2021/22 team preview: MFK Karviná

Tomas Danicek
12 min readJul 21, 2021


source: mfkkarvina.cz

For our third batch, we’ll go to the Silesian trio.” I had it all beautifully planned in my head only to realize Opava are not around anymore. We’ll make a special stop in Olomouc on our trip to the northeast of the country, then — but for now, let’s round off the region with Karviná.

To my eternal shame, MFK Karviná are usually the last Fortuna:Liga team I think of.

Maybe it’s because they don’t have any official Twitter presence (instead preferring Instagram for some weird reason), or maybe it’s because Poland is just 3 kilometers away from the city center — making them literal outsiders.

In reality, however, MFK Karviná have a fine online presence, with arguably the most professional-looking website out there, and make for a generally well-run club who has invested more than 7 million euros into a new stadium upon their promotion in 2016 — immediately selling out half of the 5k capacity — and introduced us to the likes of Lukáš Budínský, Adriel Ba Loua, Gigli Ndefe, Ondřej Lingr, Milan Rundić or Benjamin Čolić along the way.

They say I’ve grown softer, nicer. We’ll see about that,” said popular coach Jozef Weber once he returned back to the club that gave him a big break in 2014-17.

We’ll see about that indeed…

Looking back on 2020/21

What went (particularly) right

Much like I sometimes forget about Karviná, it turns out, some clubs had also forgotten about them at the start of the last season. Otherwise, Karviná likely wouldn’t have knocked off 12 points — or in other words over 40% of their 2019/20 total — inside the first seven matchdays alone. That was a great start, and it ended up being a surprising autumn from them overall. At Christmas two years ago, they were joint-bottom with a pair of victories and 13 points from 20. Now they had 20 points from 14 by Christmas, sitting comfortably 10th while being worthy of 6th (!) per Wyscout’s expected points model.

What went (especially) wrong

Following the shortened winter break, however, it went south very quickly. Most people were taken aback by the club’s decision to sack Juraj Jarábek, and it’s true they pounced extremely fast with little prior indication, but it was a right call. Much like their progress went largely unnoticed in the autumn, their decline did so in the spring. On March 12, I cheekily wondered as part of Newsletter #5 whether they are actually safe from relegation. It was a stretch, of course, but I was onto something: their defence had completely crumbled, and as a result, they’d only held the lead for a combined 99 minutes over the miserable run of 861 minutes of pure playing time to open the spring. On March 16, following another clueless loss to Bohemians, Jarábek got fired. In the end, Karviná’s worst autumn xG differential (a negative 1,13 in 1:1 draw with Č. Budějovice) was still only their tenth worst on the whole season.

Most valuable player

Earlier in the season, I used the pages of Patreon to wonder about another Karviná-related thing: wouldn’t Michal Papadopulos actually have the strongest claim on a league-wide MVP? That was in late February, and his season somewhat derailed after, but it’s still an argument worth revisiting.

Back then, I argued that if we were to stick to the letter, Papadopulos could indeed be the most invaluable player to his team in the sense that take Stanciu or Provod away from Slavia and they’ll mostly get by unhindered, but take Papadopulos away from Karviná, and the team loses its go-to reference point.

At that point, the Karviná stalwart had been nominated for the official F:Liga’s Team of the Week 8 times out of 20 (winning 5x), had earned three Man of the Match honours from Deník Sport, and his 9 goal contributions were on either go-ahead or tying goals. Karviná had scored 17 goals of such importance by then, meaning he’d had a hand in majority of those.

The captain ended up adding a mere two TotW shortlist appearances and two such important goal contributions, but he still brought an unrivalled 6,51 expected points to the struggling team per CSfotbal’s immaculate model.

As for underlying numbers, they weren’t great. But there’s traces of eliteness sprinkled around nonetheless, in his fox-in-the-box acumen and hold-up play.

for more background on each metric, read this guide

Chip on the shoulder

They said he’s screwed once all the pubs on Stodolní street open post-Covid. That time has finally come, so it’s now the turn of Lukáš Čmelík — once a wonderkid and a poster child for unprofessional behaviour at Žilina — to stick it up to everyone (and his demons) and follow up on his inspired spring exploits when he stood tall, head and shoulder above the rest, in most games.

