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Is João Cancelo’s penalty box defending an issue?

João Cancelo in action for Manchester City / GETTY IMAGES
João Cancelo in action for Manchester City / GETTY IMAGES

Many Barça fans are questioning Xavi’s decision to land Joao Cancelo as a new right-back after the departure of Ousmane Dembélé.

Some are concerned about his attitude and how it might affect the locker-room, while others are concerned about his poor penalty box defending. Here’s what I think.

Joao Cancelo is a top attacking full-back and an elite creator. He’s well equipped with the necessary skills to make wide runs and also invert into the midfield.

In the 2021/22 season, the Portuguese right-back contributed 7 assists and 1 goal in 36 games; very good numbers in a Manchester city side that’s stacked with elite creators.

Cancelo despite being offensively solid is the subject of Barça fans’ many complaints about his penalty box defending. This flaw is what led to Kai Havertz’ goal for Chelsea against Manchester city in the 2021 UEFA Champions League final.

Despite this flaw, Xavi is hellbent on landing the Portuguese right-back and I totally understand why. With a backline of Baldé, Koundé, Christensen, Araujo and Iñigo; Cancelo is well covered.

He’ll mostly be playing beside Ronald Araujo who operates as a right center-back, and Araujo is among the best 1-on-1 center-backs in the world right now.

Taking this into consideration, I don’t think Cancelo’s penalty box flaw will be an issue.

Other Barça fans also argue that the player has attitude issues, which according to reports appears to be true. It is also the reason why he reportedly fell out with Pep and had to be shipped out on loan to Bayern last winter.

Personally, I think Xavi is a master at managing such players. Taking the Aubameyang-Arteta case into consideration, Auba fell out with his coach at Arsenal and that led to the Gabonese striker’s departure to Barça the following window.

Aubameyang was prolific for Barça and was one of the most influential players in the locker room. There was no report of attitude issues through out his stay at Barça until he departed for Chelsea last season.

Taking all these into consideration, I would expect Cancelo to flourish alongside Raphinha on the right-hand side when he finally makes the move to the Catalan club. He can also play as a left-back as he did for Manchester City on multiple occasions..