There’s been a lot of debate lately about Alfredo Morelos and his merits, or otherwise. His critics argue he’s scoring a lot less and isn’t working as hard up front, his supporters think he’s doing a great job as a support man helping his team mates.
In this piece we look at both sides of Morelos, and statistically analyse exactly what he’s doing, and who he’s doing it for.
We take two recent examples, Aberdeen and Benfica, and explore what role he had, and what he did, and didn’t do.
Beginning with Benfica, if we start with his heatmap:
It’s evident Morelos was playing deeper, and wasn’t moving into the box much, if at all. In this match he managed just two shots all night, but did get both of them on target, and managed a key pass as well. He won three fouls, but lost the ball 6 times.
Then we switch to the Dons match:
As you can see he actually had significantly less of the ball than he did v Benfica. He managed only a single shot, off target, and was fouled twice, with 5 losses of the ball.
What do these mean?
Morelos clearly, statistically and indeed visually, is playing as a team player, an anchor. He is no longer an out-and-out striker – in a match in which Rangers strolled it 4-0, Morelos was hooked off having contributed very little, but as is his want, he was much more involved in the stuff that mattered v Benfica, touching the ball significantly more.
We can see there are two Alfredo Moreloses. Domestically he simply doesn’t give the same mobile effort, and that’s evidenced by the Aberdeen heatmap in which he stuck rigidly to one position more than any other, getting less time on the ball, while v Benfica he was all over the pitch and got more of it.
But we can’t deny his positive team contribution – he wins so many fouls, and gets the side up the pitch, which matters in the big matches. He knows how to lure the opponent into conceding them, and that is vital to buy time and relieve defensive pressure.
But it’s not as important domestically, so Morelos’ role ends up being a bit more redundant against an Aberdeen or Killie.
He has definitely lost his way as a striker, and we have no idea if that’s confidence-based or instruction from his manager. He simply doesn’t score like he used to, but then he used to spend way more time in the box.
If he was playing against Stevie’s instructions, he wouldn’t get selected, so you have to posit the volition on the manager’s part of playing Morelos in this manner.
But it’s clearly working, even if the Colombian’s best attributes are being used in a kind of negative manner and less selfish manner, rather than for assists and goals.
So, if the manager likes using him this way, we’re not anyone to moan about it.