Genoa have had a good summer so far. They managed to loan Cristian Romero back to the club, Lasse Schöne has signed from Ajax and they have kept hold of Christian Kouamé as of now. The likes of Lukas Lerager, Luca Mazzitelli, Riccardo Saponara, Cristián Zapata and Antonio Barreca will prove to be shrewd additions too. However, as our tactical analysis on Saturday showed, they need centre-back cover and a starting right-sided wing-back. This recruitment analysis aims to find some clever targets that could improve Genoa’s squad.
My process in order to find these players was to create the profile needed for a wing-back and a centre-back in Andreazzoli’s system and then use Wyscout’s immense database to pick out some options for Genoa based on this analysis of their tactics and squad. Afterwards, I watched a lot of footage of these players in order to connect the statistics to the actual performances on the pitch. Some players needed more footage, of course, since I did not have the same background information on them. This method has created a shortlist of targets that I believe would be clever signings for the club.
For the centre-back slot, I looked for defenders who can fit into a back-three. Based on the tactics Andreazzoli uses, his centre-backs need to be progressive passers to fit into his style of vertical, diagonal passing. Defensively, they need to be good in 1v1 situations due to the man-marking system Andreazzoli likes. Additionally, I looked for players with good interceptions numbers since a crucial centre-back quality in Andreazzoli’s tactics is the ability to read the game and step in front of attackers to intercept passes.
Club: FC Girondins Bordeaux
Estimated cost: €6-8m
Jovanović is a Serbian international currently playing in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux. He is a defender with quite a complete skillset. He is very good defensively and has an interesting mix of physicality and intelligence in his game. This is highlighted by the fact that he won 70.2% of his 6.37 defensive duels and 50.6% of his 4.84 aerial duels last season. Additionally, he averaged 7.72 interceptions which highlights his reading of the game and positioning. The Serbian is also a progressive passer of the ball, averaging 19.18 forward passes last season. This is a very important attribute in Andreazzoli’s tactics given the emphasis the coach places on the clean progression of the ball from the back. Overall, Jovanović averaged 48.46 passes at a completion rate of 87.6% for Bordeaux, suggesting he is comfortable in possession while also providing progressive passing when possible. Jovanović was a mainstay of the Bordeaux defence in the second half of last season and might be difficult to prise away from the club, especially since Paulo Sousa is an intriguing appointment for them, but he would fit perfectly as one of the outer centre-backs in Genoa’s back-three.
Club: FC Porto
Estimated cost: €10m
Diogo Leite is a more inexperienced defender but one that has a very high potential ceiling. A left-footed centre-back, Leite made three league appearances for Porto’s first team last season and spent the rest of the time in the B team. Leite’s stats are therefore mainly gathered from the Portuguese second division. There, he averaged 6.81 defensive duels and won 54.3% of these. His aerial statistics are impressive; Leite won 64.3% of his 5.45 aerial duels. Leite’s proactive defending is highlighted by his 7.2 interceptions and these statistics combined suggest he would be a good fit for Andreazzoli’s back-three. In possession, averaged 20.76 forward passes and 49.44 total passes at a completion rate of 87.8%. Due to him being left-footed, he offers a nice balance to a team’s build-up and his passing ability is impressive. Porto have seven centre-backs in their first-team squad and it would make sense for Leite to either go out on loan or make a permanent move. Porto have never shirked away from selling their assets and getting around €10m for a back-up centre-back would represent good value. Leite might be young and inexperienced at the highest level, but he would represent an exciting signing for the future as well as cover for this term.
