Sometimes being compared to some of the world’s greatest players can weigh heavy on your shoulders. Lucas Paqueta is one name that as of right now, would come to mind. Following in the footsteps of Brazil great Kaka, Paqueta moved from Flamengo to AC Milan for 35 million Euros in January 2018. At first, he showed promise by scoring one and providing three assists in his first 13 games. After an international call-up for Brazil, Kaka was quoted for saying, “The number ten of the Brazilian national team? It is nice to him, he will write a great story. He is ready for the national team, he just needs to mature in his game but he has a good coach who knows the South Americans. Gattuso has helped him a lot, he is helping him too and he is growing in awareness.”
However, shortly after this Paqueta’s form began to dip and in the following season his form simply never picked up. The continuous change of managers and changing of positions can be looked at as reasons for his dip in form. But Milan decided to cut their losses by selling their once-promising Brazilian star to Olympique Lyonnais for a reported 20 million Euros. Now Paqueta will look to revitalize his career in Europe and help Lyon finally overcome the mountain that is PSG for their first Ligue 1 title since 2007-2008. This scout report will provide tactical analysis and insight into how Paqueta might fit into the Ligue 1 outfit.
How Lyon set up
Lyon generally play with a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 under Rudi Garcia. They play quick and direct football, with the pace used out wide by their wingers such as Memphis Depay, Maxwell Cornet, and the very promising Rayan Cherki. Their central midfield is supplemented with a core of excellent young talents in Houssem Aouar and Maxence Caqueret. They also have fellow Brazilian compatriots of Paqueta, Bruno Guimarães, and Thiago Mendes.
From an analysis of Lyon matches, the tactics they use look to play short passes through the midfield and get the ball up the pitch quickly to their wide men or striker. The first image shows Guimaraes playing a through ball to Dembele, who runs in behind to have a shot. They like to play vertically as they look to exploit the opposition’s defence with their very quick wide men. The image below shows Memphis Depay running onto a ball from the wide man Cornet. Memphis then drove inside and played a cross that led to a goal for Lyon. Lucas Paqueta will more than likely be looking to play as the right-sided central midfielder in Rudi Garcia’s side.
Paqueta the midfielder
At his best, Paqueta is a strong, well-rounded midfielder. He has fantastic positional awareness, dribbling ability, and he can efficiently recover the ball. Paqueta had made a total of 37 appearances across all completions in his 18 months at the club. He predominately played on the right side of a three-man midfield. Whilst he only managed to record one goal and two assists for the club, he did provide many things further back that were important to helping his team. His positional awareness was something that made him stand out during his time at Flamengo, and he continued to show this during his time at Milan. From watching him play, right away you will notice he constantly has his head up and is looking for where he should be.
In the image above you will see Paqueta highlighted in yellow. He has just looked behind him to see his marker and he then checks to the ball. Whilst moving, he looks to his left for his open wide man. Although he does not receive the ball from Ricardo Rodríguez, he moves into open space upfield on the wing to receive the ball. From here, Rodríguez passes the ball forward to Paqueta who flicks the ball back to Rodríguez. What this short glimpse is showing is how active Paqueta is when on the field. He is constantly checking his surroundings and looking for his next pass even before he receives the ball. He will endlessly stop and start his runs and adjust himself for pass openings.
The image above shows Paqueta’s passing stats from last season in Milan. Recording an average of 40.06 passes per game ranked him in the top 20 for average passes completed per game. He also was able to record a success rate of 81.73% for his passes. For passes received, Paqueta recorded 29.42 per game.
What is interesting however is how Paqueta ranks for progressive passes per 90 which were 6.26 per 90 minutes. That put him in the top 15 for progressive passers in Serie A, with Alejandro Gómez of Atalanta first with 9.04. What these three statistics show is that Paqueta is a very busy player in the middle of the park with a high amount of progressive passes at a very consistent level. Something else to keep in mind is that he played 24 games in total with only 12 starts. This means his sample size is smaller than other players who may have played more. Paqueta’s ability to play progressive passes is exemplified here in the image above. In this match against Napoli, Paqueta is running onto a ball which he quickly plays over the top for Krzysztof Piątek to successfully chest down.
In regards to dribbling, Paqueta is quite successful. While at Flamengo he was known for being the glue of the attacks, usually linking up in multiple passes in the attacking play. He also is remembered for an impressive rainbow flick he executed perfectly against Genoa. In Milan, he continued this good form with 2.19 successful dribbles per match. Along with his dribbles, he was successful in winning 33% of his offensive duels.
Paqueta also shows that he is willing to help his team on the defensive end. Thanks to his strong positional awareness, he can position himself effectively when in the defensive phase.
Paqueta ranks well in comparison to fellow midfielders in Serie A for Recoveries in the final third and counter-pressing recoveries. He records 1.66 recoveries in the final third and 3.77 counter-pressing recoveries per 90. This indicates that Paqueta is very active after his side has lost possession. He also clearly positions himself well enough to recover balls that had recently been lost by his side.
The image above is an example of Paqueta’s defensive awareness. He identifies the pass the opposing defender will look to make and runs forward to intercept. He then successfully wins the ball and tries to push forward. Further defensive involvement is shown with duels in the team’s own defensive third. Paqueta was involved in 62 defensive duels, winning 31 of them.
For a midfielder that is known for his involvement in attacking phases, this is an excellent stat to show he can help a team defensively too. Having won 50% of his defensive duels, he shows that he can also help Lyon in their defensive phase. Paqueta is a player that is constantly on the move regardless of his team having the ball or not. He will trackback where needed and he has the energy to burst forward once his team regains the ball. The Brazilian is a hard runner off the ball and a successful player in the counter-press.
The standout statistics that had let down Paqueta during his time in Milan was his lack of goal involvement, having only recorded only one goal and three assists in his time there. His xG was a low 4.36 from total shots.
He recorded a total of 45 shots, but half of them came from outside of the box. While not being looked at as a primary goal-scoring option, Paqueta definitely needs to improve his shot selection. Instead of having most of his shots from cutting inside from the right and having a shot with his preferred left foot, Paqueta would benefit from shooting less from range and looking for his teammates further ahead or recycling possession. Whilst the 23-year-old will usually be positioned further back, he will surely be looking to add a few more assists to the game while at Lyon.
Paqueta recorded a total of 36 deliveries into the box last season, with 72.2% being successful. As a Lyon player, Paqueta should look to advance himself up the pitch more to try and deliver more balls effectively. He is a fantastic passer of the ball and would benefit himself and his team by trying to add more creativity to the final third. The concern for Lyon should not be about Paqueta’s lack of goals and assists contributions because he is much more useful further back in helping build up and play. The Brazilian international will be wanting to excel in his goal involvement and assists if he is wanting to take the step to the next level that many had to seen in him at Flamengo.
For Paqueta, he will look to reignite his career in Europe with Lyon. He will try and get more opportunities either as a part of a double pivot or more advanced at a 10 position. He will face tough competition from already established midfielders like Bruno Guimaraes, Thiago Mendes, and Maxence Caqueret. Also with Houssem Aouar’s move to Arsenal never materializing, he will have even more competition. However, Paqueta will feel that he will offer something different to the rest of Lyon’s midfield as an excellent passer and positional player. He will look for a positive start in the South of France and hope to reach the potential that so many still see in him.