Chelsea's Lucas Piazon: What Now After Bundesliga Failure?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentMay 27, 2015

Frankfurt's Lucas Piazon from Brazil, right, and Leverkusen's Wendell from Brazil challenge for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt in Leverkusen, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Chelsea's Brazilian left attacking midfielder Lucas Piazon, 21, faces an undetermined career path after stumbling on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt.

The step up to the Bundesliga was too steep for Piazon.

Eintracht Frankfurt @Eintracht

Willkommen @LucasPiazon! Der beim FC Chelsea unter Vertrag stehende Spieler wechselt für die kommende Saison zur #SGE http://t.co/nsiSEyTqhi

Back To The Drawing Board

Cleber, Johan Djourou, Nicolai Muller and Pierre-Michel Lasogga formed an improvised barrier for Hamburg as they stared down Piazon.

Having spent 85 minutes on the bench before being subbed on, Piazon strolled around the pitch for several minutes prior to referee Florian Meyer whistling for a foul in favour of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Piazon was closer to the centre-circle than to Jaroslav Drobny, Hamburg's goalkeeper.

Timothy Chandler motioned for Piazon to step up to the ball. Haris Seferovic, who had already scored, provided words of encouragement to Piazon.

The result: a Juninho Pernambucano-like free kick flying over Hamburg's wall and plummeting into the back of the net.

Piazon's swing of a boot ensured Eintracht Frankfurt turned one point into three points, beating Hamburg 2-1.

It was one of Piazon's three touches that game.

Evading Bastian Oczipka and Makoto Hasebe in celebration, Piazon couldn't dodge Seferovic's one-armed hug.

"Haris [Seferovic] and Timothy [Chandler] came over and [told me] 'It's the 88th minute, it's a big chance—you can take it'," Piazon said, per Michael Reis at the Bundesliga's website. "I had the ball, and that gave me a lot of self-belief. I was happy that I hit the ball so well. It was a great goal."

The comradery of the Eintracht Frankfurt dressing room endeared Piazon to the club.

"Everyone in the club, the players [and] the coaching staff have welcomed me very well," Piazon said, per the Frankfurter Rundschau (h/t Jonathan Walsh at Vavel). "Football is crazy, maybe I'll stay here forever."

Unbeknownst to Piazon, he would wait another four months before scoring in the Bundesliga again.

Outjumping Joel Matip, Piazon nodded a Chandler cross past Timon Wellenreuther in Eintracht Frankfurt's 1-0 win over Schalke.

It was another match-winning goal from Piazon in then-Eintracht Frankfurt manager Thomas Schaaf's 500th game as a Bundesliga coach. 

Schaaf was lukewarm to Piazon, who started 50 per cent of games he was involved in, generally shuffling up and down the left-wing.

"I think I am still adapting, and [Schaaf] knows that. He told us what he expects us to do, and it is a little bit different from what I was used to at Vitesse. It's more defensive-minded [at Eintracht Frankfurt] than at Vitesse," Piazon said, per Samindra Kunti at Bleacher Report. "I stay at the halfway line and I have more defensive duties."

Piazon's average positioning and heat map via WhoScored
Piazon's average positioning and heat map via WhoScoredMainz 3-1 Eintracht Frankfurt (21/2/15)
Bundesliga English @Bundesliga_EN

Happy 54th birthday to @eintracht_eng's Thomas Schaaf The Eagles visit his former club @werderbremen_en on Saturday http://t.co/ybiFozM6Vt

Diligently adhering to Schaaf's tactics, Piazon accumulated 1.5 tackles per game, which increased to 2.7 when adjusted to tackles per 90 minutes.

Piazon was a workhorse as his tackles per 90 minutes was higher than Eden Hazard, Oscar, Ramires and Willian.

Lucas Piazon1.52.751.6
Eden Hazard0.70.754.9

Tackles per game. Tackles per 90 minutes. Tackle success per cent.

The Eintracht Frankfurt loan shored up Piazon's off-the-ball defending, a prerequisite under Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

"[Chelsea] did it both ways," Mourinho said, per Sky Sports. "Scoring a lot, conceding some. Scoring one goal and conceding no goals ... and sometimes [we] brought the bus."

Running after opposing players rather than dribbling at them adversely affected Piazon's end product. 

Alexander Madlung, a centre-back, outscored (four goals) Piazon (two goals).

