The Background-Initial promise and the Injuries that halted growth
It’s been 4 years since Pedro Neto first arrived from Lazio during the Nuno Era of Wolves, a side that was still finding it’s feet in the Premier League and after what was a nightmare stint at Lazio barely making 4 appearances it’s hard not to imagine the pressure Neto had.
Following an impressive stint under Nuno especially in the 2020/21 season with 5 goals and 6 assists, he was tipped to take the next step before his knee injury in April 2021, halted his growth, making his return only in February 2022 and an ankle injury in September 2022 sidelined him coming back only in March this year.
Pedro Neto’s Role in O Neil’s System: The Catalyst in the return of his form
Pic 2, 3, 4: How O Neil’ system achieves to isolate Pedro Neto in dangerous areas for 1v1’s
As Neto storms his way into 3 assists already in the first four games of a young Premier League season for Wolves, it’s hard not to say WHY Gary O Neil’s system is the real catalyst that’s enabling Neto to perform well.
Against Everton, Wolves with a 5-4-1 block largely looked to play on transitions, in other words play Everton’s own game against them. With that Neto was allowed to largely make runs behind Fullbacks when possession was won or into box when needed as seen in Pics 3 and 4. These cases ensured Wolves isolated Neto against Fullbacks, giving him free hand to make decisions in final 3rd.
Pic 5: Pedro Neto played on left against Palace
Against Palace, Gary O’Neil played Neto on the left, despite the result being against Wolves, Neto was able to get 2 assists in the game. Once again O’Neil’s utilization of fullback Ait-Nouri to make inward overlaps meant Palace CB’s usually didn’t engage to make 2v1’s against Neto, giving platform for him to run past Palace RB Joel Ward often.
Pic 6: A Performance Map of Pedro Neto’s Last 3 games
Perhaps the performance map offers a bit more insight into his role: He receives very close to touchline, often playing combinations with midfielders or Fullbacks that underlap him (hence very few passes in all 3 games where he’s played it inside to outside), putting him in more 1v1’s often and with likes of Sasa Kalajdžić featuring regularly for Wolves, more crosses into box from wide areas for the Austrian target man who got the winner against Everton from Neto’s assist.
The above Viz perhaps also shows Neto’s ability to carry the ball more often than be a passer of the ball for sake of it, against Everton he recorded more Carries than passes, seemingly moving the ball more with his feet against opponent than looking to release to his teammate when he receives the ball, primarily hinting his role as the Progressor than Wide Creator ( even if in Final 3rd he’s encouraged to make Key passes for the team which is a point we touch next)
Pic 7: Expected Goals (xG) vs Expected Assists Per90 for PL forwards
And talking about what Pedro Neto does in Final 3rd, we see the best evidence in above graph where Neto is ranked very high in terms of Expected Assists (xA) Per90, providing evidence that outside of final 3rd his role is primarily being the progressor while accumulating higher xA shows in final 3rd his job comes down to being the source of threatening passes.
Pedro Neto – a Conclusion
With plenty of the season to go, Neto’s bound to put some solid numbers irrespective of the overall results at the Molineux Stadium as long as Gary O’Neil stays as the Wolves coach and as long as Neto’s physical problems don’t hinder his growth again. This might also be the season where Neto’s campaign can finally earn maybe a move outside of West Midlands despite the loyalty he has shown for the club in the past four years.