Evander is a 21-year-old Brazilian midfielder for Danish Superliga champions Midtjylland. The young playmaker has started 92% of games this season and is the joint second top player in the league for assists. Having made an impressive start to his career as a 17-year-old with Vasco Da Gama, he attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, in August 2018 he moved, initially on loan, to Midtjylland before signing permanently in January 2019 for €2.4 million. His technical ability, positive impact on games and his versatility make him an attractive prospect. This scout report will present a tactical analysis of Evander and evaluate whether he is likely to seal a move, and ultimately be successful, at one of Europe’s elite clubs.
Evander is a versatile central midfield player. Whilst being predominantly right-footed he plays mainly on the left of defensive central midfield or as a central attacking midfielder in Midtjylland’s typical 4-2-3-1 formation. As the heat map shows, he spends the majority of his time in the opponent’s half (his team usually dominated the ball/game) and in the centre or central left of the pitch.
As we can see from the Total Football Analysis diagram above, his stats are comparable with best midfielders Europe in all accept defending, which we will come on to later. His progressive pass completion of 86.29% is particularly impressive and we will analyse how he performs this in the next section.
He is involved in 60% of Midtjylland’s goals and 46% of team moves which produce a shot at goal. He is the joint 2nd top player for assists in the league with eight and has scored seven goals. From an attacking point of view, the stats clearly show his importance to the team. However, there is room for improvement. Having taken more shots than anyone else in the league he is only 10th for goals scored. He has also missed six big chances this season so finishing is something the stats show needing work.
Receiving and playing forward
Whenever Evander receives the ball his first thought is to play forward. He can do this by having complete awareness of both his teammates and opposition’s positioning on the pitch, clever, sharp movements into pockets of space and an immaculate first touch.
In this example, Evander is receiving the ball of his centre-back. His starting position was behind the opposition’s midfield line. When the centre-back was able to play forward, Evander appeared from outside their midfielders’ line of vision into the pocket of space between their full-back and midfield.
As the ball was travelling, Evander checked his shoulders and positioned his body to receive on the half-turn with his back foot. Being aware of the space behind him, his first touch took him forward. Having broken the midfield line with his positive first touch, he dribbled to commit a defender and then play a forward pass.
This example shows Evander’s game intelligence in being able to take several opposition players out the game with one pass. What preceded this pass was like the previous example. Clever, sharp movements from out with the oppositions line of sight into a pocket of space. Evander then, on half-turn, takes his first touch towards the nearest opposition midfield player. This entices the midfielder to engage and pulls him out of position just enough for a gap to appear. Evander then plays a perfectly weighted pass through the gap.
Fast enough that the defending players cannot intercept it but slow enough his wide forward can get on the end of it without breaking stride. Apart from exhibiting his awareness and movement, this move is also a good example of his willingness to take the ball in tight areas. This, plus the quality of his pass against compact defenders could well make him suited to playing in a top European side who regularly come up against this type of defending.
Almost like the best player in the school team, Evander takes all his team’s corners, penalties, and direct/indirect free kicks in the final third. That he does this for Midtjylland who value set-plays so highly speaks volumes about his ability with a dead ball. He has a 100% conversion rate for penalties having converted four out of four this season and his corner and freekick deliveries are always threatening.
Midtjylland have interesting corner kick tactics, reportedly spending four sessions a week on them, with clever and well-rehearsed movements. Knowing these movements and where to aim the ball certainly makes the taker’s job easier. However, this should not diminish from how exceptional Evander’s delivery is. Evander’s ability to cross the ball with different techniques and put the ball exactly where his teammates want makes planning these routines all the easier. Midtjylland will occasionally work short corners but mostly cross the ball using two styles of delivery- hanging the ball in the air or whipping the ball into the box.
In both routines, Midtjylland players crowd the 6-yard box to pin the goalkeeper to his line and make screening runs. One player always emerges unmarked and Evander is consistently able to pick that player out.
In this example, Evander passes the ball short to a teammate who stops it dead. The better angle created by the initial pass opens the goal up. It also drags an extra defender out the box. Instead of aiming for a specific player, Evander whips the ball in with pace and spin aiming for the far corner of the goal. Because the ball is hit with such pace and with a crowd of players in front of him, the goalkeeper is rooted to his spot so will struggle to protect his far post area.
