Following a successful loan spell at Charlton, Jonathan Leko made the switch across the West Midlands to Birmingham. The winger scored five goals and added four assists in 1521 minutes last season. The youngster has finally made a permanent move and can expect more minutes to further his development. Leko makes the move to Birmingham, who narrowly avoided relegation last season. The Blues will be hoping Leko comes in and bolsters an attack which only mustered 54 goals last season, one of the worst returns in the league.
In this scout report, we will use analysis to consider the role Leko can be expected to play at Birmingham. The tactical analysis will analyse his strengths, such as dribbling and through balls. The analysis will also consider the tactics that Birmingham usually uses, and how Leko is expected to fit in. With the recent appointment of Aitor Karanka, we can expect a more defensive style of play, and that would suggest Karanka will aim to use Leko on the counter-attack with his pace. To achieve this, there will be an analysis of statistics to understand the role Leko can play. The scout report will also analyse video footage, to provide examples of Lekos style of play.
The tactical analysis will now consider an area that Leko excels in, which is counterattacks. The scout report will consider the statistics behind his involvement in counterattacks, and why that makes him a valuable player in such scenarios. The metric that will be used in this part of the analysis is xGChain in counterattacks/90 and % of xGChain in counterattacks. The scout report will analyse the former first.
xGChain in counterattacks/90 is a metric that provides an xG value to every player who made a contribution leading to a shot in counterattack scenarios. So for example, the person who squares the ball across the box for his teammate to finish into an empty net will have a higher xGChain score than the person who started the move. In this regard, Leko averages a score of 0.11, which is only bettered by a few players. This shows that his involvement in counterattacks results in a better scoring opportunity being created. One reason for this is Leko, when given time, can play excellent through balls. This means that often, his pass will be the last one before a shot is taken. He is often able to find his team-mate in behind with his passing. However, his through balls are only an area he exceeds in when given space and time, something which is afforded in counter-attacks.
The second metric that will be considered is % of XGChain in counter-attacks. This metric determines a players xGChain score as a % of all counterattacks. Using analysis of statistics, it is clear once again that Leko excels in this. He has a % xGChain of 37.9. This means he has a significant part to play in most counterattacks. The reason for this is that he is an excellent ball carrier with pace. This allows him to bring his team up the pitch in counter-attacks. Therefore, it means he has a large and significant involvement in counter-attacks.
The scout report will now consider Leko’s dribbling ability. The winger has quick feet and a burst of pace that make it very difficult to defend in 1-on-1 situations. The tactical analysis will consider how Leko uses this to his advantage. The analysis will also highlight anyways in Leko can look to position himself in more scenarios to use his strengths. Firstly, the scout report will analyse video footage to identify what Leko does well.
One thing in which Leko exceeds in his committing his man. When Leko receives the ball, he is very direct and runs at his man with pace and skill. This is an issue for the opposing defender. On one hand, they could allow Leko to dribble into the box with the ball whilst standing off, before making a tackle. Alternatively, they can look to get close and win the ball. This runs the risk of committing foul or getting beaten and allowing Leko to exploit the space left. This is advantageous for the team he is playing in. His dribbling ability creates scenarios where goal-scoring opportunities can be created and is, therefore, an asset in attack.
Further to this, the statistics also show that Leko is an accomplished dribbler of the ball. He averages 5.89 dribbles/90 and about 2.68 successful dribbles/90, which is a success rate of around 45%. Those numbers are also well above the league average. The analysis of those numbers clearly shows that, during his time at Charlton, he was given the freedom to attack the opposition. He made a large number of dribbles as he was able to get himself into dribbling situations. He did this by staying wide in order to receive the ball and isolate the opponent. This is clever positional play, as it showed Leko had the understanding of where to be in order to maximise his strengths.
What to expect at Birmingham
The tactical analysis will now consider what we can expect to see at from Leko at his new club, Birmingham. It will analyse the tactics of new manager Karanka, and how Leko fits into his vision. The scout report will use analysis of the two points mentioned above to determine his role in this Birmingham side.
Firstly, the analysis will consider the tactics that Karanka is likely to use. Based on his time at Middlesborough and Nottingham Forest, Karanka is a very defence-oriented manager. He firstly looks to ensure a solid defence, and his sides leak very few goals. Where the issue arises, however, is in their lack of goals. His sides whilst not the worst scorers in the league are not exactly prolific. This would suggest that Leko might have to sacrifice some of his attacking freedom for his defensive responsibility. This would suggest Karanka likes his side to sit back and play on the counter.
However, as the tactical analysis has shown, this type of play may be ideal of Leko. The analysis has shown that he is extremely effective on the counterattack. His ball-carrying ability and eye for a pass when in space will be of much use to Karanka. Therefore, it looks like Leko would be a perfect fit as an attacking player in Karanka’s system. The only question mark would around him would be defensive responsibilities. That, however, is something Karanka will need to coach into him.
Another way in which Leko would be ideal for Karanka and Birmingham is his dribbling ability. The scout report previously highlighted this. There will be games where Birmingham are on top and expected to attack rather than sit back. Leko’s dribbling could be key in such games. He has the ability to beat men at will and that will create space in. This will allow Birmingham to be able to get in behind where games are tight and difficult.
The scout report has highlighted some of Leko’s strengths and has used analysis to show that he will be a good signing for Birmingham. His dribbling ability makes him key both on the counterattack and in tight spaces. This quality is something Birmingham do not possess at the moment, so adding someone like Leko will be key to Birmingham’s season.
His goal and assist return at Charlton is also impressive. He averaged a goal or assist every other game, which shows there is an end product to his play. Still at only 21 years of age, and likely to get more game experience under his belt, he has the potential to be a Premier League player at some point in the future, or perhaps move to Germany like fellow young English players.
Where Birmingham will be cautious with regards to how he will fit into their system is his defensive responsibilities. Karanka is renowned for being a defensive manager and expects his forwards to help in that regard. Such responsibilities may force Leko to sacrifice his attacking freedom. However, Karanka will have the decision to make, as his output further up the pitch could be more beneficial to Birmingham this season.