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Whitecaps Sensible Transfers | Wide Player With Speed...Apparently

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022”Argentina v Mexico ” Photo by ANP via Getty Images

Well, this is a bit of a surprise, isn’t it? In a recent interview with AFTN, Axel Schuster declared the Whitecaps were after additions for four positions. This is no great surprise as they have four open roster spots. He also declared that it was no great secret in the footballing world what they were after so he was happy to share what those positions were. The first of which was a first-choice keeper. This isn’t a surprise, you can’t really claim to have a data-driven recruitment process and not be looking to improve on the goalkeeping situation from last season. The next was a centre-back. Again, not a surprise, the departures of Godoy, Jungwirth, and Nerwinski have left them very thin there. The third was a striker, one with different strengths than Brian White (reading between the lines it’s pretty clear this means somebody fast). Everyone and their dog is clamouring for this profile. Then he said something that was a big surprise, at least to me. Apparently, the fourth profile the Whitecaps are after is a wide player with speed.

This naturally leads one to ask the question “how is that going to work, exactly?” If the Whitecaps add a striker and another winger that would leave them with ten senior players competing for four spots in their front four. At the same time, it would leave them with three senior players to fill two spots in the centre of midfield. They’re also pretty committed to a lot of those forward players. Ryan Gauld is obviously untouchable, and if Pedro Vite carries his late-season surge into the new season he’ll be there soon as well. Julian Gressel and Alessandro Schopf were just acquired. Cristian Dájome signed a new contract less than 12 months ago. Deiber Caicedo was talked up by Schuster as their most effective striker before his injury, That might be stretching the truth slightly but it doesn’t sound like there are any plans to move him on. Selling now, when his value is low after a long-term injury, would be pretty dumb in any case. Brian White also drew a lot of praise from Schuster in the interview so he still seems to be in the plans. They also just picked up Ryan Raposo’s option so if they were going to ship him out, they missed their chance to do so. It’s possible that “a wide player” refers to a fullback. But they just signed Luis Martins to a new contract and Vanni Sartini has made it pretty clear that Cristian Gutierrez is out of the dog house and back in his plans. The right-back in the system is a centre-back in all but name so it seems unlikely someone for that role would be referred to as “a wide player.”

The only way I can see room for an additional wide player is if the following things happen.

  • Alessandro Schopf plays in the midfield double pivot
  • Ryan Gauld slides back into the middle, pushing Pedro Vite to the bench
  • Cristian Dájome moves elsewhere. I guess this technically doesn’t have to happen but he’s on a huge contract, there’s no real room for him, and he’s good enough that someone might want him. I would guess a move to Brazil, where he had an interest before joining the ‘Caps rather than a trade within MLS. This is just a guess though, I don’t have any insider information.

This would leave you with a formation that looks something like this:

Now, there are some things about this lineup that are exciting. But I’m also a bit concerned that it looks like a FIFA lineup. Cubas is the only defensive presence in the midfield which, I would think, leaves you quite exposed in transition moments. Cubas is fantastic at breaking up opposition moves but he’s also only one man. That being said, the Whitecap’s defence would have been quite solid last year if not for their poor goalkeeping. It’s not like Russell Teibert was doing a huge amount of interrupting anyway and the Whitecaps do need to add 25+ goals to their roster as it stands. So maybe it does make sense to go for a more attacking stance. I’m not 100% convinced but, hey, at least it should be fun.

Now, I don’t know what sort of profile the ‘Caps would be pursuing other than that they want the player to be fast. But I can take some educated guesses (these guesses will not necessarily be right, as evidenced by the fact I’m writing this article). I would imagine this wide player will be someone who is comfortable cutting inside. You already have Julian Gressel providing width on the right and whoever is starting at left-back pushing forward to provide width on the left. It would also make sense if the player was comfortable carrying the ball and running at defenders, as the ‘caps don’t have a lot of dribblers. Lastly, I think it would be a positive thing if the player could provide at least some defensive contribution to alleviating the concerns I outlined above.

