Unsurprisingly, Newcastle United were one of the major spenders in the January transfer window. Rather than splurging recklessly, they targeted players with Premier League experience who could immediately assimilate into the squad and aid in their relegation fight.
The only player who broke that trend is arguably one of the best young players in his position in Europe. Bruno Guimarães, who arrives in Newcastle from Lyon for just 40 million pounds, is arguably the best signing of the January transfer window and could be at the base of the Magpies’ midfield for years to come.
Under former Ajax and Borussia Dortmund head coach Peter Bosz, Lyon mainly play a possession-based 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3. Normally playing in a double pivot alongside the energetic Maxence Caqueret, Guimarães is the team’s primary progressor of the ball and transitions the side from defense to attack. He can do this both immediately after winning back the ball to release Lyon’s attackers on the counter or by moving it through the thirds whilst the French side are controlling possession.
The range of situations and ways Guimarães can progress the ball are what make him such a potent weapon. He ranks above the 95th percentile compared to other central midfielders in Europe for passes under pressure, progressive carries, progressive passes, passes into the final third, and shot-creating actions into the final third. In other words, in just about any metric you can use to evaluate a player’s distribution, Guimarães ranks in elite company.
It’s worth noting that Guimarães won’t put up similar numbers at Newcastle since they are less dominant and have less quality relative to the rest of the league when compared to Lyon. Yet the core skillset Guimarães possesses will be an extremely welcome asset to Newcastle in almost all phases of play.
He can take the ball off the center-backs to move it forward to advanced central midfielders or a striker dropping off. While he can spray the ball wide with switch passes, he prefers to move the ball through the lines centrally instead whenever possible. As Eddie Howe will encourage his wingers to cut inside more and his midfielders to push higher, this should be a useful trait.
Higher up the pitch, when playing against a deeper block, Guimarães shows tremendous dexterity and creativity in his passing. He’s adept at finding teammates with lofted chip balls or quick, zipping through balls along the ground.
— Bruno Guimarães (@brunoog97) February 7, 2022
Perhaps even more importantly, he has a good understanding of when to circulate the ball and when to try and penetrate the opposition lines. With Newcastle leaking lots of goals in transition, this awareness that Guimarães will aid the Magpies midfield in not giving away cheap lose balls and enabling the opposition to counter-attack.
Defensively, Guimarães records a high volume of tackles and interceptions and is an active, aggressive presence. He is an adept ball-winner and is intent on trying to push the team forwards as soon as possession is won back. However, part of the reason that he’s thrived in a midfield double pivot alongside Caqueret is that he has another player to help him screen the defense.
Due to his front-foot style, he can leave gaps in front of the back line and his reading of the game, while strong, isn’t necessarily at the same level as his other attributes. Nevertheless, his defensive game is still a major improvement on the Magpies current options.
What makes Guimarães such a decisive signing is that he improves Newcastle in every phase of play. Their build-up play, chance creation, transitions, and defensive security will all improve due to his sheer quality relative to their existing midfield options.
His range of traits can also complement different Newcastle midfielders in differing ways, such as providing more defensive security to the deep-lying creative presence of Jonjoe Shelvey or adding more ball progression to the the energy and dynamism of Joe Willock. In the future, he can complement other midfield targets well.
Eddie Howe has secured a player who could be a key cog in his midfield for seasons to come and match Newcastle’s ambitions of being a top four side. While other January signings may make a more immediate and visible impact, it’s hard to find any player who can make such a holistic and potentially long-lasting impact on their team as Bruno Guimarães.