2021/22 mid-season review: MFK Karviná
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 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 stage last season, MFK Karviná were the ultimate surprise package. On pace for 28 points after 20 rounds — more than their 2019/20 season total — they were pretty much sure of survival at Christmas; just a year on from picking up a mere two wins from the first 20, ultimately thanking the pandemic for saving their ass or at least a significant amount of trouble.
Now they would take those two wins and run away with them…
0: You won’t find me dwell on wins earned too often in this space, but when you’ve got zero of them, there’s no way I’m avoiding it. With their 13-point discrepancy between the actual and expected gain, Karviná are not quite in the league of their own (because Bohemians do exist, too), but while you could make a case for the Prague club indeed getting unlucky in the process, Karviná are a genuinely bad side whose inability to win is more down to their… general inability. Only one team in recorded history — Czech or Czechoslovak — has waited for their first season victory longer than Karviná. It took Dukla Praha of 1993/94 exactly 23 attempts to get there; if Karviná go winless for just one more month, they’ll have the record for themselves only.
54,5%: Karviná look great in one respect above, but let me backtrack on that one as well. The curiously high rank is down to Karviná producing 58,6% of all counter-attacks resulting in a shot. That’s, however, heavily influenced by the fact Karviná generally allow barely any counter-attacks at all (1,16 per game), which doesn’t automatically mean they are adept at defending them, of course. And sure enough, they are not. More than a half of opponents’ counters gets finished (the percentage alone — 54,5% — already ranks 15th in the league) and if you were to go by xG share as opposed to shot share on counter-attacks (44,4%), Karviná drop from 4th to 8th. That’s more like it.
4,2: Karviná are an unbelievably poor outfit when it comes to combination play. Arguably their best passer currently — following the departure of the severely under-utilized misfit Aleš Nešický — is Marco Túlio who enjoys a spectacular Hollywood pass more than anything else, which in turn doesn’t help the already sky-high percentage of long passes played by Karviná (19% of all). That’s the highest mark in the league, followed by the 2nd worst success rate in progressive passes, the worst rate in misplaced passes leading to a shot (1,74), and also the worst rate in deep completed passes upfront (4,2). If ever there was a collection of data effectively telling you “heck, they don’t have a capable passer in any role, any line”, this is pretty much it. It’s by far the only resumé that comes close to rivalling 2020/21 Příbram, and that’s not the comparison you’d like to draw in just about any circumstance. Eesh.
If you’re yet to win, and yet to keep a clean sheet, it’s fairly hard to rack up MVP points as you generally don’t get shortlisted for the official Team of the Week (just 16 nominations overall going to Karviná) or highlighted as the Man of the Match by Deník Sport (just 3 such awards overall, two of them going to Karviná goalkeepers). In a way, though, not getting noticed isn’t quite the worst-case scenario on a team so deprived of success, so rich on failure.
To their credit, Karviná are at least getting important goals from a wide variety of players: overall, they’ve gone ahead or tied the score 13 times this season, and eleven different players have chipped in towards that total. As many as 12 teams have notched more goals of such importance, yet only Sparta and Slavia have more important scorers on their books (13). Bizarre.
Most valuable player: Lukáš Bartošák
The left winger was a pleasant surprise of last season and he’s very much kept his standard while everything around him crumbled. There’s no one catching up to him anytime soon, especially since he remains the sole chance creator from open play. That way, he’s generated 13 chances which alone would put him joint-first on the team along with Kristi Qose. On top of that, two of his live passes were part of rare goal moves as well (constituting second and third assists respectively). Add eight key set-piece contributions to the mix, and you get a clear-cut MVP with a much-deserved trio of TotW nominations.
Wild card: Lukáš Čmelík
Various health issues and yellow cards have forced him to drop out of the squad at four separate points of the season, robbing him of seven matchdays in total and making this an individual season of way too many disruptions. Yet, Čmelík has still done enough to stay in the race despite starting a mere 9 games, carrying the best per-90-minute rate in chance-creating actions (0,9).
Other notable players
a brief rundown of players who caught my eye for right or wrong reasons
The one I was too high on: Petr Buchta
When you think about it, it makes sense. Context matters, and for Petr Buchta, it’s shifted significantly. He went from being an established leading voice, often underpinning a 3-at-the-back formation (deployed by Zlín 40% of time last term), to being just another member of a rotating cast of centre backs on a team that reverts to a 3-at-the-back formation mostly just when it faces the strongest of teams (Plzeň, Slavia, Sparta, Slovácko this season), with Buchta travelling from middle of CB trio to the bench to left side of CB trio with time.
Why left side? He’d last filled that role for an extended period in March 2019!
Buchta was a symbol of stability at Zlín; now he’s a symbol of anything but it. And while I figured in the season preview he could be a solution to a long-standing problem, now it appears as though he instantly became a part of it.
So even though his success rate in both defensive and aerial duels — his apparent source of pride, often mentioned by commentators, too — actually went further up at Karviná, something just feels off. That’s evident on 4 goal-allowing actions (small errors tracked by myself), the most among defenders.
The one I was too low on: *frantically searching for the SKIP button*
No, honestly, I don’t think there’s a single overachiever on this current Karviná team — they likely wouldn’t have dug themselves such a massive hole if there was one. I suppose it’s got to be Michal Papadopulos by virtue of me completely mishitting on my bold prediction, but that was more me putting him down as a potential underachiever — that he’s not it doesn’t automatically mean he’s overachieving. And he indeed isn’t in my eyes. But oh well...
The one that got away (from most radars): Vlasiy Sinyavskiy
He’s still too much of an underwhelming finisher who almost exclusively shoots from just outside the left top of the 18-yard box. That’s obviously sub-optimal because it’s not where players —including Sinyavskiy himself — generally tend to score from. It’s also sub-optimal to be such a diamond in the rough at 25. But the raw tools are there to work with (most notably powerful dribbling — standing at 1,81m, he has this uncanny ability to make himself look bigger, thus scarier, when coming at you on the left wing), so if he can improve on his decision-making in the final third, he can become a menace.
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