2021/22 mid-season review: FK Mladá Boleslav

source: idnes.cz

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.

At the same point last season, Mladá Boleslav were sitting 15th in my Power Rankings — in a field of 18 not 16 teams, mind — with returning Karel Jarolím looking like an ill-advised appointment. At this point, there’s no denying Jarolím has been a success rather than anything else for M. Boleslav, finally sneaking them inside the Top 6 at the death of autumn, on the strength of the second best offence and a Top 8 defence per xG; a well-deserved placement.

Key numbers

2: That’s the grand total of opponents proving capable of outshooting Mladá Boleslav — both Prague “S” clubs (Slavia twice), and that’s it. Look, shot differential is a vastly overrated metric, but when you combine it with shooting from relatively up close (on average 5th closest to opponent’s goal) and getting shot at from relatively far away (on average 5th furthest, too), it’s a darn good indicator of how Boleslav manage play and actually control it. Non-penalty xG share tells us pretty much the same thing, after all, and FKMB rank 4th there, so clearly they’re doing something well regardless of a chosen metric. Back on the shot clock, Jarolím’s boys have gone 22:43 vs Sparta and Slavia (roughly 34% share across three games), whereas against the rest of the Top 10 — all remaining 20+point teams — they are 92:57 (62%) and about to face four of those (Plzeň, Budějovice, Liberec, Ostrava) at home.

42: Mladá Boleslav have some serious potential to be the most potent team in the league. Like, without any sort of “apart from Slavia and Sparta” caveat; simply the most potent. Going by xGF generated per 90 mins, FKMB boast a Top 2 counter-attacking unit and set piece acumen while ranking 4th in positional attacks. No other team offers such a balanced — and top notch at that — set of attacking instrumets. Slavia could do better on counters, Sparta on build-up. Mladá Boleslav are simply off the charts regarding variety of threat posed and 29 goals scored doesn’t come even close to doing them justice. If you were to draw an arbitrary line for a glorious chance at a minimum of 0,2 xG, Boleslav have already missed a whopping fourty-two such open play opportunities, with Milan Škoda being solely responsible for 14 of them! Slavia have, for reference, missed 38 of them while being 22 goals better off. With what we know about finishing analytically (that its patters are mostly random), and knowing Škoda, Ladra and Skalák — a trio largely responsible for the wastefulness — aren’t any shabby finishers stealing a living, the combined total of 10 autumn goals from these three could quickly double.

14,1%: Should you be looking for a proof of Karel Jarolím improving this team step by step, then look no further than his right flank. Still anchored by the notoriously erratic David “Duracell Bunny” Douděra, that particular channel is no longer the Wild West, but more of a one-way street in FKMB’s favour. After earning just over a half of all xG originating from Douděra’s territory in the spring (50,9%), they are now up to 65% — owning the 4th most dominant right-hand side following a glorious 14,1-percent swing. But it’s not just that: Mladá Boleslav have similarly improved down the middle, going from 50,2% to 62,0% (5th biggest share in the league) and suddenly not leaving Samuel Dancák to often look like a lost soul on a deserted island.

MVP race

As is evident by the stats highlighted above, Mladá Boleslav are a very attack-heavy team which shows on the distribution of MotM awards within the side — 15 honours went to attacking-minded players (12 of them to Škoda and the clear-cut MVP), while defensive-minded players including goalkeepers have combined for just four such titles. David Jurásek didn’t get any, and neither did both starting centre backs who’ve participated on 10 goals conceded (Marek Suchý alone on 8), so it does make a lot of sense. Generally, too many goals FKMB allow can be traced to an individual mistake of a defender, with only David Šimek — with 119 mins of action behind him — avoiding one.

Most valuable player: Ewerton da Silva

No wonder Mladá Boleslav were so bad in the fall 2020 since they had their two best wingers away on loan — Ladra spent half a season flourishing at Jablonec, Ewerton lasted a full one at Pardubice, showcasing but a fraction of his potential. Back at Lokotrans Arena where he’d previously mustered 76 minutes across two seasons (!), Ewerton suddenly blossoms into an 11-point player who strips off multiple defenders multiple times just about any time…?!

