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Analysis: How Vitor Roque can help Xavi improve Barcelona

The January transfer window has not opened yet, but some major moves have already been confirmed. Most notable among them is new Barcelona signing Vitor Roque.

The 18-year-old forward has left Athletico Paranaense for a transfer fee reportedly around €30 million, which could rise to twice that amount through certain add-ons.

That is a hefty investment given the Catalans’ current financial state, so the expectation will be that the Brazilian striker comes in and delivers almost instantly.

Vitor Roque’s strengths

Before delving into how Barcelona can integrate this new signing into their squad, it is worth understanding what sort of player Roque is.

Looking at his pizza chart from the recently concluded Brasileirão Série A season, his profile as a well-rounded centre-forward becomes apparent.

Not only does he rank very highly in goalscoring metrics, but his chance creation is also right up there.

Twelve goals and three assists in about 19 matches’ worth of time on the pitch is not a bad return at all, especially for a team that ended up in a mid-table spot. Goalscoring is most definitely Roque’s greatest strength, so it is worth zooming in on.

His shotmap from the league season shows that he does a very good job of consistently getting into very dangerous shooting positions in the box, which is where most of his goals come from.

He does not shy away from the occasional potshot and should be allowed given his strong ball-striking quality.

(Image credit: FotMob)

Standing at 5’7″, Roque is generally one of the shorter players on the pitch so he does not have an imposing presence up top.

However, he does cause a lot of problems for opposing defences with his constant movement and especially pace and acceleration, both with the ball at his feet and while running in behind.

He can also drop off and link up with his teammates, but he prefers to buzz around the last line and threaten off the ball.

What Barcelona need to improve

The good news for Barcelona is they do need this sort of centre-forward.

In the first half of this season, they have only had one recognised striker in their senior squad. Given the number and frequency of games top teams play these days, that is quite obviously not enough, so the likes of Ferran Torres and João Félix had to slot in at times.

Even when Robert Lewandowski was on the pitch, things have not been going perfectly. The Polish international has been a great goalscorer throughout his career, but he is enduring a concerning slump this term as he has underperformed his xG by over three goals.

(Image credit: FotMob)

Indeed, Barcelona as a whole have struggled with finishing. The Catalan giants have amassed the highest xG tally in La Liga going into the new year, but they are not even among the top three in terms of goals. Clearly, a clinical finisher would be a welcome addition to the team.

Moreover, Lewandowski has also not performed to Xavi’s liking in terms of his positioning off the ball. He has tended to drop into midfield and attempt to link up with his teammates too much for the team’s good and has not kept the opposition centre-backs on their toes enough.

On that basis, Roque’s playing style might be better suited to the way Barcelona want their centre-forward to operate.

It is worth keeping in mind that he is a teenager moving to a foreign country for the first time in his life, so he should certainly be given time to adapt.

All things considered, Roque and Lewandowski will likely be rotated for the rest of the season, but the Brazilian is obviously going to be Barcelona’s main striker in the long run. Just when that happens depends on the two concerned players’ performances in 2024.

Evidently, Roque seems a good signing who has the potential to meaningfully improve Barcelona, but he is not the solution to all of their problems.

They have also struggled with controlling matches and defending in transition, so a defensive midfielder should also be a priority if their aim is to close down the seven-point gap they have to La Liga’s leading pair.

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