The other technique often used, especially from corners on the right, is a floated delivery. Evander gets underneath the ball when striking it creating backspin which keeps the ball hanging in the air for longer. This appears to be utilized more when Midtjylland have a height advantage over their direct opponent.
Evander also uses this floated delivery technique to pick out teammates from freekicks. In this example, we see a teammate who has made an intelligent movement to find himself unmarked. Evander floats the ball over the far defender’s head, perfectly timed to land at his teammate’s feet.
As the ball has backspin it is easier for his teammate to control. Again, this is clever team movements by Midtjylland, but it is the quality of Evander’s delivery that produces a positive outcome.
Crossing or passing the ball from freekicks appears to be the preference but any taken on the left side of the box within 40 yards of goal can be shot directly at goal. Again, Evander shows versatility and intelligence in his technique. Depending on the distance and how the opposition set up, curling shots, drilled shots and shots using the top of like Ronaldo’s style are all hit with accuracy.
Whilst playing on the left side of defensive midfield in a 4-2-3-1, Evander’s takes up good positions and reads danger well whilst in the defensive phase. He is particularly effective at defending the space behind the left-back. This is done by having a good starting position, reading the play well and using his impressive speed.
In this example we see the ball being played into the opposition wide forward. Evander has taken up a central position in front of the near centre back to shield the opposition striker. Both the opposition wide player and midfielder, as well as the ball, are in his line of vision. As the wide forward receives the ball, Evander steps towards the advancing midfielder to put him under immediate pressure if he receives the ball.
Here, his left-back gets too tight and is rolled by the forward who accelerates away with the ball. Evander reacts immediately to close him down, allowing his centre-back not be dragged across and helps win back possession. With his initial good positioning coupled with being able to cover large areas quickly, Evander was able to neutralise three opposing players – the striker, advancing midfielder and the wide forward. His ability to do this allows his left-back to press aggressively as Evander is there to cover should it go wrong.
This similar example shows a long ball coming from a central position. Evander again takes up a central position shielding the striker. His left back initially steps up to close the opposition wide player. This leaves a big gap between the left-back and centre back that the opposition tries to exploit with a long high ball. Evander reads this, drops into the space, and intercepts the ball.
His reading of the game, positional maturity, and attitude towards winning the ball back are all impressive from a young player.
Unlike many players with his level of flair, Evander is willing to run off the ball during transitions to the defensive phase. He reacts well emotionally to losing the ball and immediately tries to win it back. However, if anything is to hold Evander back from joining the elite of European football it will be his one on one defending. Too often he tries to steal the ball when holding up the play would be better.
In this example, Midtjylland have lost the ball from a cross going into the goalkeeper’s hands. The goalkeeper has rolled the ball out to launch a counterattack. Evander’s starting position is good for a defensive midfielder. He is behind the ball and in a central area. As the ball is rolled out Evander engages the opponent in possession. With the angle of his run and body shape, Evander reduces his options by showing him into an area (to Evander’s left) where there is cover. At this point, Evander has done everything perfectly and the situation is under control. If he is patient his teammates either side of him will have time to retreat into their shape and he can then safely attempt to win the ball.
However, having initially done the right thing, Evander tries to steal the ball with a slide tackle. The opponent dodges the tackle. Being on the ground he has taken himself completely out the game, the whole field has opened up for the man on the ball and his teammates have less time for their recovery runs. This is an all too typical example of when he has got himself into a good defensive position only to ruin it by diving in. Often it is better to delay than to try and steal the ball allowing teammates to get into their shape and/or to force a backwards pass. Standing his ground may also lead to more interceptions and improve his stats in that area.
Having never played in the Champions League and having only played two games in the Europa League qualifying stage, conclusions from this analysis are being made based on his recent performances in the Danish Superliga. Whilst it has been a successful development league in recent years it is not one of Europe’s top leagues. That being said, at only 21 years old Evander is showing all the potential of a top-level player and with plenty of time to improve.
Whilst he has room to improve his finishing, one on one defending and decision making whilst defending, particularly in transitions, he must be an attractive player for a big club. His technical ability, intelligence and delivery from set plays might be the key a club is looking for to unlock stubborn compact defences. With a contract that runs until the summer of 2024 he will command a transfer fee, but seeing as the Danish transfer record is only €10.50m he could well be worth it.