Luciano Vietto was probably Sporting’s hottest signing this summer, alongside Jesé Rodríguez. Looking at Vietto’s career so far, two conclusions can be drawn: firstly, he leaves virtually no doubt regarding his ability and potential to become a great player; secondly, he does experience some difficulties in adapting to a new club, new city, new coach, new system, etc. This frailty has hindered the progress and success everyone thought were around the corner and Vietto has taken a few steps back when it comes to establishing himself as one of the great forwards in Europe.
After a very successful season in Villarreal, in 2014/15, four not-so-successful seasons followed in Atletico Madrid, where he only made 38 appearances and scored three goals, having played on loan for Sevilla, Valencia and Fulham.
Word started spreading that Vietto was just another south-American wannabe football star, who was never really able to fit in European football and his career would just be a downward spiral.
Well, his stay at Sporting seems to have been the right step for Vietto, who has been able to show immense quality and decisiveness in some games. Even though the season in Portugal is just starting, and this scout report and tactical analysis intends to demonstrate and explain what Vietto has that can make him a tremendous asset for this renewed Sporting team.
Vietto’s heat map:
Luciano Vietto has one very particular feature: he has no defined position, he is a very versatile player that can either play as a centre-forward, or second forward, or winger or even attacking midfielder. Thus, his role in the team’s play varies from coach to coach and from tactics to tactics. In Sporting, with coach Marcel Keizer, Vietto has been playing mostly as a left-winger, even with a very curious mission, which I will analyse in the following chapter.
Vietto is far from being a typical left-winger and so he still needs to improve some of his defensive skills, such as positioning and tackling. Nevertheless, he does abide by the general rules that apply to a winger when in defensive situations. He presses his direct opponent (the other team’s right back) when he has the ball, closing the passing lanes as well as possible and accompanying the said right-back if he moves up in the field to support the attack.
There is no innovative mission in Luciano Vietto’s defensive part, his positioning being quite standard.
We can see Vietto (in green) pressing the opposite right-back, who has the ball, forming a perfect line of four midfielders. Standard left-winger/left-midfielder behaviour.
Vietto (in green) is positioned a little differently, due to Sporting’s high pressing right in the beginning of the opposition’s 1st stage of the offensive transition. Given the ball is on the right side of the pitch (from Sporting’s point of view), Vietto moves to a more central position, to control the area in front of the opposite defence (in white) as well as the passing lines that both the opposite centre-back and right-back.
Thus, if the player who has the ball attempts to make a pass through the middle, Vietto can get to the ball and start a dangerous attack. However, if the player chooses to pass to the other centre-back or the right-back, Vietto will immediately press them.
A wanderer disguised as a winger
Like I said before, Vietto can play in every position in the attack. Nevertheless, in Sporting he has been playing almost strictly as a left-winger, now that Marcos Acuña, who owned the left-winger slot, has been used mostly as a left-back. These two Argentinians make a very interesting partnership in Sporting’s left-wing, and here’s why: in the attacking transition, even though Vietto is formally positioned as a left-winger, he is asked to move to more central ground, almost like a second forward, being side by side with the other second forward Bruno Fernandes.
Consequently, this movement leaves the whole left-wing open for Marcos Acuña, who, in spite of being a left-back, gives enormous emphasis to his offensive duties. Ultimately, Sporting attacks with at least five elements, being Marcos Acuña on the left, Vietto and Bruno Fernandes in the middle, and then the right-winger and the striker.
Not only does this add more manpower to the attacking stage, especially when Sporting is close to the opposite goal, but also messes with the adversary’s defence positioning and marking, opening spaces for the ball to be delivered in-between the defensive and midfield lines as well as in the back of the defenders, as the images in the next chapter show.
This picture illustrates the aforementioned situation perfectly. Vietto (in green) moves to the centre, behind the striker, forming a line of four offensive midfielders. He leaves the left side open for Marcos Acuña to move up and support the attack. Also, by moving to the middle, he is closer to the definition zone, given Sporting create the most danger by their interior play.
Vietto (in green) moves to the middle and drops back to collect the ball directly from the centre-back and start the offensive build-up. Acuña (on the left) moves up and occupies Vietto’s original left-winger position.
Vietto (in green) drops real close to the defence to collect the ball, playing as a true centre-midfielder. Acuña (in white) is in the left-winger position, high up in the pitch. Vietto’s free wandering through the field allows him to either move up and be close to the striker or to drop and offer passing solutions to the defence or the midfield. It is the perfect part for a player whose main feature is his creativity and technical genius.
Classy, witty and decisive
It would be a waste to look closely at this amazing player and reduce the analysis to a sum of tactical considerations. Tactics are the most important macro-aspect when analysing a team’s style of play, but when we are analysing a player it is important to look at his technical ability.
Vietto’s passing and technical ability is above-average and world-class. His proximity to the box and the central area of the attack is essential to allow him to express and put into practice all the technique he has inside him. Vietto may be fairly irregular when it comes to his performances, but the secret to getting the best out of him is to give him tactical freedom and make sure he appears close to the box and close to the team’s forwards and wingers so that he takes on the task of defining the team’s play in the last 30 meters.
Vietto (in green) dribbles the ball towards the middle and then makes a perfect long pass to his teammate in the box, who can head it towards the goal.
Again, Vietto (in green) is in his favourite place, in the middle and close to the box, where he can define the last-third play of the team. He finds space in-between the opposite team’s lines and makes a pass through the opposite defence to his teammate, Bruno Fernandes, who stays face to face with the goalkeeper.
Vietto (in green) leads the counter-attack and defines the play in the best way possible, fixing his direct opponent and making the pass to the forward right in the last moment possible before his teammate is offside.
Vietto is a forward with a very particular set of skills and a very versatile player that is keen on playing freely throughout the field, but without ever losing track of the tactical basics he must abide to.
He sometimes evidences some difficulties in adapting to new teams or different tactical systems but a player with his technical ability stands out if he is given the freedom and the space to do so. From now on, he has to improve his stability and his focus in the game to perform at a higher and steadier level.
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