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Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Malcom 2018/19 – scout report

Malcom’s Barcelona career is unfortunately already over and the Brazilian is heading out the exit door of the Camp Nou. Even though it’s quite a disappointing ending to a fairly sad story, it is one that we all somehow expected to happen anyway. But despite limited game time, Malcom is still a player of high quality and can bring a lot to his new team.

For that reason, this tactical analysis scout report will look to dissect the player and give you his best attributes alongside the tactics that best suit his style. Barcelona might not have been a great place for him to show them off, but they are certainly there, and this analysis will aim to uncover them all.

Player overview

Malcom is a 22-year-old winger who used to play for the French side Bourdeaux before he joined Barcelona in 2018. The Catalans famously “stole” him in the last seconds before he managed to join Roma, having already packed his suitcase and practically being moments away from signing the contract.

Barcelona got themselves a proper prospect – a direct, wide man with exceptional technical abilities as well as great passing range. Malcom is a pacy winger who excels in aggressive 1v1 duels and at exploiting space behind the opposition’s backs. But he is much more than just his runs – his decision making and footballing intelligence should not be overlooked despite it very much still being a work in progress.

Malcom is always aware of his surroundings makes decisions accordingly. For that reason, his movement is on point and always deadly for the opposition. His ability to create space for both himself and his teammates is also something that makes him unpredictable and lethal.

Some of his best traits, however, are his work rate and extraordinary mentality. And this is something every team can use in their ranks.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Malcom’s preferred positions and his heatmap.

Pace, skill and technique

Despite him being deployed at a number of other positions, Malcom is a winger first and foremost, and a highly versatile one at that. What this means is that he is equally likely to drift to a deeper, more central role but also stick to his position up wide and on the defenders’ shoulders when needed.

Before we delve more into the analysis, here’s the Brazilian’s heatmap from last season and also from his last season at Bordeaux. Judging by that only, we can already see his preferred style of play.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Malcom’s heatmaps from his season at Barcelona and Bordeaux, emphasising his tendency to drop deeper to receive the ball and also position himself more centrally when needed.

But how does that exactly translate onto the pitch? Basically, it means that Malcom is a best utilised in fast breaks, scenarios that leave him isolated with his markers and quick transitions. His pace and dribbling abilities are what enables him to beat his man and blaze through the flanks.

During his Barcelona tenure, he only played a supporting role, totalling 24 games and just 1067 minutes, meaning that when all is said and done, he’s played less than 12 full games for the Catalans. Judging him by that campaign would be rather cruel so this scout report will also include his ventures with his former club as well.

Overall, he averaged 6.05 dribbles per game with a success rate of 55.5% in all competitions and dating four seasons back. This was also visible in his Bordeaux days when he successfully completed 60.2% of all of his dribbles.

And this is a trait that was immediately noticed even in Barcelona colours. Whenever and wherever Malcom got the ball, he was dangerous for the opposition because he could beat his man at any given time.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Malcom’s ability to beat his marker with pace and dribbling is one of his core strengths and the main traits that describe him best.

But despite him actually being a true wide man, he usually drops deeper to receive the ball and then carries it forward, often cutting inside into the half-space and towards the zone 14. Notice in the example below how his direct style of play looks like on the pitch.

The 22-year-old gets the ball in a deeper zone but proceeds to burst forward, conquering acres of space and beating his markers in the process. Once he gets in an optimal position, he releases the ball to a teammate.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Malcom receives the ball in his own half and proceeds to carry it forward. He promptly beats his marker and cuts into the middle channel.
Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
When the time is right, he releases the pass to his teammate.

And this is no coincidence, either. In Ligue 1, Malcom averaged 2.5 key passes per 90 minutes that term alongside the already mentioned incredible dribbling capabilities with 2.7 successful dribbles per 90.

In Barcelona, that translated into four goals and two assists in 24 games while in Bordeaux it was a rather more impressive 23 goals and 16 assists in 96 games. His unselfishness and lethality make for a great combination and make him a player of exceptional personality in the final third.

Here’s a perfect example of how that translates onto the pitch. Receiving the ball deeper and then finding his teammates with a great pass is something Malcom often does, regardless of the passing distance.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Here, Malcom drops deeper to receive the ball and then progress it forward with a brilliant pass.

