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What Nelson Semedo Brings to Wolves

The Portuguese revolution continues in the West Midlands! Wolves confirmed the signing of Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo in a £27m deal - which could rise t
Nelson Semedo
Nelson Semedo during his Wolves unveiling at Molineux | Wolverhampton Wanderers FC/Getty Images

The Portuguese revolution continues in the West Midlands!

Wolves confirmed the signing of Barcelona right back Nelson Semedo in a £27m deal - which could rise to £37m - on Wednesday morning to replace the hastily departed Matt Doherty at Molineux.

Welcome to Wolves, @_nelsonsemedo_!


— Wolves (@Wolves) September 23, 2020

The 26-year-old arrives following a spell in Catalonia which saw him emerge as the finest to strut their stuff down the Camp Nou right flank since the departure of Dani Alves in 2016.

Semedo made 124 appearances for La Blaugrana before his summer exit, contributing to 13 goals, and is undoubtedly some coup for Nuno Espirito Santo - just forget that recent Bayern Munich horror show.

But what will the Portugal international bring to Nuno's right flank?

Let's have a gander...

Nelson Semedo, Ander BarrenetxeaNelson Semedo, Ander Barrenetxea
Semedo is incredibly athletic | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The first thing that stands out about Semedo is his supreme athleticism. He's an incredibly quick and agile defender, which stands him in good stead for defending in one-v-one situations.

Although his numbers declined in 2019/20, in 2018/19 Semedo attempted 1.24 tackles (all stats are per 90 minutes) against dribblers with a mightily impressive 81.8% success rate. Last season saw him notch more attempts (1.50) but endure a much lower success rate (48.6%).

Despite recent woes, there's no doubting Semedo's capacity to be dominant in such situations, although he's blessed with a relatively slight frame. His technique combined with a swift burst of speed and smart use of his body make him a difficult proposition one-v-one.

Going the other way, he's also proved adept at attacking defenders when isolated out wide.

? "The fans can expect a lot of work and a lot of ambition."

Get to know @_nelsonsemedo_ as he answers his first questions as a Wolves player.


— Wolves (@Wolves) September 23, 2020

Last term, Semedo notched 2.92 dribble attempts with an impressive 66.2% success rate - second behind only Sevilla's Jesus Navas among La Liga full backs. While not necessarily skilful, it's once again his speed which makes him effective in ball-carrying scenarios or when tasked with outfoxing a defender.

The Portugal international was often a key outlet for Barcelona when handed the freedom to maraud into the final third.

Not only can the 26-year-old outwit opponents through sheer speed, but he's also very good at combining with teammates to bypass pressure.

It was his ability to remain composed in the face of the opposition's press and capacity to retain possession overall which saw him settle nicely in Catalonia. Wolves' new man likes to distribute to a teammate over a short distance before receiving the ball back following a nimble movement away from the pressing opponent.

Serge Gnabry, Nelson SemedoSerge Gnabry, Nelson Semedo
The Portuguese international endured a horrific evening amid Barcelona's 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich | Pool/Getty Images

Throughout his Barcelona career, Semedo was often caught out too high up the pitch which forced his centre backs into defending areas of the pitch - out wide - that they simply don't want to defend. Thus, if La Blaugrana were to turn the ball over amid a period of sustained possession, they'd be incredibly vulnerable in transition with Semedo often advanced upfield.

However, this is likely to be less of an issue at Wolves with Nuno's side a significantly less possession-oriented side compared to Barca, while the presence of a back three provides Semedo greater licence to advance.

The 26-year-old's other glaring weakness is his output in the final third.

For all his good work in the first and second phases, Semedo has proved seemingly inept in the advanced areas of the pitch he loves to drift into.

Andoni Gorosabel, Nelson SemedoAndoni Gorosabel, Nelson Semedo
This probably led to absolutely nothing... | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Although he isn't a natural provider like Jordi Alba, Semedo nevertheless still proved remarkably inefficient with his final ball. On average, he was crossing 0.99 times per 90 minutes with a success rate below 25%. Thus, his total shot-creating actions (offensive actions that lead directly to a shot) was a measly 32 in 2019/20, which ranked 11th in the Barcelona squad. Sergi Roberto - who rotated at right back with Semedo - meanwhile, made 52 and Alba notched 45.

From decision-making to execution, all of Semedo's work in the final third could do with some refinement. He particularly struggles to deliver crosses against sides who defend in a low block, when they are plenty of bodies in the area.

Nelson Semedo, Gerard Pique, Lautaro MartinezNelson Semedo, Gerard Pique, Lautaro Martinez
The 26-year-old exclusively played in a back four at Barcelona | TF-Images/Getty Images

There were certainly times under Quique Setien where not even Semedo knew what his role in the side was.

Exclusively serving as part of a back four, there were instances - even when Setien opted for the narrow 4-1-2-1-2 - where Semedo was neither here nor there. He wasn't bombing down the flank and providing a constant source of width like Alba, but he wasn't drifting in to form a back three to provide greater protection against the counter either.

He was in no man's land, and the lack of understanding regarding his role under Setien was certainly a contributor in his declining performance.

Nevertheless, the wing-back role he's destined to serve at Molineux should suit his skill set. While poor in the final third, he shouldn't get caught out positionally as much as he did at Barcelona and he'll be able to combine with the likes of Joao Moutinho and Adama Traore in a similar vein to which Matt Doherty did so effectively before his summer exit.

Matt DohertyMatt Doherty
Matt Doherty swapped Wolves for Tottenham this summer | Pool/Getty Images

The dynamic he's set to establish with Traore will be a frighterining prospect for the left side of any Premier League defence. The sheer athleticism, speed and power down Wolves' right will be overwhelming.

The initial £27m appears a very good price for the 26-year-old. At the end of the day, Semedo was one of the best right backs the continent had to offer when on-song at Barcelona.

His transition to a wing-back role should be seamless, although the Portuguese international may not be one for your FPL squads.

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