We’ve heard a lot about Big Wes, but outside of a few clips and highlight videos, we haven’t really gotten a great feel for his game. This preseason game against Minnesota United in the US was the first look that we got of the big Brazilian and I was quite excited.
Not knowing much about the player, but hearing about his size/strength, I figured that we got a target man and a different player that Smith used during his time with Villa. Seeing a long ball from the goalie towards Wesley got me a little nervous that we were going to turn into a route one team, at least doing it more when he was on the pitch.
But as it turns out, Dean Smith and the board might know what they are doing, as it seems that they have added a player that can replicate what Tammy gave us last year. That was the only time that we sent a long ball towards the Brazilian’s head and the rest of the game, we kept the ball on the floor during build up play with Wesley playing a big part in that. It’s reassuring that Villa looked more or less the same as they did playing in the Championship with Moraes playing the role of target man, but receiving the ball at his feet and linking up (or attempting to) with his wingers/midfielders:
It appears as if Wesley does a good job of making quick decisions, he had a number of quick one touch passes and always seemed to know where he wanted to go with the ball, making the correct decisions more time than not. He also showed the skill and the footwork to actually get the ball to his teammates and execute what he was seeing and even when he had to take a few touches
Wesley’s quick feet/decision making was impressive and on display on his early shot attempt:
Here he was able to link up Targett a few different times before finding the space to curl a shot that was pretty close to getting on target.
The ability to link up with his teammates seems to be just one part of the striker’s job in Dean Smith’s system. The other is being able to make yourself available to teammates in the box. In this area, Wesley also seems to get a passing grade. His movement was pretty good throughout and he was able to find space consistently in the box.
Now getting in position is one thing, but the ability to capitalize on it is another thing completely. You can argue that Wesley looked his worst when he got his best chance of the match. He had a pretty clean header with the chance of getting it on target, but missed and sent it over the bar:
We shouldn’t judge a striker on one miss and he did a good job of putting himself in good positions throughout the match, but you would hope he’d finish an opportunity like this.
Overall, I thought that Wesley’s first game was pretty encouraging. He showed he can work in Dean Smith’s system and that he is comfortable using his feet to link up play and can put himself in good positions to create scoring chances. Hopefully as he continues to play and get more comfortable with his teammates he will be able to take advantage of these chances and look better in the future. Of course there is this disclaimer: While Wesley did do a good job of creating/finding space and picking out teammates, the quality of opponent may have had something to do with it as well. It will be interesting if he can replicate this type of style against better competition.