We are heading down the wire. The last bundle is random and doesn’t really have a theme. Clubs hailing from České Budějovice and Teplice are almost automatically the sole representatives of their regions, so it makes sense they are here, while Zlín do have a local derby with Slovácko, but don’t have the “UEFA competition participant” tag…
People have understandably soured on FK Teplice. Despite clearly not being good ever since finishing 5th in 2016/17 (don’t let the following 8th place fool you; they were nonetheless sat just 4 points above the drop), the threat of relegation had never felt too acute. Until last season. And this one even more so.
To be fair to the club, they are not standing pat. They are making moves. The trouble is: those moves have a distinct 2nd-tier feel to many, because there’s simply no money in the bank. Like none at all. The owner has cut his A-team investment in half for this season, possibly sensing a nearing disaster anyway.
The return of Rudolf Řepka — who’s spent over a decade in the Czech FA structure following his former sporting director role at Teplice — was unanimously welcomed by Teplice fans calling for more integrity at the top of the board, but he’s no Messiah and can only do so much himself. When you’ve got to borrow 40 million (circa €1,56 mil.) just to not open the season in red numbers, you’re effectively staring down the barrel — especially if relegated.
The absolute priority is now the youth infrastructure, which seems like the right move at the moment since you’re not suddenly getting elite seasons from visibly declining players like Jakub Mareš, Lukáš Mareček or Ondřej Mazuch. With no Král-esque asset on their hands, Teplice need a super-quick retool.
Looking back on 2020/21
What went (particularly) right
Phew. The instant upturn in results under Radim Kučera was purely down to luck (those victories against M. Boleslav and Zlín were hardly earned), but it counts double when you consider how close to relegation Teplice landed. Those 10 points from the last 5 autumn games in the end made up a whole third of Teplice’s season point total. One third. Gained across one December. Apart from that, and one very convincing triumph over Opava (3:1) — a sole Teplice xG differential falling inside the Top 100 league-wide — this past season would preferably be instantly forgotten in Teplice, that’s for sure.
What went (especially) wrong
You don’t need me to tell you 2020/21 was a catastrophe in terms of results. Only the last-place Opava conceded more goals, with Teplice losing three games by 5+ goals over one season for the first time since 1964/65. They’d won a smaller portion of top flight games (20,6%) only twice prior — in the 1990s and 1980s — and never ever lost a bigger portion (52,9%). So, results-wise, a historical tragedy. But the greater issue for me is that you can’t possibly find solace in any underlying number, either, with Teplice not even hitting the mediocre all across the board. Recovering balls up high was proving impossible, yet fouling close to their own penalty area too easy. They stunk on set pieces at both ends and couldn’t complete a progressive pass.
Most valuable player
A career year on a terrible team at 34? Sure, no problem for Jakub Mareš.
The 2007 U-20 World Cup finalist has set his personal best in goals (9) as well as points (12; joint-best with 2010/11), getting voted his team’s best player 5 times and earning the most Team of the Week nominations (6) along the way.
That’s all good, and it could’ve been even better had he not missed 4 high-danger chances and had the 29 penalty area entries executed by him materialized into something more. Then again, Mareš succeeded with a shocking 17 actions in that same attacking penalty area out of 73 attempted.
Chip on the shoulder
Speaking of shining on a terrible team… Pavel Moulis did it even more emphatically while turning 30, proving many doubters wrong in the process.
He’s inconsistent, they said. He doesn’t produce, they said. He does’t fancy defending, coach Kučera said. But “Moula” didn’t mind it, more than doubled his best point total (from 5 to 12), once even wearing the captain’s armand in MOL Cup as this organically born, somewhat self-imposed leader of the team.
So what’s the chip on the shoulder? All of the above-mentioned doubt bundled together and hopefully channeled conveniently to power him to an even rarer back-to-back trick. Much like Mareš, Moulis was vital for the (awful) Teplice environment, but still below average in the league context:
The most intriguing thing on Moulis for me: he’s not a one-trick pony as many wingers on bad teams often are almost by design. Instead, he’s assumed responsibility all over the shop: he was FKT’s most threatening passer, crosser and dribbler, coming out on top from an incredible 65 duels in the final third.