Estimated cost: €8-10m
Another interesting defender in the Portuguese league is Bruno Viana. The Brazilian is particularly of interest for Genoa since he spent time last season as the central centre-back in a back-three, where Zapata is the only natural option. Viana won 58.8% of his 4.31 defensive duels for Braga last season, which is considerably lower than Jovanović but he excels in the air, winning 62.7% of his 4.37 aerial duels. This aerial ability is extremely important as the central centre-back since he is the one most likely to stay in the box to defend crosses while the outer centre-backs move out wide to cover for the wing-backs at times. Just like Jovanović and Leite, Viana is an intelligent, front-foot defender, highlighted by his 5.36 interceptions. In possession, Viana averaged 49.4 passes at a completion rate of 89.4% as well as 18.71 forward passes but he is not as good in possession as Leite. However, if Viana is signed as competition for the central slot in the back-three that won’t be an issue since his main job will be to defend. And he does that well. For a fairly low price, Viana is a bargain transfer waiting to happen.
For the right-sided wing-back role, Genoa need a wide player who can contribute to the attacking phase with crosses and dribbles since the wing-backs are the sole outlet of attacking width. However, they also need to be energetic and solid defensively with lots of individual responsibilities due to the man-marking nature of Genoa’s defending.
Estimated cost: €7-10m
Sofiane Alakouch might be unknown to many reading this, but the 21-year-old enjoyed an impressive season at Nîmes. Particularly, Alakouch is impressive defensively where he won 65.3% of his averaged 11.07 defensive duels in Ligue 1 last season. He reads the game well, highlighted by his average of 4.48 interceptions and he is also good 1v1, with Alakouch averaging 1.68 tackles per game last year. Going forward, he offers progressive passing from the wing with an average of 15.95 forward passes, he can progress the ball with his dribbling (2.46 per game) and he is a good crosser of the ball too. His stats show 2.06 crosses at a 32.6% completion rate, which is okay but he has a good crossing technique which suggests he an improve in this area. Finally, Alakouch also averaged 0.97 deep completed passes (basically passes completed in the immediate surroundings of the penalty area). He ticks all the boxes for Genoa and would be an extremely sensible signing. He is likely available for a good price, he excels defensively and can contribute in attack too.
Estimated cost: €3-6m
Nacho Vidal represents a more attacking option than Alakouch yet they are still quite similar in the sense that they can most things equally well. The former Valencia right-back impressed going forward for Osasuna last year with an average of 3.01 crosses at a completion rate of 36.6%. Vidal contributed five assists in the league last season, highlighting his quality going forward. He averaged similar dribbling stats to Alakouch (2.42) but fewer forward passes, 11.7. This could be in regards to Vidal playing slightly further up the pitch for Osasuna in the Segunda last season than Alakouch did for Nîmes. Vidal also contributes well defensively, mostly by winning 55% of his 7.49 defensive duels. He reads the game well and averaged an impressive 5.67 interceptions last term. Vidal is a very good full-back/wing-back, which he demonstrated under Marcelino at Valencia when given the chance in the early stages of 2017/18 when he provided the attacking width for Valencia as Carlos Soler tucked inside. For a small sum, Vidal could prove a smart addition to Genoa’s squad at right wing-back.
Club: Deportivo Alavés
Estimated cost: €8-12m
The third and final option for the wing-back slot is Spain’s U21 champion Martín Aguirregabiria. Aguirregabiria was a vital member of the Alavés team last year that punched well above their weight right until the end of the season before finishing 11th. At one point, in March, they were fifth. That team was built on its defensive organisation and it is no surprise to see that the 23-year-old impresses defensively. He reads the game superbly, which his 5.72 interceptions indicate, and he won 65.5% of his 7.05 defensive duels last season. We are yet to see the full extent of what he can offer going forward, but we saw glimpses of his attacking ability for Spain at the U21 Euro where he showed a good ability to cross the ball and play passes in the final third. In La Liga, he averaged 1.82 crosses at a completion rate of 29.5% but as mentioned he played in a predominantly defensive side. Still, he offered progressive passing from right-back for Alavés with an average of 14.05 forward passes and he also progressed the ball with his average of 2.4 dribbles. This one might prove pricey for Genoa, but it would represent a signing they could easily double the investment on in a season or two.
Well, there you have it. Six interesting players that would fit Genoa’s game model and that would probably represent an opportunity to make a profit in a few seasons. Genoa need to add players at right wing-back and in central defence and all these six players would add quality to the team.