Rony Lopes has not had the season he expected at Sevilla this year. He transferred from Monaco for €25M and has only made 14 appearances for Sevilla who reached a spot for the UEFA Champions League. However, most of his games were in the Europa League. Sevilla’s coach Julen Lopetegui did not count on him for La Liga as he only played in five games, with most of them starting on the bench.
Now he will start a new adventure at Nice, where he has recently joined on loan. This will be his return to Ligue 1 where has was successful with both Lille and Monaco. He will be at the orders of the legendary player-turned-coach Patrick Vieira, who is known for having quick and tricky wingers. In this tactical analysis, we will see how Lopes fits into Nice’s playing system.
It is hard to not see the resemblance to this season’s Nice winger Adam Ounas. He is also a fast, technical player of slight stature who also plays as a right-winger. He had been on loan from Napoli and has now returned there. This shows that Nice were looking for a replacement in that position of the same profile as Ounas and with Lopes, they have found a very close match. In this scout report, we will do an analysis of how Nice plays with their wingers and how Lopes was chosen to be the replacement of Ounas.
When seeing this scout report, it is important to note that Lopes played in games where Sevilla was quite superior to the opponents. This means that the Sevilla team was placed high up the pitch and the opponent was frequently defending in a low block. Consequently, with this, we see some of Lopes’ abilities such as his ability to play in closed spaces. However, it also means that we do not see other qualities as much, such as running in behind the defence as the opponents were in a low block.
Movements on the wing
With the opponents generally defending in a low block in the analysed games, Sevilla had to find players in a short amount of space. For this, Lopes carried out various movements to free himself up to receive the ball.
The first movement was to switch positions with the right-back as he was coming up. With this, he loses his marker as he drops down, and this also means that the position he leaves is covered by the right-back. Now that the switch is done, Lopes who is more technically gifted than the right-back has the ball and can build up with more danger.
Now that he has the ball, he can either play it backwards again and continue the play or turn around and try to create danger. This switch is seen in Figure one.
The other movement he does is cutting inside. When he has the ball on the wing, he likes dribbling the ball inside to find a passing option or shooting option. Seeing as he is left-footed and a right-winger, cutting inside means having more possibilities than continuing on the wing as he can use his stronger foot.
Also, when he goes inside, he attracts players to him as the opponents do not want him to have time on the ball in such a dangerous position. If the opponents go to him, it means they are either leaving Sevilla players free or are leaving spaces behind them. With Lopes’ technical ability and Sevilla’s tactics, they can take advantage of these newly created spaces.
For example, in Figure two, Lopes has dribbled inside with the ball. We can see that the left-back is chasing him and this has left a space where the left-back previously was. We can see that Franco Vázquez, a Sevilla teammate, has intelligently moved there. What happens next is that Lopes manages to pass the ball through to Vázquez who is free and Sevilla has a good chance.
In addition, this is similar to what Ounas does as he is also a left-footed right-winger. Therefore, Lopes is already carrying out actions that Ounas did at Nice.
With the opponents defending in a low block, it meant that Sevilla had to play quickly to break the defence. Lopes understood this is one of the ways to combat a compact defence and did so. Seeing as he and his teammates are technical players, they can make one-twos through the defence and dismantle the opponent’s system.
Lopes does this especially well coming in from the right side. As an example, in Figure three, Lopes is coming from the right-wing position and does a one-two with the left-winger Munir El Haddadi who had also come to the middle.
We see the open space that Lopes then receives the ball in as they have attracted many players to that area with their quick passing.
Another great example of this is in another Europa League game. It is clear that there are many players in the defensive line for the opponents. This is completely broken with the one-two he makes with the same player, Munir, and ends up in front of goal as seen in Figure four. This play then ends up in a goal as he passes the ball through the goal to a teammate.
Runs in behind
At Nice, wingers are expected to be a passing option in front of the defence and behind the defence. Nice like their wingers to surprise the defence by running in behind. A typical movement they do is have the striker drop down to carry some defenders with him. At the same time, the winger is making the run into that space that was just left. This is seen in Figure five.
This movement is important concerning Lopes as Ounas was the one making this run, and Lopes is basically replacing Ounas.
Since the opponents Lopes played against were normally in a low block, it was rarer to see these runs in behind. However, even with this circumstance, it is clear that Lopes also likes making these runs in behind.
In fact, a similar type of run as to that of Ounas is seen in Figure six, with Lopes coming in from the right and running to the middle.
1 vs 1
Since Nice have skilful and pacey wingers, they try to get them in 1 vs 1 positions as much as possible in the wings. They do this because they believe in the winger’s abilities to get past the defender and create a good chance for the team.
For example, an attacking tactic that Nice employ is focusing the play on one side and then switching the ball to the other side, where the winger is waiting wide for the ball. When the winger controls the ball, he will then have the time and space to go 1 vs 1 against the full-back as seen in Figure seven.
This is no problem for Lopes, who is a technical player able to get past defenders. In fact, in Sevilla he is sometimes involved in 1 vs 1 situation such as in Figure eight. Here he manages to dribble to the right and get a cross in.
As a centre-attacking midfielder
Lopes is a versatile player as he can play in both wings and as a centre-attacking midfielder. Even though Nice does not usually play with a centre-attacking midfielder and Lopes will be mainly played at right-wing, it is important to see what he offers in this position.
In this position, he is placed more in between the lines, so Sevilla has to make a pass that breaks through the midfield to reach him generally. This is seen in Figure nine.
He already liked going inside as a right-winger so this position suits him as well. Here, he is more involved in the creation of attacking play, with him being able to get a shot in or make a key pass to a teammate.
For example, in Figure 10, Lopes shows his great vision and makes a pass in behind to the oncoming left-back. The idea is so good that we can clearly see that none of the opponents are aware of the left-back. With his technical ability, Lopes can produce danger from these positions.
Moreover, as a centre-attacking midfielder, he has more freedom than he did as right-wing because now he can go to whatever side he finds appropriate. He usually goes wherever the ball is played to create superiority in that side and helps his teammates in the creation of the play.
Figure 11 serves as an example. Here he is becoming a passing option for the right-winger who has dropped down to receive.
Even though Lopes has had a tough time at Sevilla, he has a chance to come back at Nice. Nice seems to be ideal as he returns to Ligue 1 where he has shined before and is also joining a team that focuses most of their attack on their wingers. It will be interesting to see how he adapts at Nice but Lopes seems to be the perfect substitute for Ounas in terms of player profile and playing style. Vieira must have seen this and decided to incorporate him to do what Ounas did and maybe more as he can also play in a different position.