Marlon Gomes: Vasco da Gama’s 19-year-old Swiss army knife – scout report
The past few years have been truly painful for Vasco da Gama supporters, with the former Copa Libertadores winners spending two consecutive seasons in Brazil’s second division. In the middle of 2022, however, the future began to look bright for O Gigante da Colina. First, 777 partners came forward to purchase the Rio de Janeiro club with the promise of heavy investment. The official acquisition and subsequent investment would take time though, and the Vascaínos were due for another year of suffering in the 2022 season.
The squad was terribly planned, and the club lacked any sort of direction. Vasco went through four managers in the last season, and there was never any sense of structure on or off the pitch. The scenario did not indicate any reasons to expect success. That was, of course, until the academy prospects began to step up.
Far from the ideal setting to transition into professional football, numerous academy prospects were thrown into the senior squad with the responsibility of leading the team. To many people’s surprise, they took care of the job. Vasco’s academy has always produced promising stars, such as former Liverpool and Barcelona player Philippe Coutinho. The class of 2022 was no different.
The star prospect was Brazil U20 captain Andrey Santos, who has now gone to Chelsea for approximately £12M. However, other players also came up and helped the Cruzmaltino find promotion back to the Série A. Among them was Marlon Gomes, another Brazil U20 regular.
The right-footed 19-year-old is an incredibly versatile player with tremendous potential. Under multiple managers and their different tactics, he was asked to play numerous different positions and roles. Nonetheless, he performed extremely well and was one of the most consistent players in the squad, despite being just 18 years old at the time.
In this scout report, we will take a detailed look into Marlon Gomes’ profile, examining why the Vasco da Gama player has such exciting potential. More specifically, through data and tactical analysis, we will explore his strengths and characteristics, aiming to identify why he can be such a versatile player.
Before breaking down his playing style, this analysis will explore his flexibility positioning-wise. After being officially promoted to the first team, he made 18 appearances in last year’s Série B. The majority of these were on the right side of the pitch, often as a right-midfielder or a right-winger. Additionally, he was also deployed as a right-back when needed. For Brazil U20, Marlon tends to play as a right-back.
His heatmap in the Série B can be seen below, illustrating his positioning and movement throughout the pitch. As mentioned, it is concentrated on the right wing and right half-space. However, the Brazilian’s activity also bleeds into the midfield and the opposite wing.
Despite performing various roles in 2022, he was developed as a midfielder in the academy. However, simply labelling him as a central midfielder is unfair. Marlon Gomes is naturally a true box-to-box midfielder, excelling at every single phase of the game. He is capable of defending extremely well, in low compact blocks as well as high and aggressive blocks. In possession, both his passing and dribbling are extremely effective. Although he has just turned 19, his profile is already extremely well-rounded.
This complete profile explains why he can be such a flexible player and excel in multiple positions. His heatmap for Vasco’s U20 side provides further insight into his development. In the academy, his movement throughout the pitch was ridiculous; he was quite literally everywhere.
Marlon Gomes’ defensive ability is extremely impressive, especially given how effective he is going forward as well. For consistency, this analysis will mainly consider his statistics from the 2022 Série B. Even when deployed in more advanced positions, Marlon still maintained a high defensive work rate and involvement. He ended the season with an average of 9.36 successful defensive actions per 90, and 6.5 defensive duels per 90. More impressively, he won an incredible 72% of his defensive duels.
At 181cm (5’11”), his physical stature is quite average. Regardless, Marlon’s effective defensive ability can be attributed to his technique and intelligence. As we will explore through a few examples, his defensive engagement tends to be quite certain. In addition to precise challenges, he is also able to read the game quite well. His 4.34 interceptions per 90 demonstrate good awareness and anticipation. Finally, his 5.9 aerial duels per 90 are also worth a mention.
His defensive territory last year further illustrates his profile out of possession. Mainly operating on the right side, his defensive actions and interceptions were well-balanced throughout the thirds. His expansive defensive territory highlights his relentless movement once again.
His defensive ability can be further broken down through a few examples. First, the instance below highlights his high work rate alongside his technical defending. Although he is playing as a right-winger, he tracks back into his own third to apply pressure to Náutico’s forward. After applying pressure, he is able to precisely stick his leg out and recover the ball without fouling the opponent. In fact, Marlon only averaged 0.69 fouls per 90 in Série B.
Earlier that game, he was also able to recover the ball in an impressive fashion. As Vasco aim to pressure Náutico in their own half, Marlon intelligently positions himself between his man and the ball carrier. Cutting off the wide pass, he slowly advances towards the ball before accelerating and recovering the ball for his team.
His positioning is a significant factor behind his defensive success. The Brazilian is often able to position himself extremely well in defensive scenarios, such as the one below. As Ponte Preta attempt to play away from pressure and switch the focus of their attack, Marlon is in charge of marking two players. Without committing to one or the other, he is able to remain in a good position in case the ball is played to either one of them. Once he realises where the ball is being played, he quickly shuffles across to intercept it.
Now in a defensive transition, he is able to intercept the ball once again and keep the opposition from progressing with their counterattack. As Marlon runs back, he is well aware of the opponents around him and possible passing options. Once the ball carrier indicates where he is going to pass, he immediately changes directions and intercepts the pass.
