Matheus Cunha 2019/20 – scout report
Hertha Berlin’s journey in the last 365 days has been like a roller-coaster. A total of four managers have been at the helm of the Bundesliga side in that timespan. That includes Alexander Nouri, the 40-year-old tactician who arrived at the club last month, as he replaced Jürgen Klinsmann, who only won three out of ten games in his tenure.
However, Klinsmann made some changes just days before he left the managerial position. He signed two attackers in this winter transfer window and one of them was Matheus Cunha, a 20-year-old Brazilian forward. Cunha proved his worth immediately with his brilliant display before the league suspension. Without further ado, this tactical analysis will inform you about Cunha and his impact for Hertha.
Cunha is a versatile attacker who can play as a striker or a winger. In his new club, the Brazilian is often being paired with Krzysztof Piątek; another newcomer. They would play together in 4–4–2 or 3–5–2 with different roles.
Up until today, the 20-year-old has given an instant impact at the Olympiastadion. As per the statistics, Cunha has scored twice and made one assist in just 309 minutes of football. For a comparison, Die Alte Dame’s current top-scorer in the Bundesliga is Dodi Lukebakio with only five goals.
Pairing with Piątek
As mentioned previously in this scout report, Piątek and Cunha offer contrasting roles in Hertha’s attacking tactics. Before we get there, we must know that Hertha rarely use their midfielders to build their attacks. Instead, they would utilise long balls to reach the opponents’ part of the pitch. The stats show that Hertha have 33.5 accurate long balls per game – the third-highest across the Bundesliga.
In the direct approach, Nouri instructs Piątek to play in line with the opponent’s centre-backs. The objective is to win the aerial duels against them. Sometimes Nouri also allows one of his midfielders to help win the aerial duels. In the flipside, Cunha has a different instruction and positioning than Piątek as he plays slightly behind the Polish international and tasked to receive lay-offs from Piątek.
Not only with lofted balls, but sometimes Hertha also find access to the forwards with a ground pass. Similarly, they rarely use the midfielders. Instead, often the centre-backs would use a line-breaking pass to access Piątek and Cunha up front. Not only that, but the full-backs or wing-backs are often utilised to provide the forward passes if needed.
Being positioned behind Piątek gives Cunha an advantage since at times, Piątek pulls all the defenders’ focus to him and leaves Cunha alone. Even if he loses the aerial duel, Piątek can distract the defender’s focus and force him to make a mistake. Sometimes this allows Cunha to win the ball just in front of the box.
Being slightly behind Piątek gives Cunha more freedom to play his game. First, he’s allowed to create shots from outside the box, or even better, in between the lines. The statistics show that Cunha averages 2.9 shots from outside the penalty area per 90 minutes. In fact, none of his teammates averages more than 1.4 long-range attempts on the same rate.
Cunha is quite active to drop deeper to initiate plays. Sometimes he can be found nearer to the halfway line than to Piątek to receive the ball from his teammate. From there, Cunha would mainly offer link-up plays to his marauding teammate(s). Either in a more controlled situation or transitions, the Brazilian’s tendency to drop is pivotal for Hertha’s attacks.
The 20-year-old also has a good passing range in his armoury as he can spray diagonal passes from deep for the far-side wing-backs. So far, Cunha has attempted 3.6 long passes per 90 minutes. His rate of 2.3 successful long balls (63.8%) further underlines his passing quality.
In this part of the analysis, we are going to take a look at another Cunha’s asset. As a Brazilian, Cunha is blessed with flair – making him such a joy to watch. His dribbling quality is second to none at his new club. The stats prove this argument as Cunha currently averages 5.5 dribble attempts per 90 minutes. Even better, his success rate is standing high at 5.2 dribbles: equals to 94.5%.
As mentioned before, Cunha likes to drop to help his team in making plays. His on-the-ball ability is important here as he can dribble his way into the opponents’ defensive block with relative ease. Not only that, but this also allows Cunha to be more unpredictable when having the ball.
In the final third, the youngster’s ability is even more useful, particularly in the flanks. His unfathomable trickery, sharp turns, and rapid moves would allow him to get free easily. At one moment he can be found facing multiple defenders, the next second Cunha is already inside the box. His quality in tight spaces makes him a regular tackling target for the defenders. Looking at the statistics, Cunha is fouled 4.7 times in every 90 minutes he played. None of his teammates can even get half of his rate.
Despite all his offensive traits, the former RB Leipzig player is not a lazy player. Cunha is quite sound when it comes to his defensive contributions. When Hertha deploy a high-pressing defensive system, Cunha would happily help his teammates to win the ball back quickly.
It doesn’t stop there -his hard-working nature also comes when his team are defending in deeper areas. In such situations, Cunha can be found dropping from his position to chase the on-ball opponent. The Brazilian would force the opponent to make a mistake, and even better, win possession by himself.
Physically, Cunha is relatively above the standard. He stands at 184 centimetres and 75 kilograms – taller and heavier than Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. Compared to Piątek — who stands at 183 centimetres and 77 kilograms — both are a bit similar in shape. In contrast to both names, Cunha is not special in the air, not even half as good as them.
The statistics back this argument: so far, Cunha has been involved in 4.7 aerial duels in every 90 minutes. Yet, he only won 0.9 of them: not even one. Piątek’s tally is much higher with 2.9 aerial duels won per 90 minutes.
Cunha also has an expressive personality. He will openly argue with the referee when he feels being treated unfairly. Cunha usually even shows dissatisfaction at his teammates when they make an error. Sometimes the personality and his natural aggression would be too much to handle, thus putting him in trouble. No wonder the 20-year-old already has two yellow cards from 309 minutes for Hertha.
Cunha is a very promising attacker. His flair, combined with his militancy and unpredictability, makes him such a joy to watch. His qualities would be essential for Hertha to help them climb up from the mid-table.
However, Cunha has some work to do. He can learn to improve his offensive IQ to make use of his physicality better. On top of that, the number 26 also needs to control his aggression and emotions better to be a world-class player. Let’s enjoy his growth.