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HomeSportsFootballJoão Palhinha is a youth prodigy from Sporting CP’s academy

João Palhinha is a youth prodigy from Sporting CP’s academy

João Palhinha is a talented young football player who came up through Sporting CP’s academy. His impressive performance on the field caught the attention of Fulham, who signed him to a five-year deal worth €20M in July 2022. Palhinha has had an exceptional tenure at Fulham, having played in 35 Premier League matches and leading the league in successful tackles. He was named Player of the Season for his team as a result of his outstanding performances.

The player, João Palhinha, who previously played for Sporting, has been performing impressively. Despite signing a contract extension with Fulham only a few months ago, he has caught the attention of other clubs. Among those interested in signing him, Arsenal is one of the few. Bayern Munich were also interested in him, but their deal fell through in the summer.

The Portuguese player is renowned for his strong defensive abilities, which have been an asset to both his club and country. He possesses the perfect combination of height and athleticism, making him an ideal defensive midfielder.

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Firstly, let’s look at João Palhinha’s player profile:

Age: 28
Club: Fulham
Position: DM
Nationality: Portuguese
Value: £45M
Height: 6ft 3
Avg Sofa: 7.22

Joao-Palhinha-sofascore-average

The Portuguese plays in the middle half of the pitch as a defensive midfielder but he has no problem transitioning to play as a centre-back. Winning 4.51 duels per game, Palhinha is widely known for his unwavering commitment in tackling, positioning and winning aerial duels. Impressive out of position and one of the best tacklers in the league. Raw skill and filthy defensive prowess.

Joao-Palhinha-Sofascore-rating

Featuring a towering height of 6ft 3 inches, it’s obvious that he’s got the height, the long legs, and the physicality to play for a top side. He lines up as a lone #6 in possession for Fulham. He is like a committed bully who tries to cover the whole length of the pitch, stopping the attackers from moving forward and threatening his team.

Joao Palhinha is excellent at applying pressure because he usually uses his physical strength and speed to dispossess the opponent from the ball. Dispossessing him off the ball is quite a task as he uses his body as a shield to protect the ball. Through this, Palhinha usually gets past his man or sometimes can draw a foul if he feels the pressure.

Joao-Palhinha-Defensive-Workrate

Joao-Palhinha-FBREF
image credit FBREF

On the ball, he’s got the range to launch the ball out to either side of the pitch, he could help in changing the point of attack and also to play passes through the channel in between. João Palhinha averages 38 passes per match with a pass completion rate of 84%. Not the best passing stats but good enough for a Big 6 side.

It’s important to know that he’s got such imposing numbers in his debut season in the Premier League featuring in a team with possession below 50%.

The question arising of him not being able to portray this in teams based on heavy passing duties is false as Sporting CP are a team which holds the majority of the ball. Joao Palhinha can slot right into Arsenal’s DM position in their current set-up.

Rice would have the freedom to move up the pitch and simultaneously continue his defensive reign.

Upon initial observation, it’s evident that he’s tailored for significant matches, and his skill set could significantly benefit Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League. Comparable to Fabinho’s role for Liverpool and Casemiro’s contributions at Real Madrid in the past. If not the absolute best, he certainly ranks among the top holding midfielders within the Top 6.

Joao-Palhinha-Scouting-Report
image credit statsbomb

In Europe, while Arsenal face top opponents who dominate possession, Joao Palhinha’s role can be authoritative and clinical with less of the ball. He gives Arsenal the solidity to easily march past the UCL. His press resistance and nature to play defence-breaking passes would help the Gunners in having an extra man to create a buildup.

João Palhinha’s 6’3 height has been a real asset for him. He won 128 aerial duels last season which is outstanding. He adds a lot of athleticism and security to Arsenal hence Bayern Munich’s ever-known interest in him in recent times makes sense.

Joao-Palhinha-tackles

Obviously, his age bracket means that he’s had lots of experience throughout his career which can be beneficial for Arsenal. The role of replacing Partey here can go unnoticed if the execution of this deal works out.

Joao-Palhinha-Stats

Joao Palhinha would be the short/medium-term DM to replace our older midfielders – Thomas Partey, Jorginho, Mo Elneny. His task indirectly would be to replace two of the most experienced members in the squad. An instant-level raiser like that of Palhinha would be of utter importance to get us over the line and win us trophies.

