As much as all of us love football, it’s hard enough keeping up with just Fiorentina and Serie A, much less other leagues around the world. Unfortunately, the Swiss League is not a league that we follow or know much about. That’s why Fiorentina’s signing of Arthur Cabral (which is everything but official) left us wondering, who exactly are we getting here? While Youtube highlights offer an enticing glance at a player, hearing from someone who’s actually watched Cabral develop would be ideal.
That’s why we’ve talked to Oliver Zesiger to give us some finer details on what type of player Cabral is. Zesiger (follow him on twitter here) is both a football scout and the co-head of Switzerland research for the popular Football Manager franchise. He’s also a long-time FC Basel fan, so there’s no one better to talk to about Cabral.
Viola Nation: Let’s start generally. How has Cabral’s role within the club changed since he arrived at Basel two and half years ago, and how important is he to the team now?
Oliver Zesiger: Cabral first arrived at Basel in August 2019, the day before the transfer deadline. He was only a loan-signing after Basel needed a replacement for Albian Ajeti. The recruitment team followed him for quite a while before the transfer happened. He was an instant success, scoring three goals in his first three league games and claiming the starter spot from the beginning. At first, fans were happy to see a good replacement for one of their own, Ajeti. At the end of the season, it was clear that Basel will sign him permanently and that he’ll be the go-to striker going into the 2020/21 season.
Nowadays he’s the best player in the league and a major part of why Basel has played a decently successful season so far. Cabral himself credits current Basel manager Patrick Rahmen for his development which resulted in another jump in performance this season. 27 goals in 31 games is an astonishing statistic for a player in Switzerland.
VN: In Dušan Vlahovic we are losing a striker who can do just about everything, from target-man to poacher to someone pacy who can get in behind. Is Cabral similar, or is he more specialized in one aspect of being a center-forward?
OZ: Arthur is a centre-forward with similar qualities. He can hold up the ball when playing with his back to the goal. But he is also able to run onto the defender with the ball on his feet. He feels most comfortable within the opponent’s 18 yard box, though. This is where he shines as he has a nose for the right movement. He also tries to get a part of his body onto every ball played into the box. He has the will to score goals and he shows it often. But that’s not everything. Don’t let him shoot from outside the box. He scored a wonder goal against FC Zurich this season, where he smashed the ball into the net from 35 yards out. Technically he’s good, with the occasional miscontrol when running with the ball, and he has decent speed. He excels with his physicality though. He is able to push off defenders and create a yard of space for himself.
VN: Vincenzo Italiano plays a high-pressing, quick passing system in which Cabral will be asked to hold up play and combine with wingers with the ball. Defensively, he’ll want him pressing often and intelligently. How does he fit into that style?
OZ: Basel wants the ball in their feet and when they don’t have it, they want it back quickly. They are not a counter-pressing side though. While he works hard, Cabral could show some more effort and intelligence in pressing. He has shown it from time to time, but he needs to show it on a consistent basis when playing in Serie A. I believe he can do it.
Once the ball is won, he only has one thing in mind and that’s getting into the box as quickly as possible.
VN: One of Dušan’s only weaknesses is his lack of a weak foot. Is Cabral’s weak foot good enough to keep defenders honest?
OZ: Arthur is naturally right-footed but he’s able to dribble with his left as well. As I said before, he tries to deflect what comes into the box onto the goal, for which he also uses his left foot. It’s not a strength, but he is able to play with his left.
VN: What part of playing at a higher level do you think will be most difficult for Cabral to adapt to?
OZ: One thing I already mentioned is the ability to consistently press opponents. He will need to step up. Of course, he will play against better teams and players week in and week out, which will make it harder for him to create chances. But he has so many ways to score, he should be able to make that step. He’s also a safe penalty taker. I can only remember one penalty that he’s missed in his two and a half years in Basel.
VN: If you have much of an idea, what’s Cabral’s personality like off the pitch?
OZ: While he can be expressive on the pitch, he’s rather shy and gentle off it. He’s humble and takes time to talk to fans or pose for pictures. He is also appreciative of the city of Basel. Something I would assume will be the same in Florence. It seems like he needs to be appreciated to show his best performances. But when he is, he pays it back in spades.
VN: Lastly, you’ve seen so many talented players such as Mohamed Salah and Ivan Rakitic develop with Basel and go on to the heights of European football. Do you think Cabral has the ability to follow in their footsteps and is this money well spent by Fiorentina?
OZ: Will he reach the heights of Salah or Rakitic? That’s tough. But he is a good player. It’s no wonder that he was the first player out of Switzerland to be nominated for the Brazilian National Team for over 20 years. I think Fiorentina spent their money wisely on him. Goalscorers are usually expensive on the market and while he costs a pretty penny, there is a good chance that the club will get their money back and maybe even more. It all depends on how quickly he is able to adapt to Serie A. Just one thing: don’t compare him to Dusan Vlahovic. And while there are similarities, Cabral is a different player and you’re not doing anyone a favour by comparing the two.
Huge thanks to Oliver for doing this, as said above you can follow him on twitter here. After Oliver’s words, I’m convinced Cabral is the right player to be starting the post-Dušan era with.