25-year-old Carlos Vinícius arrived at Benfica from Napoli last summer, having impressed in a half-season loan at fellow Portuguese top-flight side Rio Ave in 2018/19, where he scored eight times in 14 league games.
He struggled for game time at the Portuguese giants early on, appearing for just 71 minutes overall in their opening eight league matches, but still managed to score twice, including a debut goal at home to Paços de Ferreira. Whilst he was able to become a key player for Benfica over time last season, the fact remains that he only completed 90 minutes in four of their matches and averaged 56 minutes per appearance over the whole of 2019/20.
That arguably makes Vinícius’ exploits at the Primeira Liga runners-up last season even more impressive, as he finished joint-top goalscorer in the league with 18 goals – all of which came from open play. With only 1,782 minutes of playing time to his name in the 2019/20 competition, he was able to average a goal every 99 minutes.
Vinícius has a great skill for a striker – being in the right place, at the right time. It’s hard to tell from a single season if this was down to the fact that he played for the most attacking side in the league last season – with Benfica having the highest non-penalty expected goals (xG) total (61.2), the most shots (528) and the most touches in the opposition box (958) – or if he himself has that much-sought-after ability to find fantastic goalscoring positions in the box. From the data, it does look like the latter could be the case, however.
He averaged 0.70 xG per 90 minutes from non-penalty shots in 2019/20 — far above the other players to play over 1,000 minutes in the 2019/20 Portuguese Primeira — with an average xG per open play shot of 0.21. From this, we can suggest that the ‘average’ player would be expected to score with 21% of these chances, but Vinícius was able to convert 27.3% – a league-high across the 20 players with seven or more non-penalty goals.
All of his 18 goals in the top flight last season came from inside the box, with 11 of those chances defined as an Opta ‘Big Chance’. It’s also noticeable that 27 of his 66 shots had an xG figure of 0.15 or above, so he’s often found in great goalscoring positions and he proved how clinical he can be when receiving the ball in them, as he scored 12 of those 27 shots (44.4%).
It is well known that Spurs are desperate to find a back-up to Harry Kane in attack, and Carlos Vinícius could be an ideal player to come in and be just that.
Looking at the Brazilian’s involvement in the build-up of open play shots for Benfica in 2019/20, it’s evident that he’s not a player to get involved in the build-up play to his own chances but would rather focus on getting his position right so that he’s in the right location to finish the chance.
Of the shots that qualify for this metric (the shots must be in open play and must have come from a sequence that involves more than just the shot), 57 of the 58 shots that he attempted (98.3%) saw Carlos Vinícius’ only role in that sequence being the player that fired the shot. In other words, only one shot that he attempted all season also saw him involved in the build-up to that shot.
Looking at Premier League players last season who took over 50 open play shots, and who saw 90% of those shots coming after they had no involvement in the build-up, Spurs’ Harry Kane (92.9% – 65/70) appears as the fourth-highest.
If Tottenham Hotspur are looking for a striker who is adept at getting in good goalscoring positions during attacking moves, rather than being a player that gets involved in the build-up to chances, then Carlos Vinícius seems to be an intelligent choice.
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