Wilson Manafa is a 25-year-old Portuguese full-back that plays for Porto. Manafa was formed in Sporting, where he played as a winger and was let go from the club at the age of 18. He then played in some second-tier Portuguese teams before signing with Portimonense in 2016/17.
In his three seasons in Portimonense, he really showed some great quality, especially in the position of left-back, which is rather curious given he is a right-footed player that had always played as a winger. His performances were good enough to convince Porto’s coach Sergio Conceição who signed him in January of 2019.
This scout report intends to perform a full analysis of Manafa’s style of play, evidencing his offensive proclivity, his importance in the creation of chances to score as well as his ability to secure his own defence by positioning himself close to the centre-backs and cover the depth of the defence.
Defensive positioning: pacing his way back
Wilson Manafa was not formed as a regular full-back throughout his stay in Sporting and it could lead one to think that his defensive positioning is not the best. However, Manafa is very abiding and seldom makes a mistake when it comes to positioning or even marking a direct adversary. He is not a defensive genius, but he does not really injure Porto’s defensive transitions and rigorous positioning.
One of Manafa’s greatest qualities is his versatility, that allows him to play as a right-back, left-back or even as a winger.
I believe there is one topic that should really be highlighted when it comes to the defensive part of Wilson Manafa’s performances. Manafa is very intelligent when it comes to covering the depth of the defence. He positions himself near to the centre-backs to be close enough to help them if an opposite player can break the defence line through the middle. Even though this positioning may leave his own opponent unmarked, Manafa makes good use of his high pace to reposition himself and mark his direct opponent if the situation so requires.
Wilson Manafa (in blue) is quite close to the right-centre-back, leaving his direct opponent (in red) with some space to receive the ball. Nevertheless, once the ball is passed to the opponent, Manafa quickly recovers his position, keeping the player from progressing with the ball.
This is classic behaviour of a defence that is being threatened by a quick counter-attack. All the defenders are dropping to try and stop the counter-attack but it is Manafa, due to his velocity and a keen sense of positioning, who drops faster and releases his direct opponent to go and shorten the space of the player carrying the ball. By doing so, he brings difficulties to the decision-making process of the carrier of the ball and by keeping an intermediate position between the carrier and the other player running behind him, he also prevents a possible pass to that other player. It requires a great deal of defensive knowledge to be successful in defending counter-attacks such as this one, but Manafa is undoubtedly a strong defender.
Picture 3 – Manafa, who in this match was playing as a left-winger, drops and controls the depth by covering for the left-back. He quickly moves to the space where the adversary (in red) is about to receive the ball, and tackles him, killing the attack.
Attacking positioning: true to his offensive nature
Wilson Manafa is a full-back with an immense attacking proclivity, which is due to him having been raised as a winger. Thus, it is very often to see him side-by-side with the team’s forwards or moving to the back of the opposing defence to receive the ball.
In modern football, the importance of the role of the full-backs has obviously increased and their participation in a team’s attacking transition is essential. Manafa is not afraid to go up in the field, often taking advantage of the space that his fellow winger opens by seeking the ball in the centre of the field.
Wilson Manafa has become an important player in Porto’s tactics and often contributes to his colleagues’ goals or scoring chances.
Manafa (in blue) is way up in the field at the moment when Porto’s centre-back Pepe has the ball and intends to start the build-up process. Porto’s right-winger (in white) has left the right side and moved to the centre to seek the ball, opening a space for Wilson to move to and thus seek the ball further.
A similar situation took place here, although Porto was already in the 2nd stage of the offensive transition. Porto’s centre-midfielder has the ball and the right-winger (in white) positions himself a little bit to the centre, leaving the right-wing empty for Manafa (in blue) to go up and make a rupturing movement.
An assister in the last third
Manafa’s greatest feature, to my mind, is the way he can break the opposition defences, by dribbling the ball in the last third of the pitch, approaching the box and creating lots of scoring chances. His typical movement is when he receives the ball high up in the field and then dribbles past his opponent, reaching the end line with great speed and then crossing to one of his teammates.
This has created a lot of chances for Porto and given Sergio Conceição another way to unbalance the opposition defences and having a more dangerous attack.
As described, Manafa dribbles past his direct opponent, reaches the line and then crosses to the striker who scores. This movement is only possible due to his pace and objectivity.
This is an identical situation, where Manafa enters the box and then crosses directly to his teammate that is right in front of the goal. As it shows, when Manafa pierces through the opposite defence, and immediate situation of chaos in the adversary’s positioning is created and it allows the goal to happen.
In this situation, because Manafa is playing as left-back, he doesn’t seek the byline, instead he turns back and crosses to his teammate in the box, who will score.
I believe this tactical analysis has left very clear that Manafa is a full-back with an immense offensive proclivity and he doesn’t refrain from moving up the field and contributing to his team’s offensive process. However, and even though Manafa’s defensive positioning is often irreprehensible, as the picture analysis evidenced, these constant attacking movements make him less reliable when it comes to defending. He exposes a bit too much on his side of the defence and he ought to correct that.
Manafa also needs to improve his long crosses. He is particularly accurate in short crosses, and Pictures 6 to 8 show, but his long crosses are often of poor execution and little success and a good full-back must be a good crosser.
All things considered, Manafa is a full-back who his making his way in the Porto starting XI and his young age still allows him to evolve and become an unquestionable presence is such starting XI.
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