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RB Bragantino: How Red Bull improved their squad - data analysis statistics

RB Bragantino: How Red Bull improved their squad for 2022 – data analysis

As the 2022 season begins, Red Bull Bragantino aim to continue increasing their reputation. In 2019, Red Bull purchased CA Bragantino to become Red Bull Bragantino. Three seasons later, the club has not only established themselves in Brazil’s first division, but they have also qualified for the glorious Copa Libertadores.

In Brazil, Red Bull has implemented a similar business model to their other clubs; buy young players to develop and sell for a profit. The club enters the 2022 Brasileiro with the youngest average age at 22.4. As they look to make that next step into Brazil’s upper echelon, the board has seriously improved the team’s quality. First, they made sure to permanently secure Natan, Helinho, and Eric Ramires, who were regular squad players last season on loan. As they are not ‘new’ players, we will not be covering them in this analysis. In addition, though, they have brought in six new players – three on loan and three permanently.

Red Bull Bragantino’s transfer business accurately reflects their current position in the hierarchy of Brazilian football. For instance, young prospects who are not quite ready to break into the first team are loaned out to teams in the lower divisions. More significantly, though, the club has consistently brought in high potential youth academy players from Brazil’s biggest clubs – Flamengo, Palmeiras, São Paulo. As they are not regularly appearing in the first team, these clubs are more likely to release these players on loan. As they have done with Natan and Helinho, Bragantino will often consider permanently signing these players after a season or two.

In this analysis, we will individually examine the characteristics and playing styles of all six players through data analysis. Furthermore, we will consider Red Bull Bragantino’s tactics, and how each player fits into their system.

Red Bull Bragantino’s tactics

Brazil is notorious for its treatment of managers. Often due to the board’s impatience or intense pressure from the fans, managers are commonly sacked within months. Red Bull Bragantino, on the other hand, have been able to maintain 40-year-old manager Maurício Barbieri for one year and seven months. Barbieri is the longest standing manager out of Brazil’s top three divisions. The young and modern manager has been able to successfully implement the traditional Red Bull identity into Bragantino’s tactics. At Bragantino, these tactics consist of direct football and an intense high press. As they have the youngest squad in the league, they are able to consistently maintain this type of relentless and intensive football.

In 2022, Barbieri has maintained the same structure from the 2021 season. Bragantino’s most common formation is a 4-4-2, but a very similar 4-2-3-1 is occasionally used. In 2021, they averaged the most long passes per 90, at 43.83. Their long pass percentage sits around 12%, with around 3.74 average passes per possession. This highlights their vertical approach to construction. While they often look to press high, their PPDA is around 9.71. Against teams at a higher level, such as Flamengo and Palmeiras, their PPDA is much lower. Against teams at a lower level, their PPDA is significantly higher. This dynamic approach sees their average PPDA in the middle.

In their 4-4-2, players have specific roles that define this structure. Width is maximised by the fullbacks and wingers. They aim to create overloads in the wide channel as the fullbacks join the attack. Centre-backs must be ball-playing defenders with the ability to play long and progressive passes. One of the midfielders sits deeper as a deep-lying playmaker whereas the other creates further up the pitch. One of the strikers is a more work-horse type of striker, constantly making runs in behind and initiating the press. The other is more of a false nine, taking on a more creative role. Taking into account the general roles for each position, we can now examine Red Bull Bragantino’s new signings.

José Hurtado, 20-years-old, right back, Independiente del Valle

Red Bull Bragantino’s 2022 transfer business begins in Ecuador. Finding talented youngsters in the less traditional South American countries will often come at a lower price, and Bragantino takes advantage of that. In January, Red Bull signed 20-year-old right-back, José Hurtado, from Independiente del Valle for £2.79M. In 2021, the young Ecuadorian was one of the best fullbacks in Ecuador’s Liga Pro despite being his first full season at the senior level.

His statistical overview illustrates just how dominant he was last season. Often playing as a right wing-back, Hurtado was a very attacking player. Independiente del Valle won the 2021 Liga Pro, consistently dominating games. Hurtado was a key piece of this effective attacking system. Passing wise, his attacking involvement can be seen through his 4.64 crosses per 90, at a 41% success rate, an impressive 0.7 key passes per 90 – often coming from crosses –, and 4.02 passes to the penalty box per 90. Furthermore, Hurtado had the highest accurate long passes percentage amongst Liga Pro fullbacks. Uncoincidentally, this is a key aspect of Bragantino’s playing style. His 3.04 progressive runs per 90 and 3.65 dribbles per 90 – at an impressive 61.8% success rate – highlight the aggressiveness in his behaviour. Hurtado consistently looks to attack space and be direct, a trait that suits Bragantino’s tactics extremely well.

Bragantino’s previous first-choice right-back, Aderlan, is currently 31 years old. Signing a young right-back at a similar level was a priority, and Bragantino have successfully achieved that in the promising José Hurtado.

