I’d like to present the argument that Joelinton can still be an excellent addition to our team and feel I’ve got some evidence to back it up.
This season could be an opportunity for the Brazilian to finally announce himself in the Premier League.
First of all, let’s look at what went wrong last year. Yes, there were a string of poor performances, loose touches and big chances missed – but he was used as a target man in a 5-4-1, something completely alien to him.
His 6”2 frame misrepresents the type of player he is. He’s not a target-man and never has been – but that’s what he was used as consistently last year, as if he was a like for like Rondon replacement on the basis he was a ‘big lad’ and good athlete.
Throughout his 44 appearances he spent the majority of his time aimlessly chasing the ball as we struggled for possession, being completely isolated or receiving the ball in areas he didn’t want it. When we got the ball, he was expected to hold up hopeless long balls, which made up 17% of all our passes last year.
He was brought in to solve our goal scoring woes, but he has never before played as a lone striker and out-and-out centre forward.
In his only season for Hoffenheim, the Brazilian was used as a second striker in a 3-5-2, as a number 10 in a 4-1-2-1 / 4-3-1-2 or on the left-wing in a 4-3-3, according to the official Bundesliga website.
In these positions, his primary responsibility was never to just score goals. It was to carry the ball from deep, disrupt and create chances for teammates with options ahead of him – not play with his back to goal like some battering ram.
His former Rapid Wien teammate Stefen Hoffman explained his ideal role in a team perfectly:
“Some said he didn’t score enough goals, but for us it was more important to have him in attack, holding the ball up, creating chances.
“He’s as strong as an ox and very good technically. If he keeps going as he is, he’ll be playing for Brazil before long.”
How we used him went totally against his strengths, stripping him of the chance to be that player who took the Bundesliga by storm and drew comparisons to Roberto Firmino.
In these freeing roles for the German side, he contributed 18 goals in just 33 games, scoring 11 and registering 7 assists. He’d receive the ball into feet, hold it up – and then use pace and power to turn defence into attack in a matter of seconds. Many of his 11 goals came as he finished his runs from deep.
He was an integral cog in a Hoffenheim system that scored the fourth most goals in the Bundesliga in 18/19 and a player top German coach Julian Nagelsmann regularly sang the praises of.
Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t look anything like a £40m player even when looking at the basics like first touch, technique and simple passes, but confidence is a trait that can’t be underestimated and he had none.
All matters considered, I still believe we could see a drastic improvement from our club record signing in the 20/21 season – providing we use him right and help build those fragile confidence levels.
Firstly, Bruce has switched to a 4-2-3-1 system in pre-season – we’ve already shown flashes of positive attacking football in friendlies. It’s far more fluid and suit’s Joelinton’s game.
More importantly, the signing of Callum Wilson will mean he now carries the weight of being our primary goal-scorer, also giving the Brazilian a player to link up with in attack.
Bruce can now experiment with Joelinton’s role in the team, allowing him to find his best position and play in a side that could have far more options in attack.
There is clearly a player in Joelinton, we just haven’t discovered it, yet.
Bruce simply got it wrong with the attacker last term and he had a hard time adjusting to the intensity of English football, not to mention the fact he was away from family, didn’t speak the language and was adjusting to so many changes as 23-year-old with huge pressure on his shoulders.
Now we’ve got options in attack and a team capable of playing on the front foot, the manager and player have the chance to turn him into the big player he was billed to be – not the club’s biggest flop.