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Charlotte really took their time in making moves, but they did finally get some much-needed recruitment. I'm probably in the minority of thinking Makoun could still be a useful player, but swapping one young, backup, high-potential CB for another is fine. The acquisition of a CAM was much needed from both a personnel perspective and depth perspective. Finally, the RB acquisition is the one I find most interesting. A fullback wasn't a bad decision; I'm just surprised it was a right sided one.


Adilson Malanda

Adilson Malanda is the Makoun replacement. At 20 (almost 21) years old, he's incredibly young and inexperienced. He does have decent size at 6 and a half feet (according to FBref). It's something every fan is going to need to be aware of. If you are expecting him to come in and compete for a starting position, or even for the 3rd CB position, I'd be wary. There are exceptions, but early 20s CBs don't often play a lot.

Malanda heatmap, 2021 with Rodez Aveyron, via SofaScore
Malanda heatmap, 2021 with Rodez Aveyron, via SofaScore

Malanda is in his 2nd year as a professional. As a 19-year-old last year, he played in 33 matches, starting 29 for Ligue 2 side Rodez Aveyron. He did make one start this year for them before his acquisition by Charlotte. He's never scored a goal, but as a 2nd-year professional center-back, that's not surprising.


Another thing to keep in mind is that it looks like Rodez Aveyron played a back 3 (or 5) last year. Malanda's heatmap from last year would seem to confirm that. With young CBs, a back 3 is often easier to work in because there is more coverage for mistakes. Charlotte aren't (and hopefully won't) be playing in one, so in addition to transitioning to a new league, country, and possibly language, he will also have to learn how to play his position a bit differently.


A lot of sources that I go to don't keep track of Ligue 2 very well. FBref, for instance, doesn't have any passing stats for Malanda. Squawka does have information on him though. Some highlights:

  • Pass accuracy percentage: 80.66%

  • Long passing: 175/295 (59.32%)

  • Tackles made: 34

  • Aerial duels: 59/90 (65.56%)

  • Ground duels: 72/138 (52.17%)

  • Clearances: 95

  • Interceptions: 55

  • Blocks: 13

Look, there isn't a ton of information on him because of his age and the league he's in. Everyone loves a good highlight video though.

What I think most jumps out to me from this video is his comfort on the ball and confidence to make a pass. You can never read too much into these types of videos because they're not going to showcase any flaws, but the positives do stand out. I was also struck by how thin he is. Like Bender, we have to put some weight on him.


At the end of the day, fans should be excited about this. The modern game requires a CB who can distribute and that looks like something Malanda wants to do and is capable of doing it.


Nathan Byrne

Byrne is a (just turned) 30-year-old right-back. He's spent his entire career in either League One (3rd division of England) or the Championship (2nd division of England). Byrne was technically part of Tottenham (ew) but never made an appearance for them. He spent his first years on loan at a number of clubs.

Byrne heatmap with Derby County, 2021, via SofaScore
Byrne heatmap, 2021 with Derby County, via SofaScore

He started his career with Brentford when they were in League One, moved to Bournemouth the following year when they were in League One, and then to Crawly Town in League One. He joined Swindon Town in League One in 2012-13, where he spent the next 4 seasons. He joined Swindon on a free in 2013. He moved to Wolverhampton when they were in the Championship in 2015-16, but spent only one year there. He joined Wigan Athletic and spent a half-season on loan at Charlton Athletic. He spent 4 seasons at Wigan, making 127 appearances (115 starts), before moving to Derby County, where he's been for the past 2 years.

Lindsey heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Lindsey heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Byrne has played a lot. Over the past 5 years, he's appeared in at least 30 games for his club, including a season of 44 appearances. In the past two years with Derby, he has appeared in 41 games each year. He started all 41 of the games last year. With over almost 3,700 minutes of game time this past year, I wonder how his legs will be for the rest of our season.


What intrigues me about Byrne is his consistent assist numbers. In 2014-15, he had 10 assists for Swindon Town. While he's never hit that number again, he has 21 assists over the past 5 years including 2 seasons of 6 assists. Last year was a down year, as he only got 2 assists, but his history suggests that's an outlier. Interestingly, he never did score for Derby.

Afful heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Afful heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

There's even less information on Byrne than on Malanda. SofaScore has the following information:

  • Accurate passes per game: 75%

  • Accuracy, own half: 83%

  • Accuracy, opposition half: 61%

  • Accuracy, long balls: 31%

  • Accuracy, chipped passes: 30%

  • Accuracy, crosses: 10%

  • Interceptions per game: 0.9

  • Tackles per game: 1.5

  • Possession won: 0.2

  • Dribbled past per game: 0.5

  • Clearances per game: 1.8

  • Successful dribbles: 67%

  • Ground duels won: 61%

  • Aerial duels won: 39%

Byrne's heatmap intrigues me and, when we compare it to Afful's and Lindsey's, I think we see why he was brought in. I am someone who wants to see more of Lindsey, but I believe Afful is playing because of his ability to tuck into the midfield. Looking at Lindsey's map, you'll notice that Lindsey doesn't really do that (whether that's due to what he was told to do by MAR, his ability, or a combination is another discussion). Byrne's heatmap very much looks like a combination of Afful's and Lindsey's. He gets up the pitch like Lindsey but shows the ability and/or willingness to join the midfield as well.