Ewerton is so much fun that people voted him into the official team of the week four times despite Mladá Boleslav barely having any voting power. For illustration, the only FKMB player with no Slavia/Sparta history (hence no significant backing) making the TotW in 2020/21 was Michal Škoda (2x), brother of a Slavia legend. Other than that; Zmrhal, Matějovský, Zahustel...

So Ewerton’s success with neutrals is largely unseen — and thus refreshing. Ewerton has already recorded 5 games with 3+ chance-creating actions (37 in total), with his specialty being a saucy dribble followed by a silky pass (he barely shoots), something he’s used to set up a teammate a league-high six times.

Wild card: Marek Matějovský

Aging like a fine wine something something.

Vision is still there, technique is still there, final pass is still there, just assists aren’t. The veteran of 16 full seasons in the Czech top flight has just wrapped up his first assist-less fall since 2016 (when he barely featured) despite remaining one of the premier chance creators in the league. Matějovský has both attempted and completed the most smart passes per Wyscout (31/16), contributing to a total of 25 chances — more than Stanciu or Hložek.

The “issue” may be that Matějovský is now more of a factor deeper down the pitch, with 11 of his chance-creating actions being secondary ones, ie. not directly leading to a finish. Still, that’s a skill very much worth appreciating.

source: flashsport.cz

Other notable players

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

The one I was too high on: Pavel Halouska

Together with most Mladá Boleslav fans, I thought Halouska could push Jan Šeda for the starting role, and he had the inside track all for himself with the veteran sidelined following the first five rounds, one of which saw him set up Jan Kuchta for possibly the simplest goal of his career (full of simple goals). But the former Brno goalkeeper couldn’t take advantage, conceding a juicy rebound in the wild 3:3 draw vs Olomouc in just his second start and ultimately surrendering the mantle back to Šeda through a 5-goal blow-out.

It’s not just his fault, but the fact he oversaw FKMB’s sole 4-game winless streak of the season marked by nearly a dozen conceded goals may not be a coincidence — and it certainly isn’t fetching him any more (unforced) chances.

The one I was too low on: David Jurásek

I was mostly shrugging off all the positive reviews coming from the Mladá Boleslav camp throughout their pre-season, personally putting down David Jurásek as “a promising youngster to keep an eye on”, but nothing more.

Now I’d not only make him a U-21 NT staple, which he — astonishingly — still isn’t, but also accelerate him all the way through to the senior national team that continues to be starved of decent left back options with any future perspective. At 21, Jurásek is exactly that; a powerful, high-octane runner with great stamina, a fantastic cross (to the far post especially) and a knack for a cutback. He’s been the perfect complement to Ewerton, forcing Jarolím to introduce a back three in order to accomodate both him and now-recovered Dominik Preisler. As a first-year pro, he’s remarkably cracked the opponent’s penalty area more often (35) than Jan Krob (34), Alexander Bah (33) or Tomáš Wiesner (33) without receiving the same amount of playing time.

The one that got away (from most radars): Ondřej Karafiát

He may forever be remembered as a Slavia flop, but it’d be wrong to pigeon-hole him as such without acknowledging his continued excellence at building from the back-end. Having spent all minutes bar 30 in the heart of his team’s defence, Karafiát ranks 3rd among permanent centre halves in penalty area entries from open play with 13 — behind only Zelený (14) and Kadlec (16), actually beating Sparta’s Hancko who’s had the benefit of acting as a fullback.

If you made it here and enjoyed the article, please do consider supporting me and Adam by donating a small amount of money at BuyMeACoffee page. Thanks!

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One independent Czech writer’s views on Czech football. Simple as that really. Also to be found on Twitter @czechfooty.

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Tomas Danicek

Tomas Danicek

One independent Czech writer’s views on Czech football. Simple as that really. Also to be found on Twitter @czechfooty.

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