Lucas Piazon @LucasPiazon

A new challenge. http://t.co/eghWruj23p

Adjusting to a new role shackled with defensive duties reduced Piazon to a footballer without a definitive use—neither a scorer, creator nor a prolific ball-winner.

Piazon started and ended 29.4 per cent of games on the bench. It was clear that he was unprepared for the intensity of the Bundesliga.

"The playing style [in Germany] was difficult at first, very physical and fast. But I am learning and I'm improving," Piazon said, per Bild (h/t Stephan Uersfeld at ESPN FC). "I would really like to stay [at Eintracht Frankfurt]."

Piazon failed to successfully transition from the Eredivisie to the Bundesliga. Like Marcus Berg, who never replicated his Groningen scoring rate at Hamburg, Piazon hit a brick wall and couldn't recover.

Lucas PiazonEintracht Frankfurt 2014-15Vitesse 2013-14

Goals/games. Starting per cent (games involved). Shots per goal. Shooting accuracy per cent. Assists. Key passes per 90 minutes. Pass success per cent.

Why didn't Schaaf build the team around Piazon?

Bundesliga English @Bundesliga_EN

Top scorer @eintracht_eng's Alexander Meier finishes top of the #Bundesliga goal pile http://t.co/MmpHWrB7wO http://t.co/1nb7vnUrY3

Eintracht Frankfurt's attack revolved around Alexander Meier, who was complemented by Seferovic.

Meier led the Bundesliga in scoring (19 goals) even though he missed eight games. Seferovic scored and created a combined 15 goals (10 goals, five assists).

Once Marc Stendera, an Isco-type player, began demanding the ball more, Eintracht Frankfurt allowed their German wonderkid to begin dictating play. 

Eintracht Frankfurt @eintracht_eng

STENDERA Happy 19th birthday, Marc Stendera! #SGE #Eintracht http://t.co/9s9DfaPFMc

Schaaf identified Luca Waldschmidt and Stendera as Eintracht Frankfurt's future, per Andreas Kotter at the Bundesliga's website.

The large majority of Waldschmidt's campaign was spent in rehabilitation.

He started as a left-winger in Eintracht Frankfurt's 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, the final game of the season.

In a 7-0 friendly win over minnows FC Sportfreunde, Waldschmidt scored four goals.

Waldschmidt is working towards a breakout campaign next season and it is natural for Eintracht Frankfurt sporting director Bruno Hubner to back his prospects.

Eintracht Frankfurt @Eintracht

Die #SGE wünscht Luca Waldschmidt alles Gute zum 19. Geburtstag! http://t.co/1AZZRhUtOC

Hubner should be aiming to deal away players with transfer stocks reminiscent of Anthony Yeboah, Jay Jay Okocha and Lajos Detari.

That plan is stymied when a loanee is given considerable playing time. It is not in Eintracht Frankfurt's best interest to persist with Piazon.

A loanee needs to be in the top three performing players of a squad to be worthwhile. 

Piazon does not qualify for Kicker's Bundesliga player rankings, but his rating in theory places him at No. 202.

There are 22 Eintracht Frankfurt players with a higher rating than Piazon.

"As things stand [right now]," Hubner said, per Kicker (h/t Stephan Uersfeld at ESPN FC). "Piazon will return to Chelsea in the summer."

What Now?

Piazon needs to turn his disappointing Bundesliga foray into motivation, like Francis Coquelin, who struggled on loan at Freiburg last season.

Coquelin didn't qualify for Kicker's 2013/14 Bundesliga player rankings, but his rating in theory placed him at No. 207. 

There were 22 Freiburg players with a higher rating than Coquelin.

"The period in Germany helped me a lot," Coquelin said, per Rob Kelly at  Arsenal's website. "It was a tough, tough experience mentally and that was a turning point in my career."

Coquelin is now to Arsenal what Nemanja Matic is to Chelsea.

Lucas Piazon @LucasPiazon

Blue is the color. Congratulations, @ChelseaFC . Champion of the Premier League. #CFC

It is important that Chelsea help Piazon bounce back by finding him a club, preferably a bottom-tier Premier League team or a top Championship team, that is willing to make him a star.

Eintracht Frankfurt utilised Piazon as a role player thus stagnating his development.


When not specified, statistics via WhoScored.com.