Talking Tactics

Why Joao Pedro has won De Zerbi's favour

21 Jan 2024

Adrian Clarke analyses Brighton's Brazilian forward and how crucial he is to the head coach's tactics

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Player analysis - Joao Pedro

Brighton & Hove Albion’s recruitment has been lavished with praise in recent years, and summer signing Joao Pedro is proof they continue to acquire excellent players.

The 22-year-old Brazilian has scored 15 goals for the Seagulls in all competitions so far this season, including seven in the Premier League.

Offering quality all-round play as a central striker or left-sided forward, the ex-Watford star has often kept teenage prodigy Evan Ferguson out of the starting XI.

Roberto De Zerbi, who recently revealed Joao Pedro was a club signing rather than his own selection, has clearly been won over by the talented youngster.

Difficult to mark

The Brighton No 9 is a handful for defenders, moving across the forward line and dropping into deeper areas throughout the 90 minutes.

His ability to interchange with others is just one of the reasons why he suits De Zerbi’s style of play so well.

His touch map from the recent 4-2 home win over Tottenham Hotspur is a good representation of how varied his movement is.

Joao Pedro touch map BHATOT

Skilful, quick and composed, Joao Pedro is particularly good at finding his way into the penalty area, often with the ball glued to his foot.

He touches the ball inside the opposition box more often per 90 minutes than all but two other Premier League players.

Most touches in opp. box per 90*
Player Touches in box/90
Alejandro Garnacho 9.50
Raheem Sterling 8.94
Joao Pedro 8.92
Darwin Nunez 8.85
Gabriel Martinelli 8.66

*Min. 1,000 minutes played

Joao Pedro v Ferguson

Ferguson is an outstanding prospect who looks set to enjoy a long and illustrious career at the top of the game.

However, in the here and now, the Irishman's team-mate is matching his finishing prowess, and crucially bringing more to the table aside from goals.

Joao Pedro is involved in build-up play with far greater regularity, carries the ball like a winger and is also a better presser without the ball.

These stats below show why De Zerbi does not feel he has to rely on 19-year-old Ferguson week-in, week-out from the start.

Joao Pedro gets into dangerous positions more often and is marginally more clinical with his efforts on goal. However, in open play Ferguson has scored double the number of goals.

Joao Pedro v Ferguson shooting stats 2023/24
  Joao Pedro Evan Ferguson
Minutes  1,140 962
Goals 7 6
Non-penalty goals 3 6
Shots on target 16 16
Conversion rate 29.3% 25.0%
Touches in opp. box 113 37

When you look at the work that goes on outside the box, both in and out of possession, it is clear the more-experienced Joao Pedro contributes more than Ferguson in several departments.

This is likely to have a strong bearing on De Zerbi's team selection.

Joao Pedro v Ferguson attacking stats 23/24
Statistic Joao Pedro Evan Ferguson
Minutes played 1,140 962
Touches 728 365
Succ. passes 335 173
Passes played into box 41 8
Open-play chances created 18 5
Completed dribbles 20 5
Aerial duels won 29 9
Poss. won in final third 13 3
Poss. won 39 14

A good example of Joao Pedro’s value to this Brighton side was his brilliant assist for Jack Hinshelwood against Spurs.

After picking the ball up by the left touchline, he weaved his way past four defenders before sliding a perfect pass into the feet of the Seagulls youngster.

Joao Pedro is a talented forward who can make things happen out of nowhere.

Joao Pedro assist v Spurs #1
Joao Pedro assist v Spurs #2
Clinical from the spot

One other aspect of Joao Pedro’s game that sets him apart from others is how exceptional he is at penalties.

He has scored eight out of eight spot-kicks in all competitions this season, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way from his last seven penalties.

His coolness in those pressure situations has been invaluable since he made the move up from the Championship, and he can be a key figure against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

Also on this series

Part 2: How Elliott can step up and shine in Salah's absence
Part 3: Can Arteta reignite misfiring Arsenal attack?
Part 4: Why Toney is so important to the success of Brentford

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