Renan, 19-years-old, central defender, Palmeiras (on loan)

Moving over to the left side, Red Bull have acquired 19-year-old defender Renan on loan from Palmeiras. The left-footed defender has a market value of £8.10M, so making it a permanent deal might prove difficult. The 19-year-old’s high market value highlights just how good he is. Renan won the U17 World Cup with Brazil in 2019 and occasionally features in Palmeiras’ two-time Libertadores-winning side. Despite being able to play as a left-back, Renan often plays as a wide left centre-back in Palmeiras’ three-at-the-back system. The Brazilian played 21 matches in the 2021 Brasileiro despite being just 19 years old. However, the arrival of Jailson and Murilo has seriously affected Renan’s minutes. Consequently, Palmeiras agreed to loan him out to Bragantino.

Despite emerging as a left-back, Renan’s main position is as a left centre-back. Nonetheless, Renan played a key role in Palmeiras’ construction. In addition to being left-footed, the 19-year-old is an extremely good ball-playing defender. Playing consistently well at this age with such valuable characteristics explains his market value. In the 2021 Brasileiro, Renan averaged a high 45.32 passes per 90. 21.37 (77.03% success rate) of these were forward passes, with 10.71 (75%) of them being progressive passes. Furthermore, Renan averaged 7.49 passes to the final third per 90, highlighting his ability to initiate attacks. This verticality and effectiveness are traits highly valued in Bragantino’s tactics.

Defensively, Renan averaged very good numbers as well. His 8.53 defensive duels per 90 highlight his aggressiveness, which may be good or bad depending on how it is used. He also averaged an impressive 4.96 interceptions and 10.31 successful defensive actions per 90. In addition to being important in possession, he is also very consistent defensively. The only downfall is that Renan is relatively short for a centre-back at 184cm. He averaged 3.62 aerial duels per 90 at a 57.53% success rate. Given his height, that is fairly good.

As one of the key figures of Bragantino’s defence, Fabrício Bruno, departed to Flamengo, they needed to bring in a replacement. While still very young, Renan comes in at a very high quality to fight for a starting spot.

Ramon, 21-years-old, left-back, Flamengo (on loan)

In a similar business strategy, Red Bull have signed 21-year-old left-back Ramon on loan from Flamengo. Unlike Renan, Ramon did not regularly feature for Flamengo’s star-filled team. While he played 12 matches in the 2021 Brasileiro, they only amounted to 731 minutes. As Ramon enters his 20s, he will wish to speed up his development. On paper, moving to Bragantino for more minutes achieves just that.

Similar to Hurtado, Ramon is an attacking fullback. However, the 21-year-old’s defensive abilities are statistically superior. Flamengo tends to dominate games, but Ramon’s possession-adjusted interceptions stand at an impressive 8.67. He also averages 8.74 defensive duels per 90 at a 66.2% success rate. Bragantino’s fullbacks play a key role in their high press, and Ramon’s defensive aggressiveness will be appreciated. Overall, Ramon averages 11.94 successful defensive actions per 90 – very impressive.

While there is much room to improve, Ramon is able to support the attack. Ramon’s 3.45 crosses per 90 and 3.08 passes to the penalty area per 90 highlight his involvement in the final third. The Brazilian also averages 2.71 dribbles per 90 and 0.98 progressive runs per 90. In Flamengo, Ramon would play behind talented traditional wingers like Bruno Henrique. Spacing wise, this would obviously limit Ramon’s contribution. It will be interesting to see if these numbers improve as Bragantino’s fullbacks have more attacking roles. Ramon did still average 7.76 progressive passes per 90 and 2.95 long passes per 90 at a 66.67% success rate. While Bragantino will look to improve these, they are already something to build on.

Red Bull Bragantino’s 21-year-old Luan Cândido, previously at RB Leipzig, currently starts at left-back. Ramon will come in to provide depth and competition. Additionally, Luan is attracting a lot of attention from European clubs. Should he leave, Ramon’s arrival will prove important.

Kevin Lomónaco, 20-years-old, central defender, Lanús

From Lanús, Kevin Lomónaco was the most expensive player out of the transfer window at £3.72M. Lomónaco is a 192cm, 20-year-old centre-back from Argentina. He only featured in 798 minutes for Lanús in the Liga Pro but made a good impression despite the young age. In recent years, Lanús has consistently produced high potential players, and Lomónaco is the latest to emerge.

