Antony is a promising young striker, currently playing for São Paulo FC in Brasileirão Série A. He played for São Paulo’s youth teams and was promoted to the professional team in 2018. Since then, he attracted many European teams’ interest after taking his place in São Paulo’s first team. Furthermore, he already played many times for Brazil’s U23s, which qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. After much speculation, he has been sold to Ajax in the Eredivisie. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of Antony’s playing style working in São Paulo as well as in Brazil’s U23s. Furthermore, it will show Antony’s possible role at Ajax.
Because of the fact he is left-footed and has good dribbling ability, Antony’s playing style is perfect for the position on the right-wing. Thanks to this ability, he can be a threat cutting to the middle where he can then shoot or dribble to the sideline followed by a cross. In this way, his playing style works in São Paulo as well as in Brazil’s U23 side. In both teams, the midfield works in the same way with two defensive midfielders and one attacking midfielder. São Paulo’s midfield with Luan, Tche-Tche, and Harnanes; and Brazil’s U23s with Bruno Guimarães, Matheus Henrique, and Pedrinho. So as both teams use the right side a lot, Antony is used to being very engaged, either to use his speed to get in the box quickly or work with a long pass to invert the play and to switch the point of attack.
As we can see in these heat maps above, he mostly plays as a right-midfielder or right-winger. But mostly, he is totally free to use the space in the centre and even on the left side in Fernando Diniz’s tactics at São Paulo (similar to Daniel Alves). The problem is, as he is left-footed, he cannot cut to the centre and shoot. That is why he is limited to just one action: he has to pass the defender by using his speed. After that, he must go to the sideline to cross, which makes him too predictable.
How he can fit in Ajax
Mostly, Ajax’s head coach Erik ten Hag works with a very offensive 4-3-3 formation. Primarily, his playing style is based on making the way to the attack all the time. Besides, he wants his team to control possession in the opponent’s half. Out of possession, Ajax presses high during the opponent’s build-up phase.
On the right wing, ten Hag already worked with two players with a similar playing style to Antony: Hakim Ziyech and David Neres. Both are left-footed and right-wingers with lots of skill as well. They can serve for their teammates or win a 1 v 1 duel. Next season, Ziyech will play for Chelsea in the Premier League while Neres already renewed his contract with Ajax. However, he is still injured so that is why Antony may have a chance to show his abilities in the first team.
During his career, Antony played 92.43% of the games as a right-attacking-midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Nevertheless, he can totally adapt do Ajax’s 4-3-3 formation playing as a right-winger. Therefore, he will be demanded more physically. Fernando Diniz’s tactics also demand to press during the build-up from the opponents’ centre-backs. But, as he plays with a centre-forward and Antony was more like an attacking midfielder, the task to press was more designed for the centre-forward, Pablo Felipe. At Ajax, he will have to press the build-up even more, which demands more physicality during the game.
Since Antony played a lot as a right-attacking-midfielder, he was always demanded to have a good passing ability. During his career, he played 43.23 simple passes per 90 minutes on average. All in all, 90.2% of them were accurate which is because of his constant moving to the centre and to the left side during the games. Making these movements, he plays a lot of short passes. He does not seem to do many key and smart passes though. This shows us that when he is attacking, his options are shooting, going to the sideline to be able to cross or shift the point of attack. Therefore, he does not use many vertical passes. On average, he plays only 2.21 smart passes per 90 minutes.
Looking at his long passes, we can see why he is searching the horizontal pass instead of the vertical one. Playing horizontal passes to switch the point of attack, his rate of accurate passes is 100%. When he tries to cross the ball to a forward, 42% of these crosses are accurate. He prefers a high cross, looking for a teammate heading the ball. When he tries to do a low cross and looks for a fast shot from the centre-forward, it is not much effective. Only 30% of these low crosses are accurate.
In the two images below, Antony fakes a cut to the centre and goes quickly to the goal line to make a cross.
One of the most important parts of Antony’s game is the shot with his left foot. Therefore, he prefers the zones H and E as you can see in the image above. It also shows, that most of his shots come from outside the box. But, just 6 out of 114 shots from these areas became goals, which is a goal-scoring rate of 5%. Most of his off-target shots pass on the opposite corner from where he shot (20%). Besides his shooting being potentially better, one powerful weapon of Antony is the following: when he receives the ball, he instantly enters in a triple threat position (similar to basketball) – he can cut and shoot, immediately cross or run to the goal line and cross. Therefore, he forces the defender to quickly choose a way to defend.
To conclude this analysis, Antony is a very active and versatile player who can work on the right side as well as on the left one. Nevertheless, he also has a lot to improve (e.g. his aim in the finish and his abilities in 1 v 1 duels). At Ajax, he will not only learn from Ten Hag but from David Neres as well. Neres is also a left-footed winger from Brazil.
Like Antony, he played for São Paulo’s youth teams in the past. That might be a reason why the playing styles of both are very similar. Furthermore, Neres has lots of experience and can help the younger player. If he does well in Eredivisie (which is very likely), he will surely call the attention of other teams in the top leagues (Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga) in Europe.