickly moved into position for the tackle. Though he’s currently more lank than brawn, the young Portuguese showed excellent strength when Braga desperately needed it, preventing Tabata from running freely behind the defence.
In another example of Trincão’s positive approach to the game, he’s a willing runner. Part of this is down to his football IQ, but another aspect is the fact that he plays in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or anxiously awaiting future moments of play. Whether it the 14th minute or the 84th, he has the stamina and willingness to do the job. That discipline and willingness to suffer are positive indicators of future growth.
If this is your first exposure to Trincão, I hope you’ve come away with the image of a crafty young player with immense potential. Though many were surprised by the fee Barcelona paid for a player with so few first-team minutes, he could be a real bargain for them. It’s no coincidence that Braga’s run of form (unbeaten against Portuguese competition since 22 December) has seen Trincão earn minutes in each of those matches, contributing six goals and four assists.
Braga will certainly look to get the most out of him before the loan expires in June of 2021. The January and February Player of the Month has quickly established himself as one of the most dangerous attacking threats in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. If he can make strides in his decision making, maybe add a little mass to his wiry frame too, he could become a fixture for both Portugal and Barcelona. But just remember, he’s no Ronaldo, he’s his own man, Francisco Trincão.