Kevin’s defensive characteristics are different from Renan’s, for example. He is not an aggressive defender, only averaging 5.98 defensive duels per 90 at a very impressive 79.25% success rate. In the 2021 Liga Pro, Kevin did not receive any cards whatsoever. He is very consistent in timing his defensive actions well and winning the ball back. Additionally, his possession-adjusted interceptions sat around 4.12. Lomónaco is an overall very solid defender. In possession, Kevin has rather an aggressive behaviour. His passes per 90 are not incredibly high at 33.38, and the completion rate of 82.77% is not great either. While his lateral and back passes have around a 95% completion rate, he completes 70.08% of his 14.32 forward passes per 90. In other words, he is a player who looks to take risks and progress through the zones, not necessarily retain possession. He also averages 4.51 long passes per 90 at a 60% completion rate. Further highlighting his willingness to be vertical. Finally, Kevin’s 1.92 progressive runs per 90 stand out as a centre-back. While this number isn’t the highest, it demonstrates he likes to advance with the ball into space quite often. This behaviour tends to be advantageous in disorganising the defensive structure by dragging players out of position and forcing them to commit.

Kevin Lomónaco provides a safe option at the back while still having that aggressive and vertical Red Bull DNA in possession. The 20-year-old Argentinian signed a five-year contract and has a high ceiling in Brazilian football.

Hyoran, 28-years-old, forward, Atlético Mineiro (on loan)

The focus switches a little for the next signing, as Red Bull have secured 28-year-old Hyoran on loan from league champions Atlético Mineiro. Hyoran brings a more experienced personality to the squad in addition to tremendous quality. Since signing in January, Hyoran has become a regular starter for Bragantino in 2022. Having only played 742 minutes for the champions last season, Hyoran is enjoying a more important role in Bragança Paulista.

Despite playing on the wing for Atlético, Hyoran has featured as the second striker in Bragantino’s 4-4-2. Unlike his centre-forward partner, Ytalo, Hyoran is a much more technical and creative player. In the three months he has been at Red Bull, Hyoran has already played 1093 minutes across all competitions. For sample size purposes, we will analyse Hyoran’s data for Bragantino this season.

Earlier in his career, Hyoran enjoyed a deeper and more creative role. Contrastingly, he has been operating mostly in the final third for Bragantino, alongside Ytalo. In the Paulista, he had 0.2 assists per 90 with an xA of 0.17 per 90. Furthermore, he scored 0.3 goals per 90 with an xG of 0.24 per 90, while averaging exactly three shots per 90. While his dribbling has stayed in a similar spot at 3.4 dribbles per 90, his passing has gone down from 2021. Compared to last season’s 28.47, Hyoran averaged 18.72 passes per 90 in the Paulista. This further highlights the change in his positioning and role at Red Bull. While not by much, Hyoran has still demonstrated his creative ability in the final third with 0.7 smart passes per 90 and 0.4 key passes per 90. As Ytalo has yet to find his form in 2022, Hyoran has provided more consistent and well-rounded performances.

Most likely competing with Bruno Praxedes as that second striker, Hyoran will provide a more experienced presence in the dressing room. While also increasing the quality and depth of the squad, Hyoran will hope to come up big for Bragantino throughout the 2022 season.

Sorriso, 21-years-old, left-wing, Juventude

Marcos Vinicios, or Sorriso, comes in as a low-risk high-reward transfer. The 21-year-old played 36 matches for Juventude in the 2021 Brasileiro. Red Bull signed the youngster for just £810K on a five-year contract. Sorriso mainly plays on the left-wing despite being right-footed. He comes to add depth and provide competition to Bragantino’s attack.

Sorriso’s attacking statistics do not necessarily stand out. At the age of 20, Sorriso was able to establish himself as a Série A regular, performing relatively well in a very poor team. Bragantino will hope to provide a much better environment for him to develop.

As far as playing style, Sorriso is a traditional talented Brazilian winger, with pace, flair and skill. He is right-footed, cutting inside from the left-wing. In the Brasileiro, he averaged 5.77 dribbles per 90 and 2.28 progressive runs per 90. Red Bull’s verticality and willingness to attack the space will suit his characteristics. In 2021, Juventude averaged below 45% possession and only 23.37 positional attacks per 90, with only 22% of them resulting in a shot. The environment he was playing in certainly hindered his attacking output and consequently his development. Furthermore, Sorriso severely underperformed his xG. From an xG per 90 of 0.21, he only scored 0.07 goals per 90. He was able to create good chances and get into good positions but perhaps got unlucky. It will be interesting to see if he catches up to his xG or continues to underperform it.

Sorriso comes into Bragantino to provide depth, not necessarily as a first-choice player. His playing style fits Red Bull’s tactics, and he has the talent to develop around. Entering a five-year contract, Sorriso is one for the long-term.

Conclusion

As they look to join Brazil’s upper echelon, this transfer window was crucial for Red Bull Bragantino. With a mixture of youth and experience, quality and depth, Red Bull have heavily invested in their squad. Upon a further look, the new players fit exactly into the club’s philosophy and tactics. The Red Bull Group has always placed an emphasis on data and analysis, and their project in Brazil is no different. On paper, it has been a successful transfer window. Now it is time to transfer it onto the pitch.