Gabriel Pereira is one of the most promising young players in Brazil’s youth academy. He’s a skilled winger currently playing in Corinthians youth team, at 18 years old and is one of the youngest today in Corinthians U-20.
This year, Gabriel was very important in Corinthians’ campaign in the Copa São Paulo (also known as “Copinha”), Brazil’s most important under-20s competition. It is a consensus that his absence in the semifinals due to a suspension was determinant to Corinthians’ elimination.
Gabriel is a left-footed attacking midfielder that plays mostly in the right flank. He has a mostly dribbling and agile characteristic and is known for having a lot of tricks in his bag. Gabriel started his career as a full-back in Guarani and became a midfielder in Corinthians. Because of this, even when playing as a winger, he helps a lot in defence, having the defensive one-versus-ones and interceptions as important weapons in his game.
Seeing his heatmap we can notice that he likes to cut to the centre and play near the box. Although the most covered area is still in the middle, this shows he works more in the play’s build-up than in the last pass or the finish.
In regards to Dyego Coelho’s style of play with the U-20s, he was recently in the Corinthians professional team as an acting coach after Fabio Carille was fired. In January, he went back to the U-20 team with a lot of expectation after the good performance with the professional team. With the youth team, he usually plays a 4-3-3 and has a very aggressive DNA. In Dyego’s tactics, Gabriel is the first option in the flank, playing as a right-winger or an attacking midfielder. He does have a defensive role in this team that is pressing the opponent’s build-up phase and sometimes coming back to his half to help to mark, but most times it isn’t necessary. This is due to the characteristic of the defensive line, that is used to advance to anticipate the opponent’s pass.
Bag of tricks
Gabriel is the type of player that knows how to improvise and make the best of each situation. Because of this, he has a strong one-versus-one duel record, that usually makes him become a threat in the flank and the centre as well.
Though he has a lot of different dribbles in his arsenal when doing a one-versus-one, like nutmegs, lobs, and quick cuts to the left, they all have one aspect in common: the body feint. Gabriel has an amazing capacity to fool his opponent with just the body language, which makes his dribbles become much more efficient.
In both images above, Gabriel uses a body feint to the right and then cuts to the left quickly with his good foot. In the first, after dribbling, he comes in a good position, sees a big gap with a teammate attacking the area and then free to make a quick sharp pass to in the future point.
Likewise, in the second picture, he uses the same body feint, faking to the right and going to the left, but in this play, he was more pragmatic. Right after the dribble, he notices that is free and immediately shoots from long range, forcing the goalkeeper to work.
However, unlike the two examples above, most of his one-versus-one duels occur in the direction of or next to the goal line. In this part of the field, he would like to win a duel to open space to cross or make a key pass to the box, and not to shoot like in the previous example. He has many ways to achieve that. Sometimes he just knocks the ball forward and wins by his speed, sometimes he tries a nutmeg or even an elastic. All these many tricks are what make him a threat to the opponents because it’s difficult to predict what he’s going to do next.
In the sequence below, Gabriel manages to nutmeg his marker and get a free corridor to run inside the box, be free to make a key pass or even shoot.
In this other sequence of images down below, Gabriel does a peculiar move. He does the body feint again, but this time he fakes to the back, instead of the sides, achieving to pass the marker and be free to make a timed pass to a teammate in a free zone, getting a beautiful assist.
As said before in this analysis, without the ball, Dyego would like to put a press on the rival’s build-up phase. Because of this, Gabriel is essential to his plans, due to his defensive awareness and good reading of the game. This helps him a lot in getting interceptions and recover the ball in the opponents half, most of the times in a dangerous area, where he can pass to a teammate already in the box or shoot from long range.
A lot of times, before the opponent receives the ball, we can see that Gabriel already anticipate the possible pass lanes, and due to this, he can make an interception, like in the image below.
In the image above, it’s clear that even before the opponent’s full-back receives the ball, Gabriel already saw a possible pass lane. After this, he sprints and anticipates the pass, becoming free to feed his teammate in the box.
Another good defensive characteristic in his arsenal is his good capacity to know when to leave his place to make a double and steal the ball. In his games, a lot of times we can see him going to the centre to help the other midfielders get an interception, like in the image below.
Using these two tools, he can add a lot to Corinthians’ defensive side in the games. In only one game, against Athletico PR, he got seven possession recoveries in the opponent’s half.
Looking at Gabriel’s game, we can notice that he doesn’t have a prime shooting characteristic, but since he is still a forward, he still needs to have a decent shooting statistic. We can notice that even getting chances to shoot after dribbling or receiving in good condition, he is still not effective in this regard.
His on-target distribution shows us that most of his shots go off and when it goes to the goal, the majority are going to the up and middle part, one of the easiest for the goalkeeper to catch.
Another thing that is related to his shooting as well is some of the wrong decision-making instances he makes after he wins a one-versus-one. A lot of times, after passing his marker by he could find a free teammate but decides to shoot or can shoot but decides to pass. A good example is one play that already was discussed in this analysis before: the nutmeg one. In this case, after he passes the marker he could pass or cross to at least three players, but he decides to take a shot without even a good angle. Down below is the image of the following of that play, when he could pass but shoots into the goalkeeper’s hands.
What we can take from this analysis is that Gabriel is a very promising young player, that has many qualities that can make him stand out in Corinthians’ professional team in the upcoming seasons.
Despite some issues of his game that are completely normal for an 18-year-old player, he has much to evolve in a competitive league like Brasileirão. I wouldn’t be surprised if he called the attention of European giants in the next few years, like other Corinthians’ players had done previously, such as Willian who went to Chelsea in the Premier League, or Marquinhos, PSG’s centre-back.