Charleroi S.C were having a fine season before COVID-19 brought an abrupt end to the Pro League. Last seasons 9th place side were sitting in third place, just a point off second-placed KAA Gent and a point above fourth-placed Royal Antwerp. Charleroi have the second-best defence in the league with only 23 goals conceded in 29 games.
One member of this back four is Nurio Fortuna. The Angolan left-back has featured in every single game for the side this season and is one of their key defenders. Fortuna, or Nurio as he is referred to, was previously of Braga in Liga NOS, the side who faced EPL team Wolves in the Europa League group stages and were knocked out by Rangers, managed by former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, in the round of 32. While Fortuna rarely featured for Braga, the Angolan has certainly found his form in the Pro League this season.
This tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, will look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Angolan full-back. This analysis will look at his defensive ability, namely his ability to intercept the ball successfully. We will also look at how he is used going forward as part of the 4-4-2 tactics deployed by Charleroi this season.
Nurio’s defensive stats compared to the rest of the league certainly highlight how well he has played this season. He has been involved in the most defensive duels this season with 373, while he also sits third in the league in interceptions with 219.
When it comes to interceptions, Nurio is certainly aggressive in trying to force the opposition into risking a pass that he can then break off. In the impressive 4-1 away victory against Gent he showcased his aggressiveness in defence.
In this first instance, the Gent full-back has the ball and Nurio is in a usual goal side position from the attacker. We can already see that, from the attacker’s body language, he is going to look for a pass in behind. Nurio’s position allows him to either anticipate this and drop back or force the passer to put the ball past him by jumping in front of the attacker.
As the play progresses, we see the aggressive nature of Nurio when it comes to pursuing interceptions. Instead of tracking the run, he jumps ahead of the attacker to intercept the pass and halt the attack. More than just winning the ball back, it also sets up a promising attack for Charleroi as the Gent winger is out of position to track him and he can now force an overload on the left-hand side.
In another example, again from the Gent game, we see a similar passage of play. This time, Nurio is the final defender and many a more conservative full-back would prioritise tracking the attacker rather than looking for an interception.
However, the Angolan again shows his aggressiveness to jump ahead of the attacker to intercept the ball, stopping a dangerous attack. This also highlights his ability to read the game that we saw in the first clip. He times his move to perfection both times to intercept the ball, reading what the passer is going to do and reacting accordingly. Many full-backs attempt to play in this manner but fail and often cost their teams because of it.
This aggressive defensive style also plays out in other areas of the Angolan’s game. Take this next clip for instance, against Standard Liege. While many a defender would jockey the winger, usually allowing space in case he decides not to cross and instead attempts to go past the full-back, Nurio decides to force the issue and ends up blocking the cross.
As the first image shows, Nurio is reasonably far from the attacker and has a lot of ground to make up. Luckily he possesses a fair amount of pace, and decides he can risk leaving the attacker nearest him in order to close the gap
Even when the winger receives the ball, Nurio still does not appear close enough to stop the cross. He therefore has a decision to make, either risk closing the winger down at pace, which would allow the winger to potentially knock it past him and take Nurio out of the play as he would be off balance, or he could shadow the attacker from a few steps closer than he is now, giving the winger the choice of either try and cross or try and take Nurio on.
In accordance with what we have already seen, Nurio takes the aggressive riskier option. However, the speed and intelligence of Nurio means he is successful in this scenario as he anticipates that the winger will cross and makes a judgement call to close him down as quickly as possible.
All three of these scenarios show that Nurio is willing to take defensive risks, and his 219 interceptions this season would suggest that he has done so successfully. This aggressive, enterprising play is not reserved for just his defending.
Attacking play: the overlap
As the below 2019/20 seasonal heat map suggests, Nurio by no means just operates in his own half of the pitch. The left-back operates as part of a back four in a 4-4-2 system which see’s him push on beyond the left winger on many occasions. He is used to punish wingers who don’t track back, as well as given license to capitalise on his interceptions to spring attacks.
Again in the Gent game, despite the score being 2-0 Nurio is still pushing forward. He starts behind the ball, but already starts pushing forward even though the winger is ahead of him. With Nurio pushing up alongside the winger, Gholizadeh, the Gent player is having to pick up both players and will have to decide which run to track.
As the winger slows down, Nurio accelerates away from the defenders and gets into a promising position to cross.The defender has initially decided that Gholizadech is the greater threat which allows Nurio to get free.
Unfortunately for Nurio, there is only one player to aim at in the box and the attack comes to nothing. We will analyse his crossing ability later on.
In this next clip, Nurio is immediately looking for the overlap. He receives the ball in plenty of space and is more than happy to take up the invitation and drive into the opposition half.
After giving the ball to the winger, Nurio continues his run forward, dragging a couple of defenders with him. On this occasion the winger holds onto the ball and does not return the pass to the Angolan.
While Nurio is certainly a skilled defender and a willing attacker, his crossing is inconsistent. For a full-back that is getting deep into the final third, one would hope for a better return than 25% accuracy on only 2.67 crosser per match. An example of his inconsistency is seen in the Liege and Gent games. Against Liege, Nurio attempted six crosses with 0% accuracy. Against Gent he attempted only three crosses, yet this time two were successful at a 67% accuracy rate. This may suggest why he has only managed three assists this season, which is by no means terrible but given his desire to go forward often it would hopefully be greater.
Starting with the Liege match, we see Nurio getting into an advanced position to cross the ball. Notice that Charleroi have an advantage in the box, with a three on two overload in the box for the attacking side.
Unfortunately for Charleroi, Nurio only manages to hit the first defender, and the chance is wasted. As the still below shows, the defender ducked into the header that blocked the cross, suggesting that Nurio did not put enough height on the cross to reach the attackers in the middle and the chance was wasted.
Again from the same game, this time Nurio gets the ball from a corner, with plenty of players to aim for in the box. With so many players up, the Angolan just needs to put the ball in between the penalty spot and the six yard box to allow his team mates to attack it.
Nurio’s weakness when it comes to crossing is evident. While in the first clip he under hit the cross, this time he over compensates and massively overhits the cross which ends up going out for a goal kick. Once again, a promising attacking position is wasted.
To highlight the inconsistency of Nurio, in the next game against Gent Nurio gets in a usual attacking position, but this time there are less players in the box than the previous examples and therefore, in order to find a team mate, the cross needs to be more accurate.
As the above clip and this next clip show, the only player not being tightly marked is the player at the back post. The other two forwards are both reasonably well marked by the defenders before the cross comes in.
Clearly the 2019/20 season has been a breakout season for the Charleroi left back. He has shown that he is an intelligent and somewhat aggressive full-back, looking to intercept as often as possible to spring a counter attack.
Going forwards, Nurio is happy to overlap and push on deep into the opposition half. Despite this, when he gets there the final product is not quite there yet. His inconsisteny as a crosser lets him down. As an attacking full-back, you would hope he would have managed to contribute more than three assists to the side this season. If he can continue to improve his crossing, this will hopefully improve.
At only 25 years of age, it would be surprising if Nurio wasn’t attracting interest from elsewhere in Belgium and also across Europe. He only cost the Belgian side £450k from Braga B, and with a value of £1.6 million according to Transfermarkt there could be a reasonably large profit to be made from his sale should Charleroi receive a reasonable offer.
With a contract until 2024, there is no reason for the club to sell and it could be a perfect opportunity for Nurio to stay and develop further before moving on to a bigger club. If the season starts up again, Charleroi are well positioned for a European campaign next season in which Nurio could get even greater exposure.