Updated: Jul 28
As one of Atlanta United's Designated Players and an ex-Ligue 1 winner there were and still are very high expectations placed on Araujo to generate goals in the attack, whether that is through assisting them or scoring them. And we saw a really exciting Luiz Araujo in the preseason, and especially in the American Family Insurance Cup, but in the season opener his play was disappointing. Obviously, you can't judge a player off of one game but as this is his second season you would hope he is at least starting to click in the team.
Getting Into The Box
Probably the most pronounced difference between preseason Luiz Araujo and last season and home opener Araujo was him getting into the box when dribbling. This was seen in his goal in the AMFAM Cup, he got on the ball on the right wing and dribbled past a couple defenders to-crucially-get not to the edge of the box put just inside it. He then was able to slot his shot past the goalkeeper and just inside the near post.
This is because when looking at this map of all goals scored in the 2016 European Championship you will notice that most of the goals are scored right around the penalty spot and inside the box, not from his average distance of 21 yards out (21st percentile of MLS wingers and attacking midfielders) which is where he has been launching lots of shots in the past. Including all five of his non-penalty shots in the home opener, none of which were on target (1 blocked 4 off target).
Looking on the more positive side of his attacking play Araujo does have an impressive 4.77 progressive carries per 90 minutes putting him in the 96th percentile, this means that he dribbles the ball at least 10 yards past where the team has maintained possession in the last 6 passes on average 4 or 5 times a game. This is really encouraging because it shows his desire to get the ball and take on defenders and, crucially, get passed them. These runs have also clearly been leading to shots as he is in the 99th percentile of MLS wingers for take-ons resulting in a shot with .66 per 90, if only he took a few more touches before shooting. He also has impressive carries into the final third and penalty area, in the 96th and 89th percentile in those statistics respectively.
Playing As A Provider
Outside of scoring goals the other main aspect of a winger's game is creating chances for their teammates. This will be especially important this season as he will be tasked with feeding incoming striker Giakoumakis and World Cup winner Thiago Almada. This makes a couple of stats, outside of just assists, especially important to understanding his creative output. These are passes completed, passes completed based on length, and progressive passes which is one of my favorite stats.
Of the most basing stats to look at Araujo's basic volume of passes is simply passes completed. In his last full MLS season, 2022, Araujo completed 27.83 passes per 90 of 38.49 attempted, both of which are around the 50th percentile for MLS attacking midfielders and wingers. Looking at different lengths of passes Luiz completes 13.24 short passes per 90 putting him at the 40th percentile, which in my very attack minded point of view is good because it means that he isn't getting the ball and dumping it off to someone 6 yards away. If I were being critical I would then look at his medium length passes completed and be disappointed because the two pass categories that are most important are mid and long range and his pass completion percentage for medium length passes isn't great, but his long passing stats are very good. Araujo completes 3.54 long passes per 90 putting him in the 74th percentile with a decent 53.8% completion rate. I put such a big emphasis on long passes as it allows him to come back more when we are defending and then get on the ball and either run or play a long ball which we saw in some counter attacks in the San Jose game.
Onto one of my favorite attacking stats, progressive passes. This is a completed pass that moves the ball down the field at least 10 yards past it's furthest point in the last six passes, and Araujo averages 4.4 of these passes per 90 minutes which puts him in the 57th percentile for attacking midfielders and wingers in MLS. This is one of the most important stats to me because it matches his statistics for overall completed passes. He isn't necessarily looking to play people through and progress the play with his passing, at least not anymore than any average MLS winger or attacking midfielder.
Looking at some non-passing creative stats there are some very interesting data points. Araujo is in the 83rd percentile for all shot-creating actions for MLS wingers with 4.73 per 90, the Brazilian also averages .62 shots per game leading to other shots, putting him in the 99th percentile. This has two main takeaways, one good and one bad, the first is that Araujo is taking shots that aren't getting all the way through to the keeper as the easiest way for a shot to result in another shot is for it to be blocked. On the more positive note it means that the team as a whole is good at getting on loose balls and getting shots off from these second chances.
FBREF is a really good website with really good in-depth statistics and a similar players feature. Looking at this feature for Luiz Araujo in the MLS the top three most similar players are Brian Rodriguez of LAFC, Federico Bernardeschi of Toronto FC, and a familiar face in Marcelino Moreno. These players offer some very interesting insights into Araujo as he and Rodriguez share some really similar expected goals and assists per minute stats. They have very different shooting stats, though, as Luiz let loose far more than Rodriguez, although they have very similar shot on target rates of 32% and 32.01%. As far as passing the Brazilian has far better passing stats than the Uruguayan, even taking into account his more game time.
All in all, Luiz Araujo is a player with really high potential who is doing lots of things right, even if there are some flaws to his game. His high points looking at the statistics are his willingness to take on defenders and his success in getting by them and getting off a shot, as well as his progressive passes with an impressive 2,803 yards of progressive passes in the 2022 season.