Arsenal officially announced the signing of Nuno Tavares from Benfica. That means we need to become experts on the player and if you’re like me you have probably seen around five minutes of him actually playing (the five minutes he got against Arsenal in the Europa League).
A good place to start (and what I feel comfortable breaking down) is what do the stats say about him.
First is the high-level view of his breakdown compared to other fullbacks:
Overall this is a very impressive looking chart, but it does come with the caveats that he does not have a lot of minutes, just 880 total minutes with much of that in the Portuguese Liga NOS.
I am not an expert on Liga NOS but the rankings suggest that outside the top 3-4 clubs the quality of the rest of the league at a Championship level or below. Given that it is important to take the above rankings with a grain of salt because he played against significantly lower competition than the typical player from a top 5 league.
6 – Shots, 0.6 per 90
0.5 – Expected goals, 0.05 per 90 (0 goals)
15 – Key passes, 1.5 per 90
1.16 – Shot assisted expected goals (0 assists), 0.12 per 90
40 – Open play crosses attempted, 4.1 per 90
11 – Open play crosses completed (27.5%). That may sound low but that is actually a very good cross-completion percentage.
18 – Deep completions (passes within 25 yards of goal and not from a cross), 1.8 per 90
Overall Tavares looks like an impressive attacking fullback prospect. He completed a lot of passes into dangerous areas and he looks to be a very good crosser. With Kieran Tierney playing a similar attacking-focused style, it will be nice to have a backup who should be able to do similar things.
3.46 – xG Buildup (the total expected goals where the player is involved in the buildup to that shot), 0.35 per 90
56 – Progressive passes completed, 5.7 per 90
57.8 – Passes attempts per 90
43.6 – Passes completed per 90
75.3% – Pass completion percentage, on an expected pass completion of 76.1%
Overall his passing profile looks like you would expect from a left-back. He isn’t the most efficient passer but that is likely driven by him attempting relatively harder passes.
55 – Dribbles attempted, 5.6 per 90 (wow!)
25 – Dribbles completed, 2.6 per 90 (also wow!)
45 – Turnovers (dispossessed plus miscontrolled touch), 4.6 per 90 (the flip side of all those dribbles)
68 – Progressive carries, 6.9 per 90
1.9 – Goal probability added with his ball carrying and dribbling, 0.2 per 90.
Tavares’ ability on the ball, looks much more like a winger rather than a full back. This seems to be his “special” skill where he is able to provide the most value to a team’s attack.
28 – Tackles attempted, 2.9 per 90
19 – Tackles successful, 1.9 per 90
9 – Interceptions, 0.9 per 90
5 – Blocked passes, 0.5 per 90
13 – Clearances, 1.3 per 90
64 – Ball recoveries, 6.5 per 90
15 – Aerial duels won, 48% win rate
24 – Fouls committed, 2.4 per 90
Tavares looks to be just as aggressive on defense as he is when taking on players. Where he does his defensive actions match what you would expect from a full back (which I think is positive, seeing as his attacking numbers look a lot more like a winger).
When Arsenal was linked with Ryan Bertrand I was concerned, it is not that I don’t think Bertrand is a good player (he seems very average) it just seemed the type of move where it was safe and brought in a player who would be comfortable to sit on the bench behind Tierney. I think that Arsenal has had too many of this type of player and it wasn’t something that would push the club forward.
Tavares is certainly a more risky signing in that sense. Benfica wasn’t able to extract a large fee for him (partially because they wanted to get this done in the current fiscal year) even with the obvious talent.
There is a good chance that Tavares never really becomes a first-team player for Arsenal, partially because that probably means Tierney continued to play a the level that we expect from him or that he doesn’t live up to what his talent suggests he might become.
Either way, this is a move where Arsenal brings in a player who has the potential to make the team better but who should also comfortable with the pecking order of the current left-back depth chart.
Data via Opta