If you just happen to be having a look at some statistics for Portugal’s Liga NOS, your eye can’t help being drawn towards a young Brazilian winger named Wenderson Galeno. On loan from FC Porto at Rio Ave, the 21-year-old has notched up a healthy return of four goals and three assists in 1,310 league minutes this season for the mid-table side.
The headline goals and assists statistics are noteworthy. Perhaps more intriguingly though are some metrics which set him apart from other players in the Portuguese top flight. Averaging 3.5 shots and six dribbles per 90 minutes, Galeno is a dribbling and shooting machine.
Admittedly not all shots are good shots. They may be from poor locations, or when there is a better option to pass to a teammate. Similarly, successful dribbles may still end up down blind alleys while better options are ignored. However, the sheer volume of output from a young, developing winger demand more scrutiny.
This tactical analysis will see if there is substance to the numbers, and whether there may be some big clubs casting admiring glances in his direction in the future.
The positions that Galeno typically takes up are that of a traditional winger. He remains wide and close to the touchline, looking to receive the ball with the defender in front where he can dribble at them. Despite operating on the left the majority of the time, as a right-footed player he is capable of playing on both flanks.
This is a typical receiving situation Galeno takes up, receiving it wide on the left in front of the line of pressure where he can control the ball before taking on his marker. He knows he can beat defenders with ease, so he will often receive the ball and trust his one-on-one ability. It is also one of the less demanding receiving situations asked of forward players, where he is picking up the ball outside of the defensive block.
Notice his closed body shape. It requires him to take two touches to turn and face forwards before dribbling. His eyes are also fixed on the ball, and he can not fully appreciate the space, opponents and teammates around him. Nevertheless, he still has time to turn and drive at the defence. If he had started with an open body shape and directed his first touch towards the space, however, he would have gained even more of an advantage to use his dribbling ability.
Galeno does occasionally occupy an inside position in the left half-space, but he is far less comfortable and effective in this area. He often struggles to orientate his body shape effectively, and therefore doesn’t have the best picture of what is around him.
Here he drops off in front of the line of pressure, and does not use any small movements to separate himself from his marker. He is facing directly back towards where he is receiving the ball so he cannot build a picture of what is behind him. Here he can only play the ball backwards, or turn blindly into pressure.
Notice the space he has vacated in order to pick up the ball, behind the line of pressure. If he had maintained his position he could have either pinned the defence back to create space for others, or got himself into a position to receive and dribble on the turn at an exposed defence.
Here Galeno has occupied an inside position in the half-space in between the lines, dragging his marker with him and opening up space down the flank for the overlapping full-back. Again, he does not separate himself from his marker effectively with a clever double movement, allowing the defender to remain tight. His eyes remain on the ball so he does not appreciate the options of releasing the left-back on the turn, or playing in the unmarked striker through on goal.
Instead, he directs the ball towards pressure away from the dangerous area he had initially occupied. Due to his incredibly quick feet, however, he is able to beat all three opponents and retain possession.
For someone with as much pace as Galeno, he does not run in behind defences as much as he possibly should. He usually prefers to drop off in the build-up and receive the ball to dribble. If he were to hold his position high up on the last line rather than always go looking for the ball, the opportunities to use his explosiveness in behind would present themselves more often.
This example shows how Galeno could probably add more goals to his game by holding his position on the last line, and running in behind defences on the blindside of defenders. Here his acceleration off the mark and well-timed run enables him to get in behind the defence with ease.
In the Primeira Liga this season he has attempted six dribbles per 90 minutes, more than any other player in the division with at least 10 appearances. He also leads the division in successful dribbles with 3.4 per 90 minutes. While he does lose the ball dribbling a fair amount, the sheer volume of attempts means he is a constant threat to defenders. We can also expect these statistics to improve as he develops, and hones his decision making ability.
Galeno is an extremely aggressive and direct dribbler, with a fantastic burst of acceleration from a standing start. He is excellent at changing the tempo, able to stand a defender up still, unbalance them, then speed away from them with a quick explosion of pace.
In this example he has picked the ball up deep in his own half. Rather than pass the ball safely back or sideways to his teammates, he recognises the amount of space in behind the two players closing him down. With quick feet and a burst of acceleration he goes through the two players applying pressure. All of a sudden the opposition are running back towards their own goal.
Galeno possesses a bag of tricks that enable him to leave defenders in his wake. He has very quick feet where he is able to chop and cut the ball, as well as use the sole of his foot to manipulate the ball around and past defenders. Physically, he has a range of movement which allows him to use body feints well on the ball to unbalance opponents. It is highly likely that this profile was developed on the futsal pitches of Brazil where he grew up.
Notice how Galeno goes from retrieving a loose ball with a defender behind him, to turning and beating the defender in a matter of seconds. A body feint and a chop puts his defender on the wrong foot before Galeno motors in behind him. The ability to turn and face up opponents as a winger is invaluable.
Galeno is what you could characterise as an invasive dribbler. In other words, he does not generally look to use his ability to carry the ball to avoid areas of pressure, but rather looks for players to engage. He wants to draw pressure towards him, rather that evade it.
It is clear when he gets the ball he wants to attack the 18-yard box. In part this is due to playing on the left as a right footer where he is naturally oriented towards the goal. He is equally adept, however, at beating defenders both on the inside and the outside, which makes him unpredictable to defend against.
What makes him especially dangerous is that when he beats defenders on the outside, the combination of his extremely quick feet and acceleration mean he can get round the defender to still attack the penalty area. It is not so simple as to just show him down the line on to his left foot: he’ll still get around defenders and into the danger zone.
