Matheus Cunha is one of the most fascinating players Wolves have on their books at the moment.
The Brazilian arrived at the club back in January, on an initial loan basis.
Wanderers have paid £44 million for his permanent transfer, which is a club record.
So far, Cunha has made 25 appearances for Wolves.
He’s scored three goals and laid on one assist, which are very disappointing numbers for a ‘striker’.
Wolves reportedly signed Cunha to operate as a central striker, and also potentially play out wide.
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That felt strange at the time, because Cunha was more successful playing for Atleti and Hertha Berlin as a second striker.
Cunha has been deployed as line-leading striker several times for Wolves now. And it just doesn’t work.
He’s never been prolific, and it is doubtful that will change.
But this does not mean that Cunha will turn out to be a bad signing for Wolves.
Because there has been another player like this in the Premier League in recent years.
Having struggled as a striker, he underwent a radical and unlikely transformation – and became one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the division…
There are shades of Joelinton with Matheus Cunha, who could benefit from a similar transformation
Joelinton arrived at Newcastle United in 2019 for £40 million – which was a club record at the time.
He took the number nine shirt at St. James’ Park – and it quickly became apparent that the role, the shirt number and the transfer fee was all too much for him.
He really struggled in front of goal, against cries from fans that he wasn’t a line-leading striker.
After Eddie Howe came in, things changed dramatically for Joelinton.
He was pushed pack into midfield and told to use his physicality and ball-carrying ability.
Joelinton absolutely thrived, and is now widely regarded as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the Premier League. It is an arc very few people saw coming.
Cunha is not as muscular as his fellow Brazilian. But he is probably a better ball carrier. And he works his socks off.
It just feels as though there are a lot of parallels here with Joelinton’s early situation at Newcastle.
Cunha’s finishing is really poor. It is as though panic sets in when he gets in front of goal.
Maybe Gary O’Neil – who questioned the player’s positioning after the defeat to Liverpool – needs to look at what Eddie Howe did with Joelinton, and try to instigate a similar transformation.
This could then allow for someone like Sasa Kalajdzic and/or Fabio Silva – who are natural, line-leading strikers – to play through the middle.
Cunha’s energy, tracking back and ball carrying are all absolutely brilliant.
Maybe it would be a perfect role for him.