Let’s take a look at the numbers for Arsenal’s newest signing, Fabio Vieira, announced earlier today.
Vieira is a 22-year-old midfield/attacking midfielder from Porto. Last season he was a bit of a utility man for the Portuguese champions, having played 50% of his minutes in midfield, 35% in attacking midfield, and 15% as a forward. He looks a lot like a modern hybrid player able to do a bit of everything but basically, he is a creative midfielder and for the stats that follow he will be compared to other midfielders (with the grain of salt needed that he played a bit further forward than typical).
1.7 – Open play shots per 90, 94th percentile for midfielders
0.24 – Non-penalty expected goals, 97th percentile for midfielders
0.39 – Non-penalty goals per 90, 99th percentile for midfielder
Vieira took a good amount of shots for a midfielder (about average for an attacking midfielder) but was very good at finishing the shots that he took.
1.68 – Open play key passes per 90, 97th percentile for midfielders
0.4 – Expected Assists per 90, 99th percentile for midfielders
0.9 – Assists per 90, 99th percentile for midfielders
Vieira had 14 total assists but the graphic above only counts ‘intentional’ passes. Overall that is still a very impressive total, but again one where he significantly overperformed the expected values.
3.8 – Passes completed into the box per 90, 98th percentile for midfielders
4.9 – Progressive passes completed per 90, 86th percentile for midfielders
5.2 – Deep completions (within 25 meters of the opposing goal) per 90, 99th percentile for midfielders
One of Vieira’s strengths is his passing, especially his passing that gets the ball into dangerous locations. His pass completion numbers are just okay 82.9%, but that obscures that he tries a lot of very hard passes and completes them at a very high rate. I have a metric called expected passing that tries to measure the average completion rate for every pass and uses that to judge how good a player is at passing, on this measure Vieira comes out looking exceptional. Below are all his passes attempted that had an expected completion rate below 70%.
He attempted 107 of these passes and completed 71 of them, which is a 66.3% completion rate compared to 51.6% expected completion rate. That is ridiculously good for passes with this much value.
5.4 – Final third entry passes completed per 90, 76th percentile for midfielders
2.5 – Final third entry carries per 90, 91st percentile for midfielders
5.4 – Final third entry passes received per 90, 95th percentile for midfielders
1.4 – Dribbles completed per 90, 78th percentile for midfielders
5.8 – Progressive carries per 90, 88th percentile for midfielders
2.4 – Tackles attempted (adjusted for Porto’s possession) per 90, 11th percentile
1.6 – Successful tackles (adjusted for Porto’s possession) per 90, 18th percentile
39.6% – Tackle success rate, 33rd percentile
0.8 – Interceptions per 90, 15th percentile for midfielders
0.8 – Blocked passes per 90, 33rd percentile for midfielders
4.9 – Ball recoveries per 90, 9th percentile
0.5 – Aerial duels won per 90, 19th percentile
44.4% – Aerial duel win percentage, 41st percentile
Vieira looks to be an exciting player with impressive statistics. The statistics should probably be taken with a bit of skepticism, however.
First, is that he played in several different roles and that can skew things (most notable here is that it probably boosts his attacking numbers and pushes his defensive numbers down).
Second, he is moving from Liga NOS to the Premier League. Liga NOS is not a bad league, it is the 6th strongest according to Club Elo but it has a very heavy tilt towards having 4 good teams, 1 okay team, and then a bunch of teams that would be on par with mid-table Championship quality.
With that out of the way, I still think that this is an exciting (but certainly not a sure thing) type of move. He should have the luxury of not having the pressure to step right into the starting elven right away if he proves not to be ready. My expectations are that he is being signed to bolster the rotation options for the team, most notable Martin Odegaard who doesn’t have a like-for-like replacement on the bench.
Vieira will likely start as a rotation-type option, giving depth and options to mix and match across the attacking line and midfield (probably against select opponents or when chasing the game). His fee (in recent terms) is in line with that sort of role and I think that he will probably see a step back in his stats with the change of league. That still leaves a signing with the potential for very high upside and brings back a bit of the diminutive player maker that the team used to stockpile for fun.
Sources: Opta, my own data base