Club: Strasbourg (On loan from Chelsea)
Preferred Foot: Left
Strengths: 1v1s, dribbling, agility, speed, creativity, link-up play
Areas for Development: shot volume, physicality, goal output, decision-making
On October 25, 2020, Ângelo Gabriel came off the bench for Santos in a 3-1 loss at Fluminense. In doing so, he became the second-youngest player to debut for the club, overcoming Pelé’s record by 11 days but falling short of Coutinho, who debuted for the Peixe at the tender age of 14 years and 11 months old. Six months later, he became the youngest player to score in a Copa Libertadores match at 16 years, 3 months and 16 days old.
After eight years at Vila Belimro, Ângelo departed Santos this summer and joined Chelsea for £13 million before being loaned out to their sister club RC Strasbourg Alsace in Ligue 1. Yet another young prospect who has been snapped up by Chelsea alongside Andrey Santos, Cesare Casadei, Deivid Washington and many more, just what makes Ângelo such a special talent? Let’s take a look.
Ângelo is a 1v1 specialist who’s a very high-volume dribbler – 8.21 take-ons attempted per 90, with 4.44 of them being successful. The Brazilian also has 3.97 carries into the final third and 5.89 progressive carries, showing how much he uses his dribbles to progress the ball in the attacking transition.
Ângelo is a 1v1 specialist who’s a high-volume dribbler – 8.21 take-ons attempted with 4.44 successful. The Brazilian also has 3.97 carries into the final third and 5.89 progressive carries showing how much he uses his dribbles to progress the ball in the attacking transition. pic.twitter.com/QGasUpFein
— Ben Mattinson (@Ben_Mattinson_) July 23, 2023
The former Santos winger is very creative with great vision and passing ability enabling him to create chance for his team-mates. When taking on players he loves to clip passes into the box whilst the defender backs off him. Ângelo has the ability to play clever disguised passes that fool defenders, mainly through chipped through passes with little back-lift.
The Brazilian’s creativity means he constantly looks to link up with his attacking team-mates when he cuts in and plays around the half-space. This quality will add a different dimension to Chelsea’s attack in the future as Noni Madueke is a lot more direct. Ângelo is very one-dimensional at times due to a lack of weak-foot ability and usage throughout games. This is a key area for development for him in the near future.
Ângelo has great natural ability but is still very raw, as his over-reliance on his dribbling ability hinders his effectiveness sometimes. Ângelo needs to work on his decision making, when to quickly release the ball, when to carry and when to shoot. Due to him playing with so much joy and dribbling a lot, he can run with the ball too far and be tackled. However, with a great coach, he can improve his decision making.
Another by-product of this is a low shot volume (only 1.14 per 90) which is too low to return a high goal output. When looking at some of the best goal-scoring wingers they tend to have at least over 2.00 and a lot of the elite are even over 3.00 shots per 90. If in a system that allow wingers to invert to take shots and get more high-quality chances, he’ll improve his poor goal-output.
Ângelo’s actual shooting ability does need work too and with having a taller frame at 6’0” there’s more potential capacity for greater ball-striking development. As he develops, builds more explosivity and tendencies to shoot, then he could become a lot more deadly and have a ‘match-winning’ quality. But does he actually have a chance of featuring for Chelsea in the near future?
A natural right winger, the Brazilian has plenty of competition on the right side of attack like Madueke, Diego Moreira (on loan at Lyon), Omari Hutchinson (on loan at Ipswich Town) and Alex Matos, all of whom have been signed in the past year. Whilst Chelsea have sold Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech, they also have Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk, two players who, whilst preferring the left flank, are comfortable playing on the right flank as well.
Typically, the wingers in Mauricio Pochettino’s systems tend to be more the creators and less the goal-scorers, with the center forward and second striker racking up the case, as was the case at Tottenham where Harry Kane and Dele Alli found themselves in goal-scoring situations constantly. This may actually suit Ângelo’s strengths initially due to him being more creative and thriving at interchanging play with his nearby attackers, but it won’t help him improve his goal output enough as playing in a system where the wingers stay wide then invert during attacks.
It’s entirely possible that Pochettino adapts his system to reflect this to get more involvement and goal output from his wingers. Another advantage of him in Pochettino’s system would be that the RB’s (Reece James / MaloGusto) would overlap to provide passing options & create cutbacks. Once his setup is fully flowing with Christopher Nkunku playing behind Nicolas Jackson and interchanging positions alongside Sterling or Mudryk at the left, Ângelo could thrive at the right wing position with his excellent dribbling ability, quick interchanges, and creative one-twos, but whether he’ll get that chance remains to be seen.
One thing is clear — Ângelo still has plenty of room for improvement at 18 years of age, particularly in the goal-scoring area, and he has found a platform for his development after making the move to Strasbourg on a season-long loan. Having finished 15th and narrowly avoided the drop last season, Strasbourg kicked off their 2023/24 campaign with a shock 2-1 win against Lyon under new manager Patrick Vieira.
The ex Crystal Palace gaffer set up in a 3-5-2 formation with Emanuel Emegha and Lebo Mothiba playing up top. Ângelo came on for the final quarter-hour but was mainly tasked with defending and wasn’t able to showcase his technical attributes. He replaced Mothiba in the 59th minute of their 3-0 defeat to Monaco, coming on immediately after Wissam Ben Yedder scored the third and final goal for the principality side.
An unused substitute in their following match against Toulouse, Ângelo replaced Habib Diarra in the 64th minute of their 2-0 loss to Nice, before playing the full 90 against Montpellier and impressing in his full debut with two tackles, four fouls won and four key passes. He won 12 out of 17 ground duels and completed six out of seven dribbles in a match that would see Montpellier enter halftime with a two-goal lead, prompting Vieira to sub on Mothiba and Emegha at the hour-mark. Strasbourg scored twice in nine minutes and prevailed with a point at home, and they would follow that up with a 1-0 win at newly promoted Metz.
This time, Vieira went with a 4-3-3 with Ângelo playing on the right side of the front three alongside Emegha and fellow new arrival Dilane Bakwa. The Brazilian found Diarra for the sole goal of the match in the 83rd minute, becoming the youngest player to register a goal contribution for Strasbourg since their return to Ligue 1 in 2017. Strasbourg boast 10 points from six matches — their best tally at this stage since 2007/08 — and currently sit fifth in the table, and they’ll be looking to continue their impressive form as they close out September with a visit from Lens.
It remains to be seen what formation Vieira continues with at Strasbourg — having utilized a 3-5-2 in the first two matches, he utilized a 3-4-3 in the next two matches before switching to a 4-2-3-1 against Montpellier and a 4-3-3 against Metz with Ângelo playing on the right side of attack. However, one thing’s for sure: Ângelo has the creative spark and talent to give Strasbourg a real boost as they look to get off to a positive start under BlueCo ownership.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @Juanffran / Getty Images