2021/22 mid-season review: FC Baník Ostrava

Welcome to a brand-new Fortuna:Liga series, reviewing each and every team’s 2021 autumn one by one, one day at a time, until the league finally gets back underway on February 5. This is not a particularly new thing or a format, mind — it’s mostly just this old Twitter thread moved into the Medium space, containing a couple of new categories without the strict word limit and some more polished graphics from Adam.

Preface for those eagerly awaiting another installment of Power Rankings and MVP race series: this will act as one installment as the clubs are sorted in the exact order they would be if this was Power Rankings, and we’ll delve into my MVP model as well. Only the All-stars will have to wait — those will come after Round 20 (ie. two thirds of the regular season), I reckon. So soon after restart.

In my season preview, I teased Baník fans by reminding them of how long it’s been since their last European adventure. Way past the 10-year anniversary, Ostrava now seem to be determined to break the curse and finally push hard.

Baník have already outshot all of Sparta, Plzeň and Slavia, going into the spring on the second longest unbeaten streak (8). After bowing out from MOL Cup prematurely, can they eventually take down Slovácko and squeeze in?

Key numbers

72,6%: As far as “means of control” go, this is a list of teams that apply the tightest grip on at least one of the six common sources of threat (left, central and right channel, corner kicks, counter-attacks, positional attacks): Slavia Praha, Sparta Praha and Baník Ostrava. For Ondřej Smetana, the left-hand side obviously stands as the main source of pride, with Jiří Fleišman contributing 15 deep completed passes and 20 more deep completed crosses while above all remaining solid defensively. Ostrava earn an unrivalled 72,6% of all xG generated down this channel (Slavia are already down 3%), and it’s off the ball where they do the most heavy-lifting, allowing a mere 0,08 xGA per game (whereas attacking-wise, they rank 8th). Just 5,7% of the total xGA value derives from positional attacks led through Fleišman, Lischka et co.!

14: Baník kicked the season off on a 9-game streak of recording more expected goals scored than expected goals (created), meaning they were able to consistently pose more threat than the number/quality of their chances suggested, thus making the opposing goalkeepers work more for their money. In the end, Ostrava recorded 14 such games of fine finishing, setting themselves up for success rather beautifully. Baník simply have their way in the penalty box — when they get there, which is a bother at times — notching the 2nd most goals per successful penalty area entry from open play (0,18). Only Slavia have been (slightly) more efficient, and that’s the team to follow.

50%: Exactly half of Baník’s point total has been hard-earned away from home — the second biggest share after Pardubice — and it’s genuinely no fluke. Where most teams tend to be much more porous on someone else’s soil, Ostrava aren’t really. On the road, they allow just 0,7 more deep completions — 2nd greatest resistance to the traditional home-away volatility after Slavia (who are actually sturdier away from Eden!). Once again, a great company to keep. On balance, Baník have the 4th highest average of points earned while travelling, which corresponds neatly with their 4th biggest share of goals, shots on target and expected goals scored, or their 4th best defence per xGA.

MVP race

Ostrava have taken a lead or tied the score a record 23 times (shared with Slavia — again!) which is a fabulous source of MVP points for their stars. Accordingly, attacking-minded Baník players have gotten shortlisted for the official team of the week 32 times, only lagging behind the Prague “S” clubs. On the whole, as many as 16 Baník players have been nominated for TotW — only Slavia, Sparta and Plzeň have delivered more different candidates — and that’s despite having a smaller pool of starters than these three clubs by far.

Consider this: only 20 Ostrava players have been marked by Deník Sport — ie. played an adequate portion of at least one game — so that leaves us with just a quartet who did have a legitimate shot at TotW and didn’t convert on it (yet). Since the 33-name shortlists are only public for a limited time, let’s do a trivia:

Can you guess who those 4 unfortunate soldiers are? It’s actually not too hard.

Most valuable player: Ladislav Almási

The most notable product of Baník’s connection with analytical company 11hacks — tipped by their own CEO to soon follow in Bassey’s footsteps — has been the Fortuna:Liga’s revelation. For someone who’s twice stumbled in a rather high-profile fashion — seeing a needless red card to miss the Slovácko blockbuster and missing the late penalty against Slavia — it’s amazing Almási is still so overwhelmingly a positive contributor to Ostrava’s bid for Europe. That’s what six important points get you, along with three more goal contributions through sheer determination — two of them being key engagements in offensive duels and one of them being a penalty won.

Without delving too much into it, it’s hard to believe that a 7-time TotW nominee was only once pronounced the MotM by Deník Sport writers.

Wild card: Daniel Tetour

Baník still don’t generate nearly as much danger as they ideally should down the middle, but when they do, you can be near-certain Tetour is behind it. He’s still only getting a precious little hype from neutral spectators despite leading the team with 15 chance-creating actions and scoring important goals. Baník average the least attempts to crack the penalty area via a dribble (2,2 per game), but Tetour does constitute a certain ball-carrying threat (two of his dribbles resulted in a chance) while moving smartly off the ball, as well.

Other notable players

a brief rundown of players who caught my eye for right or wrong reasons

The one I was too high on: Jan Laštůvka

It’s tough to impress when you’re only facing 3,13 shots per game (roughly one shot down from 2020/21), but there’s an argument to be made that Laštůvka simply isn’t the difference-maker he once was for Baník. For the very first time since returning to the Czech top flight in 2016, Laštůvka is headed towards being a negative contributor in the eyes of the prevented goals metric (currently allowing 2,61 goals more than expected per Wyscout), which is only made more significant by rival Viktor Budinský overperforming his own xCG by a total of 1,69 goals. That’s no discrepancy to scoff at, and so Laštůvka’s return to goal following recovery isn’t — or shouldn’t be — set in stone anymore. Even without looking at fancy stats, how many times has Laštůvka wowed you this season? Exactly. From a record 15-time MotM (as voted by fans/spectators) to a 2-time one…and even the two feels like a lot.

The one I was too low on: Nemanja Kuzmanović

When even your own team’s fans start slowly giving up on you pre-season, it’s usually a sign of a union about to be ended rather than extended — yet the latter is exactly what happened a couple of days ago, with the Serb signing on till 2024 following an inspired autumn of masterfully pulling strings in midfield for Baník. Kuzmanović has already been involved — directly or indirectly — in ten goals, often acting as a handy Almási decoy in the box.

Kuzmanović has received a Deník Sport mark higher than 7 on a team-high three occasions (also getting tagged as the MotM three times), especially impressing as part of recent demolition jobs on Č. Budějovice and Pardubice.

The one that got away (from most radars): Jaroslav Svozil

Be it for his complicated loan/transfer deal or generally flashier profile, nearly all the attention reserved for Ostrava centre backs has so far gone to David Lischka when, in fact, many Baník fans seem to prefer Svozil’s overall play.

The former Opava starlet is actually no less expansive passer — completing 3rd most passes in/to these areas on the team (9) and beating Lischka at his own game re. crosses, too — while acting as the more reliable, focused defender of the pair. His 4 passes have eventually led to a goal scored (compared to Lischka’s 0), and so it’s a travesty that he’s only gotten shortlisted for TotW twice. It’s been less diving and more actual footballing for the 28-year-old who has the insignificant pedigree of showing up as a Top 3 centre back in my CB model before (2018/19). I can already feel another strroong radar coming.

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