So I once again took to Wyscout to do my usual search. But then Whitecaps twitter celebrity Glass City posted the following:

Now, this is not exactly iron clad but there have been plenty of correct Glass City scoops over the years so you do have to take this kind of post seriously. So I started looking at what the options were and, frankly, unless the Whitecaps are about to absolutely smash their record transfer fee, I see very few wingers who would be worthwhile. The ‘Caps have only exceeded a reported fee of three million twice. Once was Lucas Cavallini, which may have been partially subsidized by the league, and the other was Caio Alexandre who was just barely over the three million threshold. In that price range, the options are either not productive enough to be worthwhile or not established enough that I would be confident using a DP spot on them. But then the other shoe (might have) dropped.

That’s Whitecaps first team scout Kevin Antunes tweeting that he was at the World Cup matchup between Mexico and Argentina. Now, obviously, there’s no guarantee that he’s not just there as a fan (is “dreams do come true” something you would say about your vacation?) but there was a quick wide player in that match who might make sense to break the bank for. More on him later.

Basically, my whole world is in turmoil and I don’t know what to think anymore. I went from thinking the ‘Caps wouldn’t sign any wide players to being exposed to the possibility that a wide player will be their most important signing. This makes it kind of hard to know what level of player to be looking at when making this long list. So what I have done with this list is put an asterisk next to a player’s name if their transfer fee and salary would be likely to make them a DP. I set the Transfermarkt value filter to 10 million. I would be pretty surprised if the ‘Caps went that far but the article to this point has been 1200+ words of my surprise so I figure I might as well cast a wide net.

Wingers Long List

Player Age Current Club League xG xA NPG Successful Dribbles Dribble % Successful Defensive Actions xG+xA NPG+xA
Player Age Current Club League xG xA NPG Successful Dribbles Dribble % Successful Defensive Actions xG+xA NPG+xA
Liel Abada* 21 Celtic Scotland 1 0.58 0.29 0.62 3.47 61.24 3.52 0.87 0.91
Ibrahim Sadiq 22 Hacken Sweden 1 0.38 0.32 0.57 3.59 59.46 6.61 0.7 0.89
Martin Mircevski 25 Backa Topola Serbia 1 0.5 0.19 0.67 1.03 51.85 5.77 0.69 0.86
Jota* 23 Celtic Scotland 1 0.31 0.43 0.41 6.65 62.32 4.66 0.74 0.84
Rafael Ratao* 26 Toulouse France 2 0.4 0.13 0.62 2.6 43.18 6.4 0.53 0.75
Ola Brynhildsen 23 Molde Norway 1 0.64 0.1 0.63 1.85 42.19 3.13 0.74 0.73
Joseph Paintsil* 24 Gent Belgium 1 0.36 0.34 0.38 3.27 51.09 3.75 0.7 0.72
Daizon Maeda* 25 Celtic Scotland 1 0.39 0.22 0.43 1.8 62.3 5.27 0.61 0.65
Keito Nakamura* 22 LASK Austria 1 0.42 0.11 0.54 3.05 53.62 6.27 0.53 0.65
Pablo Solari* 21 River Plate Argentina 1 0.3 0.25 0.4 3.9 45.79 5.17 0.55 0.65
Alexander Aravana 20 Nublense Chille 1 0.33 0.13 0.5 2.19 43.64 3.88 0.46 0.63
Fashion Sakala* 25 Rangers Scotland 1 0.43 0.26 0.36 5.7 58.28 4.52 0.69 0.62
Justin Von Moos 21 St Gallan Switzerland 1 0.31 0.21 0.38 2.3 44.9 4.84 0.52 0.59
Aitor Cantalapiedra* 26 Panathinaikos Greece 1 0.42 0.25 0.3 2 56.07 5.86 0.67 0.55
Jérémy Guillemenot 24 St Gallan Switzerland 1 0.36 0.12 0.43 1.09 45.16 3.18 0.48 0.55
Oguz Aydin 22 Alanyaspor Turkey 1 0.31 0.16 0.39 2.96 50.5 4.88 0.47 0.55
Andres Schjeldrup 18 Nordjaelland Denmark 1 0.38 0.13 0.4 2.97 44.36 3.63 0.51 0.53
Luis Ibercio 24 Melgar Peru 1 0.5 0.1 0.42 2 53.21 5.93 0.6 0.52
Joel Asaro 23 Djugarden Sweden 1 0.34 0.16 0.36 3.49 56.2 4 0.5 0.52
Kim Dae Won 25 Gangwon Korea 1 0.32 0.28 0.22 1.82 55.68 4.62 0.6 0.5
Isak Johannesson 19 Copenhagen Denmark 1 0.4 0.16 0.34 0.77 64.29 6.5 0.56 0.5
Ernest Appiah Numah 19 Nordjaelland Denmark 1 0.34 0.1 0.34 4.39 57.89 3.14 0.44 0.44
Alexis Vega* 25 Guadalajara Mexico 1 0.26 0.21 0.23 3.21 43.18 3.64 0.47 0.44
Joel Mugisha 20 Bodo/Glimt Norway 1 0.19 0.31 0.13 4.9 51.72 6.93 0.5 0.44
Mohamed Kanaan 22 FC Ashdod Israel 1 0.39 0.15 0.29 2.86 46.9 4.21 0.54 0.44
Exequel Zeballos* 20 Boca Juniors Argentina 1 0.34 0.15 0.25 5.88 62.5 4.12 0.49 0.4
Simen Nordli 22 Aeslund Norway 1 0.28 0.23 0.15 2.27 52.21 5.6 0.51 0.38