As a right-winger, the Vasco youngster also demonstrated great pressing ability. He was often able to apply effective pressure to the opponent’s build-up, as seen below. As Grêmio look to build out of the back, Vasco advance their defensive block. Once the ball is played out wide to the left-back, Marlon immediately steps up to pressure his opponent.
As the left-back takes his first touch, Marlon is able to slow down rather than diving straight in. He angles his body to force the opponent wide, and once the opponent tries to clear it, he immediately blocks it. This specific scenario highlights his ability to defend intelligently rather than recklessly, even in high-intensity scenarios.
As a wide player, Marlon was not involved in possession as much as he is capable of. For the senior team, he only averaged 25.75 passes per 90, with a great balance between back, lateral, and forward passes. Of these 25.75, he averaged 2.43 to the final third and 2.17 to the penalty area. Furthermore, he also had 4.42 progressive passes per 90 – a rather impressive figure considering he does not get on the ball much.
His progressive pass map in 2022 illustrates this ability to break lines and drive his team forward. From the right wing, he is able to find passes higher up the pitch, often going inside to the central areas. As he gets to the final third, he is able to continue this progression, now into the opponent’s penalty area.
While his passing volume was not that high in the wide areas, he was still able to contribute with a few key passes. In these scenarios, he displayed great vision and passing ability. The first example comes against Tombense, a game where Marlon had a spectacular 45 minutes before coming off with an injury.
As he drives into the final third, he is able to find his teammate on the opposite side and put him in front of the goal. His decision-making in this high-speed scenario was quite impressive, but perhaps not as impressive as his pass. He calculated it perfectly, both where to play the pass and the weight to put on it.
In another instance, he finds his teammate behind the opposition’s high line. As Vasco build out of the back, Marlon receives it on the right wing without many options around him. He is able to cut through the defensive organisation and find his number nine making a run in behind.
In 2022, he did not have many opportunities to display his passing ability, mainly due to his positioning. Nonetheless, through a few instances, he demonstrated a promising ability to get involved in possession and help his team progress with his passing. The most notable example came against Operário, where Marlon played the entire second half in a double pivot alongside Andrey Santos.
This was the only significant instance where he played centrally for the first team, and it was a brief one. At any rate, he played a key role in protecting the backline and helping Vasco’s first phases of possession. In just 50 total minutes, he completed 27 of his 31 attempted passes.
In the segment below, Marlon helped his team progress from their own third into the final third. First, he finds a gap just behind the first line of pressure and receives the ball from his centre-back. Aware of the space around him, he takes a great first touch, immediately turning into space.
After turning, he carries the ball further into the midfield, where he is pressured by three defenders. By driving forward and attracting such a high number of defenders, he naturally frees up teammates and creates options elsewhere. Marlon is then able to find his teammate just outside the final third. In this rare midfield cameo, he demonstrated his ability to come deep to get the ball and initiate possession.
In a more advanced phase of possession, he was able to once again progress the ball into the final third. Starting from a central midfielder position, he drifts wide once the right-back pushes up. With this movement, he creates a better passing angle for himself and frees up space in the midfield. After receiving it, he finds Figuereido in the final third.
His contribution to possession does not stop there. In the Série B, Marlon averaged a high 5.98 dribbles per 90, at a 56.52% success rate. These varied from quick dribbles in tight spaces to more progressive runs into space. Marlon’s technical ability is very impressive, along with his typical Brazilian fair.
We can begin by looking at his ball progression map in the Série B. His volume of dribbles quickly stands out, showing it is a resource he often resorts to. Additionally, he also performs progressive runs from the middle into the final third. Overall, his dribbling tends to be very dangerous. However, if there is one area to develop further, it is his effectiveness.
In this first example, we are able to see how he uses his dribbling to help his team progress from the middle third. He comes inside from the right wing to receive a pass between the lines. Once he controls it, he begins an inverted run into the central channel. Three defenders immediately apply pressure, but he is able to maintain control and leave them behind.
Against Sport, Marlon ended up playing on both wings. In this one instance on the left wing, he receives the ball in a 1v1 situation. He slowly begins to carry it forward, and once the defender dives in to tackle, he quickly accelerates and leaves him behind before dribbling into the central lanes.
Finally, this last example highlights how resourceful the 19-year-old is in tight spaces. As two defenders pressure him, he flicks the ball up in between them and gets it on the other side. Once he beats them, the other defender jumps on him, and Marlon quickly plays it to his teammate. His quick thinking and instinctive dribbling in tight spaces are very impressive.
Marlon Gomes is one of the most exciting prospects going into the 2023 Série A, and he perhaps does not get the recognition or attention his talent deserves. However, with Andrey now gone, he will be the main talent in Mauricio Barbieri’s team. Now with structure, consistency, and quality around him, it will be very interesting to see how and where he performs.
He is extremely adaptable and versatile, making Barbieri’s job much easier. His defensive ability is very impressive and well-rounded, in every third of the pitch. In possession, he is able to contribute through both his passing and his dribbling. While he can certainly play in wide areas, he is also able to play a significant role in the central positions. Marlon has a rare profile, and in 2023, he will certainly be one of the most promising names to emerge from the Série A.