Joao Palhinha – Weaknesses

Although it is difficult to point out faults for a player of his calibre, here are some subtle weaknesses;

Discipline: 19 Yellow Cards in 46 PL matches is a bit concerning, he’s already served 3 suspensions in his first season. There is a possibility that on a better side, most importantly holding possession his nick to draw fouls would decrease drastically.

Joao Palhinha: Speculations on his role at Arsenal

Compared to Declan Rice:

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Both know the ins and outs of the league’s physical game and it would be illegal to launch them together in a lineup. It is evident that we need another profile like that of Declan Rice to maintain the current dynamics of our midfield.

Joao-Palhinha-vs-Declan-Rice-Comparison
Arsenal spends more time on the ball offensively rather than defending which is why these stats ratios have massive differences

For the majority of the season against low-blocks we’ve seen Kai Havertz play at LCM and Declan Rice play as the DM. If we see Palhinha as a Partey replacement we need a pure DM through which he would form a pivot with Rice.

Early on in the season when Partey and Rice played together, we saw Arteta was asking Thomas Partey to play RB out of possession & become the 6 inverted from the fullback region when we had the ball. Palhinha is a player who can in particular excel in that position.

João has an identical profile to Rice and he’s one of the few players in the market that can compete alongside Rice. Palhinha is one of the only names that’s synonymous with Rice when it comes to being a textbook tackler in the league. Palhinha had the most tackles made last season in the PL – 147 tackles Squawka and is also leading the charts this season.

What do we need from our midfield target and How would Joao Palhinha fit in?

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The role of the ideal DM would be broadly categorised into 2 aspects: Offensively and Defensively.

Offensively to exploit the open spaces, have spatial awareness to get in the right spot to receive the ball, first touch, composure, carrying, and finally passing to find the AMF in front; something Partey did quite easily.

Defensively able to position himself, anticipate the ball and show quality in 1v1 duels, tackling, winning aerial duels and have the quality to stop the defensive transition. Looking at some of the best DM’s of our generation, Busquets, Fabinho, Casemiro and now Rodri they all stood by how refined they were with the technique.

Arsenal-lineup-Joao-Palhinha

Pulling off a deal like this of Joao Palhinha can be instrumental going into the summer in picking the elite ones to fill the gaps in the squad. Could function in a double pivot with Rice as the #8 and Palhinha as the #6 or even act as Rice’s backup. Could also drop between the 2 CBs to form a back 3.

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He should be the versatile signing we should look for in January over a winger or striker. Palhinha can function as a destroyer 6 position and can also function as a decent cover for Declan Rice. This partnership would unlock Rice at LCM.

He can additionally cover at CB, he played there for Portugal and can play fullback too. Very good signing for a versatile defensive player. It’s perfect with the defensive injuries we have and is proven in this league. Even if unfortunately, it happens that Saliba is injured, Palhinha covers that position too.

Palhinha’s role would be that to carry the ball to pockets of spaces and find Ødegaard who then would have options available in phase III of build-up.

Joao Palhinha to Arsenal: Conclusion

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The backline of Tomi, Gabriel, Saliba, Timber with a pivot of Rice and Palhinha is only going to cause a menace. A menace for the opposition to deal with. Arsenal would have one of the most physical profile-based teams in world football.

The agreed fee for Joao Palhinha in the summer was £65m, it’s expected that he’ll fall in the range of a little lesser. This deal can realistically be seen happening only if the price range does justice to Arsenal’s budget. Arsenal shouldn’t be looking to offer more than £60 Million considering a player profile of his with the fee can be explored elsewhere.

The deal may prove to be a bit costly in January, if that’s the case then Arsenal can look to scout him back in the summer but it is likely to cost above £60M.

It might not be Arsenal’s sole position they’re looking at in the window as they also prioritise signing a versatile defender. Not the most impactful versatile prospect that Arteta would be looking for but his commitment to the cause and instant impact core skill set make him top the charts.

I feel the stereotype in football of being ‘28 years or older’ doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of the world. He started 35 games last season and he certainly has lots in his tank.

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