His overall passing ability is also something worth mentioning. Overall, looking at both clubs, Malcom averaged 84% passing accuracy at Barcelona and 82.4% at Bordeaux. Naturally, his figures mostly plummeted in 2018/19 due to the lack of game time but he should definitely be judged by his time in France, anyway.

Here’s a statistical look at his overall passing abilities from Barcelona (up) and Bordeaux (down).

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Malcom’s passing statistics from Barcelona (up) and Bordeaux (down).

Once he does get to the wide areas, he usually does one of the two things the most: cut inside and either shoot or look for a through ball or stay wide and cross the ball into the box. This is visible from his 2.79 crosses in France and around 3 in Spain.

Space creation

Space creation is something that’s at the core of Malcom’s tactics as well. He might be a great finisher and a good creator but he is also quite the utility guy. What I mean by this is that he can invite and release pressure for his team quite well.

Notice below how he gets the ball in a rather sticky situation with multiple markers closing him down immediately. But he is skilful and press-resistant enough to wiggle out of those situations.

Once he gets free the first time, the opposition tries to minimise the space Malcom can work in and just as they do that, he releases the ball to his teammate, suddenly ridding him of any cover at all and putting him in a dangerous position.

Malcom also excels at inviting and releasing pressure. Here, he receives the ball and is immediately collapsed upon but that, in turn, frees his teammate who gets in behind the defence. Malcom sees the opportunity and slots a through ball, eliminating three opposition players in the process.

A similar scenario unfolds here. Malcom drops deeper to receive the ball hugging the touchline and is immediately met by multiple markers closing him down. So instead of advancing through the flanks, he decides to cut inside and advance through the middle channel, which is now much less guarded.

By inviting pressure, he opened pockets of space for his teammates to exploit and ultimately enabling Bourdeaux to progress the ball easier and with more success.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Another instance of Malcom creating space by inviting pressure. Three PSG players close him down and shut the wide channels but Malcom cuts inside and towards the middle instead.
Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
This not only creates space on the other side but it also helps progress the ball with ease.

Finishing and lethality

One final attribute worth mentioning is definitely Malcom’s final product. Creating the space and beating his markers to get to the final third would not mean as much if he couldn’t convert the chances in the end.

But he can, exceptionally well. The Brazilian is known for both finesse and power strikes from a distance with 2.34 shots per game at Bordeaux and 2 at Barcelona. These went hand in hand with 2.34 and 2 shot assists respectively.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Malcom’s attacking statistics from Barcelona (up) and Bordeaux (down).

Upon further inspecting his shot tendency and respective xG values in the image below, we can conclude that he often chooses to shoot from distance. The green circles represent goals, the red ones shots that missed the target and the purple ones were the ones saved by the goalkeeper.

The bigger the circle, the higher the probability of scoring the goal (higher xG value). The graphic also states that he will often squander the sitters but will promptly bag a goal no one really expects him to.

Malcom 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Malcom’s goals, missed and saved shots and their respective xG values in 2018/19 and 2017/18 combined. [Understat]
When all is said and done, though, he overperformed his xG values in Bordeaux colours but couldn’t do the same for the Catalans. For Barcelona, he scored one goal in La Liga while his xG was at 1.88. This is not really a figure of any statistical value due to the sheer disparity of minutes and games he played.

But looking at Ligue 1, he scored 12 goals and assisted seven in his last campaign in France while his xG and xA were 8.72 and 9.64 respectively. In other words, he overperformed his xG while his xA was slightly higher than his actual numbers.

Conclusion

It very much feels like Malcom wasted his year by signing for Barcelona. His limited game time meant that he couldn’t really showcase his capabilities. For that very reason, this scout report mostly focused on what he did at Bourdeaux and what tactics were implemented to complement his arsenal.

The only downside in this promising youngster are his defensive contributions. As a general rule of thumb, he doesn’t participate vividly but is not a stranger to a tackle or interception, averaging 1.94 interceptions and 3.44 recoveries last season. This is especially emphasised with his tendency to drop deep into the midfield to assist the build-up.

Malcom has all the tools to make it at a big team and has the right mentality to keep progressing as the years go by. It would be a real shame to see him waste that talent so hopefully his future club handles him better than Barcelona have.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #11: July 2019 - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

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