Inside the club’s off-season
with much thanks to @SeveroCzech for guiding me through the motions of Teplice’s pre-season; all input has been edited for clarity and style
It was pretty much confimed at the press conference concluding pre-season that Jan Fortelný is eventually returning on another loan deal once his injury fully heals (suggesting it’s not too serious after all, as some folk had feared) but for the purpose of this exercise, we can’t consider his deal renewed yet.
Even then, Teplice are retaining just under 80% of their 2020/21 playing time — a decent chunk. The key here is turning Robert Jukl’s loan into a permanent deal; not only is he an underrated holding midfielder, but he was also just one of 3 Teplice players to have cleared the 2 000-minute bar beside Moulis and David Černý.
Right off the bat, it needs to be said that however awful Teplice’s pre-season was both results and performances wise, their top performers had usually one thing in common: they have just come aboard. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to move the needle all that much eventually, but while some efforts of Ruben Droehnle (who barely looks fit to last a half) or Mareček were outright shocking, it was nice to see all of Martin Chlumecký, Denis Laňka and David Ledecký being hungry, healthy (important especially re. Ledecký and his infamous knee) and generally ready to collectively lift the whole team.
That being said, neither of them is a particularly big addition relative to the rest of the league. Laňka was possibly the most consistent if not the best Teplice player over the course of this pre-season, but his 2020/21 campaign was notable for harsh tackles and elbows above anything else. Ledecký barely got over 200 minutes in his 2nd year. And Chlumecký is returning to the top level after looking largely out of his depth in 2018/19 on a relegated Dukla side. He was only better than 15,4% centre backs per my model, but has looked strong enough and resolute in duels for Teplice per @SeveroCzech.
It would’ve been Jan Fortelný, but it doesn’t seem like he will be after all.
So who’s next in line? Hard to say, in fact.
There are just three departed Teplice players whose samples had at least qualified for my comparative positional models and — funny you should ask — neither of them goes above 45,7 percentile relative to their competition.
Šimon Gabriel was better than 12,7% regularly starting centre backs (but you’ve got to mix his M. Boleslav performances in there, too), Jakub Řezníček would beat exactly zero centre forwards, and so that leaves us with Vukadin Vukadinović who was actually an elite set-up guy let down by his non-existent appetite for/quality of finishing. He’s a bit of a miscast as part of the CF crop — being more of a winger traditionally — but don’t shoot the messenger. I didn’t predominantly played him upfront; Radim Kučera did!
New kid on the block
Matyáš Korselt and Tadeáš Vachoušek have consistently been a step ahead of their peers, suiting up regularly for U-19s when actually U-17s by age, but despite signing professional contracts in January (mostly just to be allowed to train with the A-team due to Covid restrictions), it’s likely too soon for them.
Ironically, though, having debuted in the Czech top flight in April, Tadeáš (b. 2004) might be a tad closer than his older brother Matyáš (b. 2002) — both, of course, sons of the playing icon and current Teplice sporting director Štěpán.
With the emphasis on youth, there are otherwise plenty of younger players vying for a bigger role. Returning loanee Karel Hasil (b. 1998) seems finally due to contribute on the left-side of the defence — be it centre back or fullback. Ladislav Kodad (b. 1998) was a bit of a breakout star of 2020/21 already, and you’d like to see Matěj Radosta (b. 2001) take a step forward as well, or at least settle down in one or two roles instead of filling in everywhere.
Who’s also kind of new (due to numerous injuries hampering his progression): Jan Knapík. He’s still just 20, with Slavia once rumoured to be intrigued by his tall frame coupled with fine coordination in battles for the ball, and this season is definitely shaping up to be the true baptism of fire for Knapík. He’s now virtually the top centre back on this team that’s looking to take advantage of his willingness to move the ball up the field rather confidently.
Looking ahead to 2021/22
Below is the team’s current depth chart with a maximum of 4 alternatives for one position. All depth charts are up to date as of July 18 and obviously subject to change since the transfer window is far from closed at the moment. Players highlighted in red are longterm absentees (due to return in months rather than weeks), while players in italics are not confirmed but very likely arrivals. Those likely to depart will be highlighted in the text below, as will some other depth options. To add a little flavour to the depth chart, I’ve intuitively ranked various positions/areas of the pitch — goal, right flank, left flank, central defence, central midfield, forward positions (incl. attacking midfielders) — league-wide from 1 to 15, which is what the different shading (from blue to red) demonstrates.