If I was signing a U-22 Initiative player my pick would be:

Alexander Aravena

Current Club: Nublense

Age: 20

Data via Wyscout

Aravena is a 20-year-old Chilean who was very productive in his first full season in Chile. Pretty much all of his highlights are him getting in behind the opposition’s defence so he certainly seems to have some pace. You would expect a decrease in production with the jump to MLS but he should still be a scoring threat. I think he’s probably the best option out there for a U-22 initiative winger.

If I was signing a player on a small transfer fee my pick would be:

Ibrahim Sadiq

Age: 22

Current Club: Häcken

Data via Wyscout

Sadiq’s numbers look very exciting to me. He does all of the stuff that I would want in a wide player I was adding to the Whitecaps. His dribbling looks incredible, though Wyscout is notoriously generous at crediting those. He’s also very productive, active defensively, and quick. Sadly he’s one year too old for the U22 initiative (if I am understanding it correctly). But fortunately the league he plays in and the fact that he’s early in his career means you could probably get him in under the DP threshold.

The guy they might be watching in Qatar is:

Alexis Vega

Age: 25

Current Club: Chivas de Guadalajara.

Data via Wyscout

Look, I know it’s a lot of tenuous links but this does kind of make sense. Alexis Vega would be an excellent floor-raiser for a team that needs to make serious moves to maximize Ryan Gauld’s peak. He has a high percentage of his team’s touches, he’s a great playmaker, and he takes about a million shots per game. You can feel quite confident that Liga MX production will translate well to MLS and Vega’s would put him near the top for MLS attacking midfielders and wingers. You also have to think that just about any striker could score goals playing in front of a trio of Vega, Gauld, and Gressel. But he would certainly cost a lot of money. Maybe more money than he’s worth. If the ‘Caps ownership is willing to spend it I certainly won’t complain but you do have to wonder how committed they are to spending money they won’t ever see back (at least not in the form of player sales). I guess we’ll see.

Another interesting option might be:

Keito Nakamura

Age: 22

Current Club: LASK

Data via Wyscout

Nakamura is less of a playmaker than Vega but I think his production on an Austrian team other than Salzburg is quite impressive. He’s also a bit younger which expands Vancouver’s window to be competitive. Plus he does all of the dribbling and defensive work that I set out as desirable traits at the start of this whole thing.

This article may have been a total mess but I hope you enjoyed it regardless.