Gustavo Assunção, son of the former FC Porto and Atlético Madrid player Paulo Assunção, made his debut in senior football this season. The 20-year-old played in FC Porto, São Paulo and Atlético Madrid youth teams and dreamed of following his father steps onto the big stage. This season, Assunção was transferred in the summer transfer window from Atlético Madrid to a club recently promoted to Liga NOS: FC Famalicão.

Since the beginning, Assunção asserted himself as a key player in FC Famalicão’s tactics and even without completing his first season awakened the interest of FC Porto, SL Benfica and Sporting CP. Additionally, in the last few weeks, Assunção has been linked with the Ligue 1 side Nice.

This scout report will do an analysis of the young player’s qualities and also a tactical analysis by focusing on his role in the team that surprised everyone by being in the first place of the Portuguese Liga NOS for three months.

Player overview

Assunção is a 20-year-old defensive midfielder who likes to command the team’s first phase build-up and works hard during defensive actions. His positioning and passing abilities are crucial for Famalicão’s build-up process. Additionally, his positive aggressiveness and his recovering and intercepting qualities make him an important part of the team’s defensive duties.

On his debut season, Assunção played the most minutes for Famalicão in all competitions. He played in 28 matches making a total of 2659 min.

Physically, Assunção is not very tall or strong for a defensive midfielder. He is only 5’10” (1,78m) and weighs 150 lbs (66kg). However, this physique makes him very agile. Additionally, he has a good acceleration which can come in handy when chasing a player or doing a progressive run with the ball.

As said before in this analysis, Assunção is hardworking, intense and aggressive without the ball. However, sometimes, his eagerness to get the ball back can lead him to be out of position. In contrast with the ball and under pressure, he is calm and self-assured.

Role in build-up

As said before, Assunção likes to command his team build-up and he does it well. Generally, Famalicão is a team that likes to keep possession. Most of the times the goalkeeper distributes short, even when they are being highly pressed. That’s when Assunção comes in handy due to his readiness to search for free spaces to receive the ball. Additionally, his calmness and quick decision making compose a good weapon to fight against high pressuring teams.

Usually, Assunção searches for the ball between the adversary’s attack and midfield lines. Assunção quickly finds spaces where he can receive the ball freely and launch the attack.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Assunção searching for the ball in the free space between the opponent’s attack and midfield lines.

The young player is also smart in attracting opponents into his position. This action results in one of his teammates being unmarked as can be seen in the image below.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Assunção comes deep and asks for the ball near his centre back which attracts the opponent. With this movement, the left-back gets completely free. Assunção returns with one touch to the centre-back who immediately passes to the unmarked left-back.

Furthermore, Assunção also likes to help the first phase of the build-up by dropping further back and receiving the ball between the centre-backs. This represents another short distribution line in the back and makes it possible for the full-backs to go forward up the field.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Assunção drops deep to get the ball between the centre back leaving one of them unmarked.

Defensive input

While defending, Famalicão is a team that likes to position their defensive line almost in their opponents’ midfield. Assunção usually plays between the defensive and midfield lines and follows closely the opponents plays from side to side.

Assunção is a player that covers a great amount of terrain. The young midfielder, as said before, is intense and likes to pressure the opponents to recover the ball. As can be seen in the graphic below he recovers the ball from the opponent in different areas of the pitch.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Assunção’s different types of recoveries in different areas of the pitch.

Although sometimes his eagerness to recover the ball leaves a big space between the defensive and midfield lines that the rivals can explore. This kind of mistake can be seen in the image below. However, in most cases, he reads the game very well and anticipates many of the opponent’s moves.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Assunção gets attracted by the ball and leaves a big gap which the opponents explore.

Defensively, Assunção is a key player for Famalicão’s medium-high defensive line. His aggressiveness and will to get the ball makes him a player that breaks up many of the opponent’s plays. Proof of this is are the 8.16 recoveries he does per match.

Additionally, 44% of those recoveries are in the opposition’s midfield which shows the kind of pressure Famalicão likes to enforce. Along with this, Assunção reads the game pretty well and often anticipates the opponent’s passes and moves. His 2.84 interceptions per game are evidence of that. The image below is a good example of Assunção’s anticipating skills.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Even before the opponent passes the ball to his teammate Assunção anticipates the pass and starts his run. When the pass reaches the destination Assunção is already there and steals the ball immediately.

Nevertheless, some of his defensive actions still need to be developed. Especially his aerial duels, which he only wins 39% probably due to his small stature. Additionally, even though he does not try many sliding tackles (only 0.54 per game) his success rate is only 37.5%.

Another point that must be mentioned is the nine yellow cards Assunção has until now. Most of the cards are the result of very aggressive sliding tackles or when he smartly stops counterattacks. Despite this Assunção hasn’t seen a red card yet so that shows that he is mature and doesn’t lose his cool.

Overall, defensive wise, Assunção participates in 8.63 defensive duels per game. Of those, he wins 57.3% which is a solid success rate.

Offensive contribution

As said before Assunção is an important piece in Famalicão’s build-up process. His positioning aids his team keeping possession but his ball control and passing abilities are also crucial.

The young midfielder is constantly checking his surroundings to see where his opponents are. By doing this he is able to make quick decisions and make fewer mistakes. His first touch is always oriented and to prepare his next move. However, when he doesn’t have time to control the ball he also executes solid first touch passes.

Assunção does an average of 36.25 passes per game with a success rate of 87,7% which is great for a midfielder. Assunção’s passes dictate the tempo of Famalicão’s attacks and he likes to switch the ball from one flank to the other.  In fact, this situation can be seen in the example below.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Assunção receives the ball and understands that the opponent’s defence and midfield players are all on the same side of the pitch. Quickly he spots a teammate and switches flacks with a lob pass which led to a dangerous opportunity.

It should be noted that not all of Assunção’s passes are back or lateral passes. Even though Assunção doesn’t create lots of dangerous chances he is capable of launching attacks too. He tries 9.54 forward passes per game with a success rate of 75.2%. Additionally, he also attempts approximately five passes per match to the final third completing 71.6% of them.

In general, Assunção’s passes vary between simple short passes dictating the tempo and more risky ones to launch attacks. The young midfielder is calm under pressure and always has his head up to find the best solutions. The image below is an example of Assunção’s vision and his smart passes to the final third. Assunção keeps his head up, dribbles and passes through the middle of two opponents.

Gustavo Assunção 2019/20 - Scout Report – tactical analysis tactics
Assunção does a progressive run with the ball and executes a good trough pass to his teammate running in the right flank.

Another positive aspect of Assunção’s game is his dribbling. The young midfielder has a dribbling success rate of 60.9% and is very efficient with the ball at his feet in close spaces. In fact, he often uses his dribbling to release himself from the opponent’s pressure. Additionally, he is also capable of carrying the ball further up the pitch pushing his team forward.

Conclusion

To sum up, Assunção shows uncommon qualities for a 20-year-old defensive midfielder. His ability to read the game and anticipate the opponent’s plays are already well polished. Additionally, his calmness and quick decision making combined with his technical skills makes him a valuable player to a team’s build-up. Especially in a possession-oriented team that favours short distribution like Famalicão.

Inevitably Assunção is already compared to his father due to the similarities in their style of play. Even though this is his debut season his consistency and development have been impressive. Consequently, it is a matter of time until a UEFA Champions League team “steals” the player from Famalicão. The future will tell if Assunção can surpass his father’s career but currently, he is on a good path.

Martim Gomes
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