In this example he is faced with two covering defenders wide on the left. He is able to speed past both down the line with ease and still attack the penalty area. This ability means that central defenders will often have to move out to engage him as he enters the penalty area, potentially freeing up players in the box for crosses and cutbacks.
One thing that is clear is that Galeno shoots a lot. In the Primeira Liga he has taken 51 shots this season, making him the joint-third most prolific shooter in the division. Factoring out central strikers, he is way ahead of any other player in this regard.
This seems positive at first glance, but this is not necessarily the case. A slightly deeper dive into the shooting statistics betray a player who will shoot from anywhere. Of his 51 shots this season, 38 have arrived from outside the penalty area, with only 13 taken inside it. He hasn’t yet shot from inside the six-yard box.
It suggests that he needs to work on his shot locations if he wants to take the next step towards stardom. Generating shots is a difficult skill in itself, and he is clearly adept at working an opportunity to get a shot away.
However, it should be a high priority for him to try and work some better opportunities for himself. Notably, out his 13 penalty area shots only three have hit the back of the net, and just one of his 38 long-range strikes – a free kick – has been successful.
Here we see how Galeno’s directness and dribbling ability allows him to work shots for himself.
He drives at pace at the opponents. Despite being shown down the outside, he is still able to shift onto his right foot between the defenders into the box and shoot.
On this occasion he falls over whilst shooting, which leads to a tame attempt that the goalkeeper easily claims. Whilst working the angle to shoot at high speed, he did not have supreme control of his body leading to a poor shot. Top players in similar situations such as Chelsea forward Eden Hazard, Arjen Robben or Heung-min Son are able to steady themselves, allowing themselves a moment of stillness before shooting. In order for Galeno to make the step up to the next level, he will need to gain similar clarity in these goalscoring positions.
Galeno is a very creative player with his dribbling as demonstrated, but he also shows a certain amount of promise with his ability to play in teammates with through-balls. These situations tend to arrive in moments of transition, with more disorganised defences and more open space. In these moments he shows a good ability to weight his passes to players running in behind.
In this counter-attack Galeno has driven infield with the ball but shows a great presence of mind to lift his head and pick a defence-splitting through-ball. It is perfectly weighted to create a one-on-one opportunity for his team.
In this example, the defence is clearly disorganised but he plays a well weighted and disguised ball to create a chance for his team-mate. This shows that there is a potential there for him to be effective in the inside positions. It will be interesting to see whether he is able to create similar opportunities when faced with organised, elite-level defences in the future.
Room for development
Galeno is currently a highly effective operator in the Primeira Liga at the age of 21, but there is absolutely a higher ceiling for him in the game. He should be aiming to be playing regularly for a Champions League level team in the future, but there is work to do.
As we have seen, he is a prolific dribbler who is a huge threat to defences and he will continue to develop this aspect of his game as he gets older. It is what happens prior to receiving the ball and at the end of his dribbles that could elevate Galeno to a higher level.
His movement to receive the ball, as well as his body shape orientation, needs work. This will help him separate himself from defenders, thus giving him more space, as well as allow him to take quicker decisions. At the moment he is using his dribbling ability to rectify his initial positioning and movement. He will be an even bigger threat if his dribbling instead complemented it.
He also needs to examine his shot locations because he is currently getting little reward for his desire to shoot from range. With his ability he could be squandering better options for himself by taking pot shots. He should be working on getting into the box more to shoot. A good start would be for him to look at the best players in his position in order to develop his ability to steady himself before shooting. If he does this, he could turn himself into a 15-20 goal-a-season wide player. These players do not grow on trees.
If he was to develop his game in the half-spaces, improving his orientation to receive on the turn and in between the lines, then he could be on the way to being a fantastically rounded forward player.
It is highly unlikely that Galeno will remain at Rio Ave on loan when his deal expires at the end of the season. It will be interesting to see whether he remains at FC Porto, where he will have to battle the Algerian Yacine Brahimi for a starting berth next season.
At 21 he is still young, but a player with his talent will be looking to get serious minutes wherever he plies his trade. Porto may be planning to integrate him in to their first team next season, where he would get exposure to the Champions League, but a player of his talent requires game time. This may mean him looking further afield in Europe for a permanent move.
At Rio Ave he is playing for a team that looks to dominate the ball, averaging 54% possession this season. While moving to a similar natured team would represent a stylistic fit, his profile at the moment may suit a more transitional, counter-attacking team. With his ability to carry the ball at pace and generate shooting opportunities, there may be some counter-attacking teams casting admiring glances his way. Galeno running at back-pedalling defenders in wide open space is not something many would want to face.
If he were to move to a team that dominates possession and face deep, compact defences, then he will need to fine tune his game a great deal. He would need to develop his game in between the lines, and learn to hold his position more in advanced positions rather than dropping out of the defensive block to receive the ball.
Teams who play a possession-dominant or positional play system may however recognise his dribbling and ability to generate shots as raw talent that could be harnessed. He could potentially be used in a Leroy Sane type role, where he maintains width as Manchester City look to isolate him one-on-one against opposition full-backs after a quick switch of play.
Galeno has an important few months ahead of him. His agenda should be dominated by finishing the season off strongly with Rio Ave, gaining clarity on where he sits in Porto’s plans and deciding where he is going to be playing in 2019/20. There is a long way to go to reach his full potential, but it will be fascinating to see if he can do it.
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