I don't think Byrne's acquisition means the end of Lindsey with Charlotte, but it's clear that the team is looking for options. Squad depth and competition is always good and if Lindsey wants his spot back, he's going to have to earn it. Byrne looks like a good addition to me and will hopefully give the experience and solidity of Afful with a greater attacking threat.


Nuno Santos

Santos heatmap, 2021-22 with Paços de Ferreira, via SofaScore
Santos heatmap, 2021-22 with Paços de Ferreira, via SofaScore

Santos is the one everyone was clamoring for. Well, a CAM is what everyone was clamoring for and he fills that role. At 23, he fits what I was hoping for: a young, somewhat experienced, high-potential attacking midfielder. He's in his 3rd professional season and was technically on Benfica's books. With that said, he never played for the first team with Benfica.


He was the captain of Benfica B before his loan to Moreirense in the 2019-20 season. He made 14 appearances (9 starts) for Moreirense, scoring one goal and getting 2 assists. He joined Boavista the following season on loan, where he made 29 appearances (20 starts), but recorded only 1 goal. This past season for Paços de Ferreira was much better for him, as he made 31 appearances (30 starts) and scored 5 goals with one assist.

Santos heatmap, 2020-21 with Paços de Ferreira, via SofaScore
Santos heatmap, 2020-21 with Paços de Ferreira, via SofaScore

A big reason for the change in production, I think, is due to how Paços deployed him. More specifically, the freedom they gave him on the pitch. Compare his time with Boavista (2020-21) where he's confined more to the left of the pitch and isn't pushing as far up. With Paços, he's higher up the pitch and drifts into more central and right-hand areas. Paços is also trusting him to take their corners--from either side--which isn't the biggest deal but does allude to his quality.


In addition to club duties, Santos has been a fixture in the Portuguese national team youth ranks. He made 4 appearances for the U16s, 13 for the U17s, 5 for the U18s, 11 for the U19s, 10 for the U20s, and 3 for the U21s. He has 5 goals for these youth teams.

Bender heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
Bender heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

Again, FBref doesn't have information on the Portuguese league, well at least not all of the teams. Squawka does have information on him though. He averaged just under 55 touches per game, scored 4 of his 5 goals with his right foot, and attempted 40.2 passes per game. His season-long pass accuracy was 83.05%, while his long passing accuracy was 63.03%. Finally, his take-on success percentage was 44.19% on 43 attempts.

McNeill heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore
McNeill heatmap, 2022, via SofaScore

I think a lot of fans are hoping, or even expecting, to see Bender and Santos in the midfield; I don't. Santos is a CAM and Bender's best position is as the most attack-minded of the midfield. McNeill plays a much different role from Bender or Santos and I expect it to be either Santos or Bender.


Look at the three heatmaps from this year. First, Bender and Santos both prefer the left side of the pitch, though Santos will go to different places on the pitch. McNeill's heatmap, meanwhile, is much more in line with a central midfielder. Again, McNeill is not performing the same role as the other two, so expecting him to make way for one of them doesn't make sense to me.


This also doesn't account for Świderski, who loves to drop back. Now, ideally, we create a team where Świderski isn't required to drop deep as often, but a team of Santos, Bender, and Świderski seems problematic for spacing on the pitch.


I can't find as much information about Santos' defensive ability as I would like, but he's advertised as a CAM, his numbers look like one, and his heatmap backs that up. As such, to play Bender and Santos in the midfield would be asking even more of Bronico than we are, and probably too much. I don't think the balance of that midfield would work. Just like with Lindsey, if Bender wants playing time, he's going to have to earn it.


Conclusion

These moves should have us excited. Byrne appears to be a player that will walk into the Starting XI and I imagine Santos is expected to do the same. Malanda is a longer-term project, but that's fine as Corujo and Walkes have made a solid pairing.


This squad has lacked overall talent this year and, on balance, I'm not sure we have really changed that. Charlotte has cleared house a bit this summer, which isn't the worst, but that means there is still a lot of work to do this winter.


Finally, I don't worry too much about Santos and Byrne taking playing time from Bender or Lindsey. I want both of these guys to play and I believe both should. However, I also want to field the best players we possibly can. If those two aren't the best we can put out, then they aren't. If they are, they'll force their way in, either by jumping up the depth chart or forcing some kind of formation/tactical change.


It took a while, but overall I'm pleased with the work Charlotte finally got done.



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