Fiorentina’s midfielder Felipe Melo is tidy and uncomplicated, just like another certain Brazilian at Arsenal although it’s his power which has turned many heads.
They say it takes a player three years to come through the Arsenal world-wide scouting system but it seems highly unlikely Melo would have been on Arsenal’s radar for that long. For many fans, a couple of Youtube videos have convinced them that the midfielder is the real deal however his matches for Brazil leave a lot to be desired.
Since 2001, Felipe Melo has turned out for seven different clubs and after a strong season with Almeria of Spain resulting in a move to Fiorentina, he seems to have found his true calling. The increasingly globalised and homogenised game, has found a place for a player like Melo in Brazil whereas ten years ago he may have struggled. Alongside Gilberto Silva in a 4-2-3-1, the purists may hate it but there is no doubt the pair provide a solid base.
The two play contrasting roles for Brazil; Gilberto likes to mark from distance, always keeping an eye for the attacking and then getting close to the man. Melo on the other hand likes to get to the ball quickly, preferring to play with what’s in front of him.
Against Egypt, the duo found it difficult to get to grips with the the African champion’s movement and passing, especially of Abo Terika in particular. Full backs Dani Alves and Kleber were made the scapegoats by Dunga after conceding three goals as he dropped the two for the next game although the weak cover in front of the defence exposed the centre backs meaning the full backs always had to make the space. Egypt’s superior possession count showed there must be improvements in awareness and positional play from Melo and Silva.
USA was less of a test as the opposition looked uninspired and never really posed a threat. Melo got his goal; a powerful header and it is his height that could bring balance to a team. In possession he was tidy and uncomplicated, keeping the ball moving however his unwillingness to take the ball off the centre backs was concerning. A couple of times, he almost hid behind a USA player rather than asking for the ball. It was Gilberto Silva who made their bigger presence felt but in truth both had average games.
Next came Italy, which was thought to be the sternest test however Felipe Melo came out unscathed. Italy’s uninspired performance failed to show both the bright side and also the weaknesses of Dunga’s central midfield. This time Melo was more demanding of the ball though not a huge leap. He certainly can pass the ball and in the second half, initiated a few attacks. His power with the ball also showed, making some telling bursts although power does not mean his tackling is all that strong.
A good interception was followed by a challenge which had him nearly falling backwards from the impact. Pirlo skipped easily away from Melo on a couple of occasions and the Brazilian looked ambling at times. Tracking back, he knows the danger areas of pitch as he took his place at the edge of the area when the opposition broke forward but the problem against USA was that he had no-one to mark. Against Italy, he repeated the same trick; one time it lead to a headed clearance, another nothing but at least he knows the danger areas. However against Spain he could be found marking space rather than a man and could get punished.
Gilberto Silva had the main man-marking duties therefore there wasn’t much to tell about Melo’s pros and cons in this department although he did follow his man a few times. He certainly prefers to mark what’s in front of him and then get to the ball quickly. He performed this very well but the best defensive midfielders constantly look over their shoulders and Melo failed to do so.
He is mobile and athletic and that lends it self well but I would have some reservations about him without someone like Gilberto alongside. At Fiorentina, the club play a three man midfield therefore displacing some of the risks on him and he still ended the season with 17 yellow cards and three red cards. Could he perform as solidly at Arsenal where the mantle will be greater covering for Fabregas and the full backs who look to push forward? What about the high line? He needs to be positionally very aware and on his toes something Denilson is just ahead of. However his power is what teams desire and in that regard he is stronger therefore pushing his value up.
Overall, it would be understandable if one was to feel slightly underwhelmed by Felipe Melo. He has talent and you feel that he could offer more but modern football is all about individuals like Kaka and Robinho balanced by specialists like….well, Gilberto and Melo. And you can’t help but feel that the Brazilian is happy playing in this way.
Scout Report Card:
Position Defensive Midfielder
Weight 11st 7lbs (73 kg)
Vision and Awareness 6
Team responsibility 8