2021/22 mid-season review: SK Dynamo České Budějovice
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.
Pretty much since Day 1, there hasn’t been a greater overachiever than Dynamo who went into the break with the 3rd worst defence per rolling 10-game xGA and the 3rd lowest gain per Wyscout’s expected points model. In terms of expected/actual points discrepancy, there are actually some larger ones especially at the top of the table, but as far as table standings are concerned, no one is benefitting more than České Budějovice.
Not by a longshot.
I’m not saying this to cheaply provoke, it’s just always worth remembering that Dynamo are powered by moments or stretches of individual brilliance rather than anything else. These teams are usually fun — and boy, was it a ride for a Dynamo fan, from firing the general manager through doing this to Slovácko all the way to the record sale of Fortune Bassey for 1,5 million euros — but at the same time, their success periods tend to be somewhat short-lived.
4: A Dynamo goalkeeper — ie. Vojtěch Vorel, spare for one exception — just never catches a breath. Four, you see, is the number of occasions on which the ČB custodian wasn’t expected to concede at least once. Five, meanwhile, is the number of occasions on which he was expected to concede at least twice. The team’s season average thus far (1,75) isn’t the highest in the league, landing 13th, but even goalkeepers of two of the three teams below Dynamo have enjoyed more relative days off than Vorel: it was 6 for Jablonec and Teplice guardians. Up until Round 17, by the way, Dynamo’s lowest allowed total of expected conceded goals in one game was 0,92 (Slovácko away). Lowest. No freaking wonder that one of the steadiest goalkeepers in the league started to crumble a bit towards the end of autumn; per official Fortuna:Liga website, he’s been asked to make 102 saves, the only goalkeeper going over a hundred.
9,5%: This above is, of course, down to ČB’s complete inability to defend their own penalty area. I’ve rumbled about this overarching issue on multiple occasions, and a way smarter tactical mind of Jakub Lebloch has previously confirmed to me that Dynamo defenders indeed do drop too soon and too deep without the ball, needlessly conceding too much space and effectively inviting pressure. This naturally starts from up top, in the final third, where Dynamo perform a mere 9,5% of all their ball recoveries to the tune of a game average of 7 high recoveries (16th league-wide). For Slovácko, meanwhile, it’s 14,5% — and that’s not even the highest percentage out there. Jablonec, the most active team, recover double the amount of balls up top. As I said, this is only a start, and through the good ol’ trickle down effect, České Budějovice see the most crosses completed in/to/around their penalty box, second most passes, and most attempts to crack the area via a dribble. As if that wasn’t enough, Dynamo are poor at defending all kinds of set pieces, too, thus registering the highest non-penalty xGA per game (1,83). Zlín are the 2nd worst in this respect with 1,66 — difference of one great chance a game.
66: All the pressure is what creates heroes as a by-product, though, and Dynamo too have seen numerous heroic individual attempts to save the team’s ass. For a second season in a row, both starting Dynamo centre backs sit inside the league’s Top 6 (!) in blocked shots per 90 mins, with Martin Králik leading the whole pack with a frankly ridiculous 66 clearances from the centre of the box. Just to be absolutely clear: that’s balls cleared strictly and exclusively from this teeny tiny stripe of the pitch. Maksym Talovierov already lags well behind Králik with 27 such clearances, but he would still lead four teams himself despite only getting 67% of all minutes on offer. And Lukáš Havel — starting only seven games — isn’t lurking too far behind (25). Amazing.
When you consider all of the above, it’s pretty incredible that only two goals conceded by Dynamo were preceded by a glaring mistake (one from Vorel, one from Talovierov). It’s also pretty incredible that while Vorel and his backup David Šípoš boast the highest average Deník Sport mark of all goalkeeping crops (5,84), and Vorel alone has received the joint-most TotW nominations among goalies (5), they both combine for just two MotM awards.
Don’t Dynamo fans appreciate their men between the sticks, or is it just…
Most valuable player: Fortune Bassey
Bassey is a goner, but if Dynamo struggle mightily in his absence from now on (a definite possibility), he’s quite likely to hold onto the title regardless. That’s how sizeable a gap the Nigerian phenomenon has managed to build over the 19 rounds. With a total of 808,8 MVP points, Bassey ranks 5th league-wide just behind Jakub Pešek. Compare to his teammates? Mick van Buren can’t even see him in the distance with his 378,2 points. No MVP leader has so far managed to separate himself from the runner-up quite as emphatically as Bassey. And who’s surprised? Fans adore him (5 MotM wins, 4 Team of the Week appearances), Deník Sport writers rate him (4 man-of-the-match awards), the league gives him a reasonable amount of love, too (7 TotW nominations), and he’s notched as many important points as Hložek (7).
Wild card: Benjamin Čolić
It took him some time to re-apply his once firm grip on the right back starting role, but he’s finally arrived — and he’s as big a threat as ever. Mostly a non-factor till the start of November, Čolić has since registered three points and now sits neck-and-neck with Ondřej Mihálik in the 5/6th place of ČB’s MVP leaderboard. While there are 10 Dynamo outfield players with more mins under their belts, only Jakub Hora is responsible for more penalty area entries from open play (25 vs 22), while Čolić’s team-leading 16 deep completed crosses constitute nearly a quarter of all such team crosses (23%) — again, hardly believable given the Bosnian’s usage relative to the rest of the squad.
Other notable players
a brief rundown of players who caught my eye for right or wrong reasons
The one I was too high on: Michal Škoda
I highlighted him in my preview as one of the best creative number 9s in the league, and I stand by that claim, but this appears to be a match made in hell rather than heaven. A fiercely counter-attacking outfit powered by phenomenal dribbler Bassey, Dynamo weren’t ready to channel Škoda’s strengths and Škoda is not at an age when he’s able to adjust.
After three initial opportunities in the starting line-up (with Škoda barely visible, shot-less), therefore, the former Mladá Boleslav and Příbram stalwart was dropped by coach Horejš for pretty much the rest of the whole autumn, only drawing two more appearances in the starting line-up in December.
The tide could be changing at the moment, mind, as the veteran has now scored in three consecutive preparation games, but if he hits the ground limping like he did in July/August, the leash is going to be even shorter.
The one I was too low on: Ondřej Mihálik
I’ll readily admit I had Mihálik down as a bust of a former prospect after he couldn’t cut it at Plzeň in neither of his two seasons there, permanently looking too chaotic with his movement and too raw with every touch of the ball. But the tempo of Dynamo’s football was exactly what Mihálik needed, and he responded well — via seven points, his joint-most in the Czech top flight (2016/17), of which five came in close situations. Mihálik has been a decent complementary piece to Bassey with his split-second decision-making — connecting on 7 chances created — and has shown even more tangible chemistry with Hora as a frequently combining tandem.
The one that got away (from most radars): Jakub Hora
He’s only credited with three goal contributions and always in someone else’s shadow (his own fans never voted him their man of the match), yet as data analyst Jakub Dobiáš astutely noted here, Jakub Hora nevertheless formed an essential part of possibly the deadliest attacking triangle in the league. My model can appreciate him more than the public, luckily, as it looks beyond the traditional indicators of a goal move (Hora gets credited with 3 second or third assists) and tracks separate chance-creating actions — of which Hora has a currently team-leading 16 (Bassey had 22), fourteen from open play.
Formerly a goalscoring winger for Teplice, Hora now features as more of a facilitator in a CAM role, and it arguably suits him the most. In the hole, Hora has completed 9 smart passes — four more than the next Dynamo player on the list (Patrik Hellebrand) — helping his team significantly to break lines.
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