Manuel Veth –
Krasnodar have signed Feyenoord attacking midfielder Tonny Vilhena. Linked with several teams in Western Europe, including Bayer Leverkusen, the Dutch midfielder was brought in to help secure Champions League qualification but also to compensate for the injury sustained by Swedish attacking midfielder Viktor Claesson.
Viktor Claesson’s injury in June was a significant shock for Krasnodar. The Swedish attacking midfielder tore his ACL on June 10 during Sweden’s European Championship qualification match against Spain. It was a major shock for Krasnodar, the Russian club, after all, had finished third last season and will enter the Champions League in the third round of qualifying, which will start in early August.
It is a bit like a poker online game for Krasnodar. Losing one of their best cards they now hope that reshuffling the deck by signing Tonny Vilhena will help the club qualify for the Champions League.
Tony Vilhena – Positional differences
The 24-year-old Tonny Vilhena joins Krasnodar after scoring six goals and seven assists in the Dutch Eredivisie last season. Furthermore, Vilhena was on the pitch in 95% of Feyenoord’s overall playing time this season and involved in 17% of the club’s goals. But unlike Claesson, he played in a more central role for the Dutch side.
Whereas Claesson likes plays almost like an inverted playmaking winger Tonny Vilhena sits much deeper in the field. More of a quarterback than an attacking midfielder he still likes to get involved when his side wins the ball and rushes forward.
At the same time, both players are capable of playing on the left flank. Going by the Wyscout heatmap Tonny Vilhena often operates in the same areas as Claesson. But whereas Claesson seems to primarily operate in the final third Tonny Vilhena covers both the final third but also the area between the box and the middle line.
Hence, Tonny Vilhena almost provides an upgrade in that regard on the left-flank. A player capable of operating both defensively and offensively. That, in turn, could allow head coach Murad Musaev to switch his formation from his prefered 4-3-3 to a 3-5-3 in which Vilhena could play almost like a wing-back.
More tactical flexibility
It allows for more tactical flexibility. What you do, however, lose in the process is goal productivity. Claesson scored 19 goals in all competition in the last calendar year. Vilhena, however, managed just seven — although in 12 fewer games. An important aspect to consider, especially when one adds the fact that Claesson produced the vast majority of those goals playing in the Russian Premier Liga, which in comparison to the Eredivisie is a much more defensive oriented competition.
In fact, in Claesson, Krasnodar are losing their most productive player. Vilhena and other squad players like Shapi Suleymanov could go some way to compensate in the loss of production, however.
Furthermore, in Vilhena Krasnodar add another important element to their passing game. The short-pass buildup with quick attacks is, in fact, an important part of the DNA for this Krasnodar side under Musaev.
Tonny Vilhena played 46.47 passes per 90 minutes last season, which would rank him third among Krasnodar’s attacking players. Furthermore, only Kristoffer Olsson completed more passes (86.26% per 90 minutes) than Krasnodar’s new Dutch signing.
Hence, Tonny Vilhena will not be a one-to-one replacement for the injured Claesson. Indeed it might be impossible to replace the Swedish attacking midfielder, but Vilhena’s addition to the team will give Krasnodar more depth and also more tactical flexibility going forward.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.