FEATURE | Joelinton – Likened to Robert Firmino, why the Brazilian will make an impact at St. James’ Park

About three years ago, Brazilian football was ailing because of a serious dearth of strikers in their national team. The presence of Fred up front had left many frustrated as a lack of options meant a disappointment in more than one major tournament.

The emergences of Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus have arrested that slide over the past year, as evident from the Selecao’s Copa America win. Hoffenheim’s Joelinton has tipped to be the one to follow them and the 22-year-old has a lot in his tank to do just that.

With a move to Newcastle United in the Premier League beckoning for the former Sport Recife striker, Joelinton will make an impact at St. James’ Park. He has the shoes of Salomon Rondon to fill and there is every chance he does that and maybe does even greater things than the Venezuelan.

The Brazilian is a quicker and more mobile version of Rondon but followed a footballing path similar to that of compatriot Firmino. While Joelinton did have two loan spells at Rapid Wien in Austria, it only helped him improve his trade after arriving from Recife.

Comparisons to Firmino come naturally because of their position and because of Hoffenheim. After all, he is the next in line for Hoffenheim’s prized striker talents after Firmino and Carlos Eduardo.

Since his return to Germany from Austria last summer, Joelinton established himself as a regular under Julian Naglesmann. He scored only seven times and assisted five times, but he gives more to the plate than just that.

Joelinton isn’t exactly like Firmino, he likes to drop deep not to allow others to run into the spaces left behind. He does that to get on the ball drive forward with it by taking possession of it.

He isn’t someone who will hold the ball up and bring the others into the play. He will run right at the opposing defenses and he averaged around five dribbles per game last season for the Die Kraichgauer. He has the technical ability to contribute to the build-up of plays and completed 1.2 key passes per game too.

That was one big reason why he was signed by Hoffenheim though. He isn’t tall just to score from headers. He has the technique and pace that is rare for a tall forward like him. He was not seen as a player who had the makings of a superstar player, but Hoffenheim saw him someone who they could make a profit out of in the future.

Rightly so, in an interview in August 2018, Hoffenheim sporting director Alexander Rosen said: . “We signed him as an 18-year-old knowing that height and speed is something that you can’t learn.”

And it is obvious why Nagelsmann likes Joelinton. For a manager who likes to play a brand of football that is aesthetic and flexible, the Brazilian fits right in. He can be seen across all sorts of positions in the final third. He has been used on the right flank occasionally by Naglesmann, but Joelinton can be found in the position of a number ten too. He can be seen on the left, trying to cut in.

Those traits fit the bill in formations that Nagelsmann has relied on- 3-4-3 and 3-5-2. But playing in a direct system like Steve Bruce is expected to use at Newcastle, Joelinton will have a different role to play. It will be a bit of a cultural shock to play in a pragmatic system but Joelinton has the skill-set to fit into that role.

He will have to face a different challenge of being the sole man forward, something he isn’t quite used to at the Rhein-Neckar Arena. He will have isolated and dour days as a striker and might not be asked to drop deep to dribble it past defenders from deeper areas. He will have to rely on his aerial skills (he won 2.3 aerial duels per game last season in the Bundesliga) and strength (which isn’t as comprehensive as Rondon’s).

There will be areas he will be made to work on under Bruce that he might have never worked on and being a Brazilian in England, it will be a completely different experience. Not all players from that part of the world go onto be a success in the Premier League. But Joelinton has the skill set that can help him become a key part of the Magpies side next season.

By Kaustubh Pandey.


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