Čmelík is an obvious talent who did very well in the (rough) context to finish above break-even in successful actions in the penalty box, accurate crosses towards the centre of the box, foul differential or completed progressive runs:

Can he do the trick across the whole season? Can he do a bit more defence?

Inside the club’s off-season

with much thanks to @prostemajk for guiding me through the motions of Karviná’s pre-season; all input has been edited for clarity and style

Squad turnover

The mood-deflating spring form arguably had a positive knock-on effect in that Kristi Qose, Eduardo Santos or Lukáš Bartošák — who all looked due for a step up following strong individual autumns — ended up staying. Papadopulos had briefly flirted with the prospect of returning to his boyhood Baník Ostrava at the beginning of the summer, but he too continues serving as the captain.

That’s not to say Karviná haven’t lived through their usual deal of squad churn. Gone are the loanees Tomáš Ostrák, Rafael Tavares and Christián Herc who all provided the much-needed spark at numerous points of 2020/21. Gone is the charismatic veteran Marek Janečka or homegrown Vojtěch Smrž. Roman Haša — a two-goal hero of the Jablonec comeback draw (and not much else)— disappeared as a disgraced top scorer of the Slovak 2nd tier.

All put together, Karviná have lost over 30% of the entire 2020/21 playing time allocation, including three members of its most frequently used XI.

Biggest addition

He did all he could for Opava to save them. Despite spending just a half of the season there, Aleš Nešický finished as Opava’s top scorer with 4 non-penalty goals to Helešic’s 3 (yeah, it’s no wonder they went down, seeing this), their top smart passer, a Top 2 ball-winner in final third and a Top 4 crosser, too.

More interestingly, Nešický actually grades out as an above average attacking midfielder league-wide, appearing “better” than 28 out of 47 regular starters. I opted for the quotation marks there because it’s just my preferred set of metrics, whereas you might easily prefer some others, but it still tells you a lot:

Greatest subtraction

I’ve got to admit I felt — on the eye — that Christián Herc grew into the season whereas Tomáš Ostrák had gradually disappeared, not least because of injuries. All the same, they definitely looked — again, on the eye — as midfielders capable of contributing in the final third, which has been thoroughly and comprehensively… unconfirmed by my own model.

This is exactly why I have this objective tool: to provide my own subjective opinion with something of a reality check. And it works a treat especially in the case of Herc who — when compared to other attacking-minded midfielders — only beats 8,7% of them with his overall impact, landing dead last in expected assists. This also has an alternative explanation, however: Herc has nothing to do in this group together with Stanciu’s, Ladra’s, Dočkal’s of the world. As more of a deep-lying playmaker, of course he won’t have as big an influence closer to the penalty box. Tellingly, Herc actually appears fine in successful progressive passes — usually a stand-out trait of those acting deeper down who find themselves with more space ahead of them to pass into.

But Herc also has a better non-penalty xG than 60,9% of CAMs, so go figure…

As for Ostrák, his case is less surprising, because he’s clearly not a complex player — elite in some respects (accelerations with the ball, completed progressive runs, successful offensive duels in final third), yet barely a contributor in others (deep completed passes/crosses, dangerous set pieces won, shot assists from inside/around the box, recoveries in final third).

That set of “barely a contributor” metrics is, in fact, usually the arena for players with Ostrák’s gifts, but I blame Jarábek’s predominant usage of his for those underwhelming returns. Ostrák was fine centrally early on, connecting with Papadopulos, but never really settled in that right/left winger role later.

New kid on the block

Every year, Karviná has a set of players who break through and we either go “whaaaat” or “yeah, that was coming”. More of those cases, I believe, actually fall in that first category, but with this section it should never repeat again.

Let’s start with the other candidates: Matěj Jurásek (b. 2003) is coming on loan from Slavia to take his valuable 2nd tier loan experience even further. He can come at you from both flanks and makes for a tight dribbler who was involved in five goal moves for Vlašim (in the space of two months only). Dominik Kuča is only a year older and literally just switched from Opava. Martin Vlachovský (b. 2000) looks poised for a full year spent with the A-team, finally, and U-19 team’s Juraj Teplan and Jan Holzer also got a sniff.

Antonín Svoboda (b. 2002) is a fascinating addition in a bit of an Ostrák mould, actually — he too arrives from German-speaking environment having tried to cut it at a club that gave him some valuable lessons but no real opportunities at the top level. The one big difference, of course, is that Svoboda is coming over as a free agent to somehow rebuild his profile.

