Don’t expect miracles from Claudinho. Zenit made a controversial transfer before the Champions League
Let’s immediately define the criteria by which to evaluate the Brazilian newcomer Zenit. The current position of the club is very clear:
1) Zenit, even without acquisitions, had the highest quality roster in the RPL, which should win gold every year without any problems;
2) on the other hand, for a high-quality performance in the Champions League and for a variety of attacking football, it was necessary to strengthen the clip, and better – the main team;
3) the legionnaire slot is almost full, so you need to treat each incoming transfer carefully and ask yourself several times: will it take the team to a new level?
The criteria are quite strict – but Zenit is also at an appropriate level of development.
At first glance, Claudinho’s transfer looks like a status one and meets the club’s requirements: a Brazilian compilation and an Olympic champion arrives in Russia, having impressive specifics over previous seasons (2020 turned out to be especially fertile), possessing an attacking mentality and a creative nature, capable of playing in several positions.
But all this is solely the general assessment of the player. If you dig a little deeper, there may be doubts that Zenit and Claudinho will become stronger this season.
In his manner of play, Claudinho is a typical representative of Brazilian football from past generations. Not very trained tactically and average in terms of performance, but flexible, technical, not squeezed into frames, possessing unconventional thinking and able to execute complex decisions.
Its main advantages:
1) versatility. Claudinho is able to play in several positions in attack – “ten”, inverted left winger with displacements, second striker, “false nine”, “eight”. Favorite zones – the left half-wing above the penalty area and the center, from there he performs the most aggravating actions. The picture below shows Claudinho’s heatmap for the 2020 season, which has become very successful for him;
2) combination warehouse, quick play. The Brazilian gives a large amount of openings in the depth and between the lines, very often peels off the defenders and looks for the ball in the buffer zones. Can quickly recoup with a minimum of touches, build triangles, offer himself to a return pass with openings;
3) non-standard solutions, the ability to sharpen the attack from any zone. Claudinho tries to play beautifully: he boldly uses his heels (putting in one touch and running under the return pass is a very frequent action), risks dribbling even in the center of the field under threat of losses. He is able to issue a sharpening pass from any point of the field in any style – and cut the defense with a low pass, and throw from the depth behind the back, and issue a soft “zakidushka” into the penalty area from a wider position.
Above is a map of all of Claudinho’s precise key passes for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. We see that there are shots and throws from the semi-flanks, but there are also a lot of penetrating passes from the area directly above the penalty area;
4) a good amount of action, both in completion and exacerbation. Since 2019, Claudinho has 3.12 hits in an average of 90 minutes and 0.27 xG; 2.38 assists (including set pieces), 3.6 assists into the box and 0.26 xA. That is, on average, Claudinho gains 0.53 xG + xA in 90 minutes. This is not directly a cosmic indicator for Brazilian football, but it is not bad.
Claudinho also has adequate dribbling – yes, not very stable in dynamics and density, but the Zenit newcomer cannot be called individually limited. It is pleasant to look at his game, at any moment it can surprise and delight. Below is the distribution of his entrances to the penalty area between dribbling, key passes and crossings.
And if you look not with a romantic look, but with a more pragmatic one?
It is important to understand that Claudinho comes from the Brazilian Championship – a league where the intensity is low, there are few pressing teams, and there is insufficient defense density by European standards. Therefore, the attacking numbers are extremely difficult to transfer to the RPL – they can significantly decrease (but they can also increase if a player, for example, plays in a more dominant club against the background of the rest).
1) Claudinho’s performance is insufficient. A goal implementation over the past year and a half – 10.6%, that is, every tenth hit flies. Normal, but hardly unique story. Separately, in 2021, things are much worse. Today’s razilets do not appreciate scoring chances at all, do not put their soul into the performance and spoil a lot.
The same goes for long-range strikes. I happened to read the opinion that with Claudinho Zenit will definitely add in this component. In terms of quantity, certainly. In terms of quality, neither statistically nor visually, I found no confirmation. It is generally a common mistake to judge the uniqueness of a shot based on the beautiful goals in the selections. Stability is much more important. For a year and a half, the footballer flew eight goals from outside the penalty area. Two of them are “parachutes” through the goalkeepers after their unsuccessful exits, two more are ricochets from opponents and a sharp change in the direction of the ball’s flight.
But there were a lot of punches because of the free kick – as much as 135. And in many cases the execution is absolutely bad – the body is placed incorrectly, the ankle dangles, the position does not improve quickly enough. As a result, attacks deteriorate. To find a really beautiful goal for Claudinho, I had to twist several dozen episodes. One third of them were puzzling;
2) Claudinho is unstable. Instability manifests itself both at a distance (one successful match – the next next), and within individual bad games. No stable solutions with the ball, a lot of losses during sharpening passes and dribbling;
3) Claudinho is not intensive enough with the ball and is still working at the pace of the Brazilian championship. Whether he will be able to play well at the Champions League level and how soon is an open question. From the point of view of the pace and speed of thinking, he needs to increase;
4) there are, albeit not critical, but limitations in physics – in power (and therefore it is difficult for him to put the body in a fight, when dribbling), as well as non-unique explosive qualities and speed.
We all understand perfectly well that if Claudinho had been adapted to European football, then at the age of 24, with his attacking stock, he would clearly not have played in the Brazilian Championship. And surely Leipzig or at least Salzburg would have taken him.
Of course, this is still a very interesting player. And if such a transition had been made, for example, by the perestroika CSKA a couple of years ago (only at a lower price), then it could have been fully supported.
And now it turns out that Zenit is taking the player for growth for 15 million euros due to the overheated market in Brazil and the status of the collection. A club that wants to take it to the next level before the Champions League.
I’m not sure if Claudinho is ready to help in this story right away.