PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Fábio Carvalho?
Fulham’s latest teenage sensation, Fábio Carvalho has started his first ever Championship season pretty strongly – after four games, Carvalho (four) is joint-top among his teammates for goals plus assists. Only Aleksandar Mitrović can match the Englishman for direct goal involvements.
Of course, Fulham’s academy is a productive and well known one. Among the list of their academy graduates born in the 21st century, you’ll find the likes of Harvey Elliot, Sessegnon brothers Ryan and Steven, Djed Spence, Matt O’Riley, Timmy Abraham and now Fabio Carvalho.
Born in Lisbon, the now-19-year-old joined Fulham’s academy in 2014, and in the Premier League 2 – the top level of youth football in England – last season he clocked 17 goal involvements in just 1,139 onfield minutes. That’s a goal involvement every 67 minutes. He ranked seventh overall in the scoring charts, netting 11 goals, but Manchester City’s Liam Delap (24 – the league’s golden boot winner) and Aston Villa’s Louie Barry (13) were the only two under-18s to score more than Carvalho.
Fábio Carvalho's Style of Play
As a finisher, Carvalho is an interesting case study. His competence to operate practically anywhere in the final third – in terms of role and on-ball actions – has led to an interesting variety in terms of shots and goals. Transfermarkt data has Carvalho primarily operating in a number ten role, but he has operated out on both flanks too.
He just loves being on the ball, and will often drop deep in central areas to receive and link play in build-up, allowing him then to make late runs from deep to attack crosses or run in-behind opposition defences. Opta data has Carvalho involved in 25 shot-ending sequences in the first four Championship games – that’s the most of any player by three, and four such sequences have ended in goals.
His first ever Premier League goal – against Southampton at the tail end of last season – saw exactly this involvement. By the way, he was the third youngest scorer in the league last season; Carvalho touches the ball four times in the sequence, where Fulham recycle a corner back to their goalkeeper.
An up-back-through pattern sees Carvalho drop to the half-way line to set a midfield-splitting pass from Tosin Adarabioyo into Harrison Reed, who feeds Onomah. The ball works back to Carvalho, who sprays it wide before making a run across Jack Stephens to latch onto a through ball, and fire high into the roof of the net.
Similarly, his goal at Millwall involved a diagonal run from deep – as Fulham countered – straight between the two central defenders; the straight through ball into him was converted with just one touch, again into that near post zone. Carvalho is certainly an intelligent forward, almost always making a point to glance at the goalkeeper’s position before dropping his head to see the ball as he strikes it – he did such for goals against Millwall and Southampon, and after the game stated “I saw a gap in the near post and I just put it in”.
Such vision undoubtedly helps his finishing performance; as per Wyscout data, among under-21 forwards (15+ shots taken) in all senior competitions over the past year, he is the most accurate shooter, hitting the target with 52% of his efforts, and he ranks third for shots taken per game.
Opta data also ranks his expected goals on target (xGOT) above his expected goals. The latter is an objective measure of chance quality based on shot location, assist method and defenders between the ball and goal (among other things), whereas the former evaluates the probability of the shot being scored, based on where it goes in the goal – in other words, statistically, he is such a good finisher that he turns good chances into great ones.
His finishing is not limited to through balls, though. Against Hull, he again dropped deep to look to receive from Adarabioyo, but when the ball went out to the left flank, he made a run from out to in to receive Antonee Robinson’s cross from the left – his first touch (albeit a bit heavy) took him past the back-line, and with his second touch he slotted past Matt Ingram. Similarly, at Huddersfield, he showed composure and technique to allow a set pass from the left to run across him, firing low into the bottom right with his stronger right-foot.
As a creator, Carvalho shows similar patterns to when he is the one shooting; after four games, he has recorded as many chances created (10) as shots taken. Aggregating those numbers, Carvalho is directly involved in almost a third of the Whites’ shots so far this Championship season, and he is one of just 7 players to have double digits in chance creation, whilst he and Cardiff’s Ryan Giles are the only under-21s in that list.
His diagonal runs in-behind and into the channels/half-spaces are particularly dangerous, as he receives penetrating passes which he creates crossing and cutback opportunities with after driving to the by-line. Against Millwall, for the opening goal, Carvalho was actually depeer than the Millwall midfield line when Adarabioyo had possession, but as soon as the ball went wide to Antonee Robinson, he makes that darting run in-behind; he clearly has a good on-field relationship with the American.
Carvalho doesn’t need a great pass into him either, he has immense on-ball running speed and has the most key pass-ending carries in the Championship (four), as per Opta data. At the Den, he received the ball, hit the by-line and cut it back for Mitro – that will surely be a pattern.
He can work off more intricate combinations, too, occasionally popping up on the left to receive; again, driving inside onto his preferred right foot, Carvalho combines with shorter one-twos, and frequently makes runs beyond the ball when passing to teammates.
Closer to goal, the Englishman still shows the composure to slide the ball wide to team-mates when he receives a cross and the shot is not on. His patience to not force shots is further reflected in his average shot quality being around a third above the Premier League average.
Forecasting Fábio Carvalho's Future Prospects
In terms of his development, Fulham seems like the ideal place right now – thriving so far under Marco Silva, they rank among the top three Championship sides for average possession share, shots per game and total goals scored, whilst the Whites top the Championship pile. A team thriving with attacking quality, both in wide areas and up-front, all the ingredients – service from full backs and central defenders, forwards to combine with and provide for – are there for Carvalho to have a fantastic breakout season.
Fabio Carvalho’s versatility, as well as his ability to combine with team-mates in the attacking third is key to his success.
Carvalho suits Fulham’s team; they possess the ball a lot and have a great attack. However, his lack of experiences leaves question marks at how he would perform in a more defensive set-up.