Finally, there’s Kasper Zych (b. 2002) who looks set to rival Papadopulos for the starter’s role. Like genuinely rival. Papadopulos didn’t look sharp in pre-season while Zych turned up with 3 goals, cheeky solutions (at one point calmly rounding a goalkeeper in 1v1) and a finishing variety (scored with his head as well as feet), which is a mix that could work in the longrun. As of now, it’s probably advisable to not get carried away: only once did Zych play over 45 minutes, so the best-case scenario could be… another David Huf?

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.

  • Karviná handed out at least 9 full starts to a trio of goalkeepers last season — a genuine rarity — and it shall not be much/any different now. To my disbelief, Petr Bolek was extended a few rounds before the season’s end, thus blocking any potential solution. Both Neuman and Ciupa had some OK stretches, but also haven’t done much to separate themselves from each other, so it’s going to be the same old uncertainty between the sticks.
  • The signing of Petr Buchta is one of those begging for a reaction along the lines of “yup, makes utter and total sense”. Dramé, Šindelář and Eduardo all have tendencies to be a bit erratic positionally, while Buchta is more of an anchor — he sweeps up behind his colleague, he blocks shots for him, etc. That sense of urgency without improvising too much was definitely missing from the Karviná backline in 2020/21 and Buchta should fix it. He creates a slightly awkward situation with Eduardo — as both would be primarily RCBs — but also gives Weber a platform to switch to 3-at-the-back, having filled that crucial middle CB role at Zlín extensively;
  • Don’t sleep on Karviná’s right-hand side. I imagine I rank it higher than most would’ve (7th), which is partially because I rate Mikuš as a backup very highly and expect things to come from Sinyavskiy/Jurásek or Pereira;
  • On the other hand, I can’t quite comprehend why Jean Mangabeira is going into the season A) as a clear-cut first option for CDM; B) barely backed up. Jursa isn’t really a holding midfielder at all and Soufi Dramé isn’t any better option than Jean Mangabeira, so unless Karviná have found in Gorin something we‘ve got no idea about at the moment, it’s… odd. I’m not saying letting Smrž go was a mistake; all I’m saying is that Mangabeira might’ve been the more logical candidate to part with:

Statistical/tactical trend to follow

Tactically, I’m intrigued by the apparent pre-season choice of having Nešický play LCM and push Kristi Qose up into the hole. Intuitively, I’d put them on the depth chart in the opposite order, yet this is how both the official website and @prostemajk chose to lay them out, so there must be some merit to it.

I’ll just say this: Qose is a classic tweener who contributes at both ends of the pitch and suffered from a fate similar to Ostrák and Herc; being more of a box-to-box presence, he didn’t have the offensive numbers to land higher than in the 19,6 percentile among attacking midfielders. Unlike Nešický, he scores above average in defensive metrics, yet you’re telling me this is your no. 10?

Statistically speaking, only one team was, on average, shooting from further away from goal, while no other team was allowing the opposition to shoot from closer. That’s quite a predicament to find yourself in — influencing your xG as heavily as anything — and a trend to keep an eye out for in 2021/22.

Roster battle to follow

It’s not a battle per se. I suppose you could say it’s an expanded war rather for Antonín Křapka who was a well-travelled defender for Weber at M. Boleslav (in the sense of getting deployed at RB, LCB, LB… anywhere), and so there’s little reason to assume he’ll suddenly be stationed at right back and nowhere else.

Despite mostly getting to play at fullback in pre-season, Křapka actually spent most of 2020/21 operating in the heart of Boleslav’s defence, so that’s the only position I can statistically compare him within. And he looks… good?

I wonder if we’ll see Eduardo and Křapka swapped on that depth chart above at some point in 2021/22. My uneducated guess is that we absolutely will.

Not just because it’s Weber we’re talking about…

Bold prediction

The prediction: Papadopulos will score more penalty goals than any other

The rationale: Pretty straightforward, but also arguably even bolder than it might seem at first sight. That’s because in 2020/21, Papadopulos wasn’t even

  • the designated penalty taker — that’d be Qose (going 5 for 5);
  • all that successful from the spot — converting 1 of his own 2 attempts.


Can I change my mind? No? Alright then, I’ll just close my eyes and bank on his (somewhat expected) decline. Two or three penalties will do, I’m sure.

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Tomas Danicek

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