- Given the rise of Knapík to the role of a regular, Mareček is not needed in defence anymore, which is decidedly a good news for the team as his inevitable lapses of concentration shall not be as costly further up;
- Teplice finally realized David Černý and his futsal skills aren’t best used in defence, either, with Kučera basically admitting he’s only a wing option now;
- This is very much a prove-it year for Daniel Trubač who’s starting to look like a definite bust. He’s just signed a new contract till 2024 and needs to make this his own team, especially as long as Žitný and Fortelný are out. Trubač too wrapped up the training camp with a slight knock, but that’s nothing compared to Žitný’s knee injury that’ll cost him the entire autumn;
- Štěpán Krunert is the latest Dukla player to be drawn into the Czech top flight, and it appears to be a case of… “well, Dancák is already taken, Doumbia is too expensive for us, who else is there?” Probably not ready;
- Laňka will be Teplice’s “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of a filler. So far he’s been tested at fullback, wing and — bizarrely — as a second striker on top. The latter position is where Mareš potentially slots in, too, and the early returns of his collaboration with Ledecký are promising;
- Please, Radim, just don’t play this guy. I’m begging you for your own sake.
Statistical/tactical trend to follow
Per Wyscout, FK Teplice used 9 different starting formations over the course of 2020/21. Naturally, some of the options only differ slightly in reality, but it still tells you a lot about how confused this club is top to bottom. Last summer, Teplice were working on a 3-5-2 formation they then deployed early doors vs Příbram, Pardubice and Slovácko — only to abandon it for the rest of the way.
Now, the situation could be repeating, with Radim Kučera testing out systems with one and two forwards as well as two and three centre backs. It’s anyone’s guess at this point how they’ll line-up on the opening day, since the pre-season friendlies were mostly just plain bad regardless of the formation used.
As for a statistical trend, no side was caught offside more often per game than Teplice in 2020/21 (exactly three times on average), with Řezníček being the most frequent culprit not just on this rule-breaking team but also league-wide. With him gone and Mareš — another repeated offender — potentially playing a lot deeper this term, it’s going to be interesting to see if there’s any change.
Also, Ledecký like never recovers the ball anywhere, so he fits perfectly into a side that had forced by far the least amount of high turnovers in 2020/21.
Roster battle to follow
At one point, it looked like it’s no longer a battle, but Tomáš Grigar had a fairly positive end to his 2020/21 (following a horrendous start into it), and so he may not go away quietly after all. Jan Čtvrtečka was still far superior last season, and he’s returning on loan as expected, but a 10-game sample is one shaky ground to draw any real conclusions upon. Can he follow up?
A sub-plot to follow: it took Tomáš Grigar until 25 April (!) to finally earn his first clean sheet of the season, making it a 15th top flight campaign he’s shut out an opponent in — going back to 2006/07. Can he follow up himself?
The prediction: Teplice won’t win a home game until the spring 2022
The rationale: Predicting that Radim Kučera lasts 10 rounds maximum until Zdenko Frťala inevitably replaces him to reign with his famously firm hand is pretty much part of the mainstream now, so I wouldn’t be very bold. Seeing that, I’ll have to apologize to FK Teplice fans: in case you hadn’t come to terms with it yet, I can confirm you’re not getting much autumn fun in the stands.
No, seriously, just look at the opponents coming to Stínadla before Christmas:
Slavia, Jablonec, Ostrava, Olomouc, Plzeň, Liberec, Pardubice, Zlín, Boleslav.
Apart from the tail end — when you’re potentially knackered both physically and especially mentally — this is brutal; 7 of the last season’s Top 9 sides.
I can see the odd tie happening, of course, but even a sole victory may be a stretch. Though with my luck, Teplice are likely getting exactly one win. At least it’d make for a satisfyingly gradual regression: from 4 home autumn triumphs in 2018, to 3 the following year and only a pair of them last season...