Bojan Krkić has never reached the level he was expected to reach when he made his debut for Barcelona. One of the best strikers to have ever played in La Masia, Bojan never lived up to the expectations and with a career that has seen him play in the Serie A, the Bundesliga and the EPL, his most recent spell in the MLS hasn’t been amazing.
For a player like him, who is obviously talented, moving to Vissel Kobe and playing alongside an idol like Andrés Iniesta in a lower-level league would be a good move. In Japan, Bojan will surely show his talent, and in this tactical analysis, we’ll see where he excels and what he can bring to his new team’s tactics.
Raised as a centre-forward, Bojan has moved towards a deeper position as his career has advanced. At the moment, he’s an attacking midfielder who can even play in a 4-3-3 but also as a second striker. His excellent understanding of the game and his technical proficiency make him a player that needs to be on the ball to show his best level.
While playing for Montréal in the MLS, Bojan has mostly played a deep role behind the forwards, moving a lot between the lines, as we’ll see in the next section of this scout report.
Looking at Bojan’s heatmap from his spell in the USA, we can see he was mostly active in deep positions in the left half-space. From that position, he could cut inside to his strong right foot and also have a good overview of the pitch to receive from more defensive players and create.
Playing as a midfielder, Bojan has developed an excellent spatial awareness. He has never been physically dominant but is quick in the first few metres and very agile to turn and change directions so he easily dribbles and leaves players behind in tight spaces.
The previous chart compares Bojan to every other attacking midfielder in the MLS during his last season there. We see that he’s in the top 25% both for dribbles and offensive duels with 5.97 and 14.21 per 90 respectively.
Not an elite player anymore, Bojan still produced good numbers in attack and going to a lower-level league like the J1 League, he’ll surely manage to score and assist at a good rate. In the next graph, we see how he did in terms of successful attacking actions and expected goal contributions per 90 in the 2020 season.
Far from the best in the league, Bojan still produced 0.42 expected goal contributions per 90 (0.24 xG and 0.18 xA per 90) and completed 4.55 attacking actions, both figures being above average.
In the next section of the analysis, we’ll see how Bojan moves in his new position and his ability to receive the ball between the lines.
Playing between the lines: Movement & receiving skills
Bojan is very active between the lines, trying to create passing lanes and help his team to progress into the opposition half and the final third. In the last few seasons, Bojan has developed a great understanding of how to play between the lines, timing his movements very well and appearing in positions rivals don’t expect and struggle to cover.
Despite not having the intensity needed to play in top leagues anymore, as seen in his last spell in the EFL Championship with Stoke City, Bojan does have a good work rate and even if it isn’t at top speed, he still moves all the time and is dynamic to create spaces and appear a lot in the attacking phase.
On top of his great positioning behind the backs of his rivals and dynamism, Bojan still has an excellent technique to receive, turn and continue the attacks. His first touch is not only technically good but also intelligent, being capable of eliminating rivals and orientating the plays as he wants with just one contact.
In the next picture, we see Bojan receiving a progressive pass from a defender. With a defender following him but some distance behind, Bojan just needs a touch with his back heel to leave him behind and continue progressing towards the goal. Apart from the technique needed for this touch, Bojan also shows his awareness of where the rivals are.
The next sequence is a good example. Bojan starts in the striker position and instead of running in behind or staying as a classical nine, he comes deep looking to leave the defender behind and receive between the lines. His teammate spots the movement and sends the ball to him.
With two very good touches, Bojan controls the ball, turns and leaves two players behind. Constantly using body feints and with excellent accuracy in these small touches, Bojan finds it easy to escape his markers even in dangerous positions like this one.
Finally, once he has turned and is facing the goal, Bojan makes a good decision and plays the ball to the left wing, where his teammate appears with a great run from deep. After the pass, Bojan runs into the box and tries to get into a scoring position. Despite his new playing style, Bojan still has an eye for goal from his days as a striker.
We have seen how Bojan excels at receiving between the lines, both for positioning and technical skills. His understanding of the game makes it look easy for him. With few and simple touches, he manages to escape pressure, find spaces and create interesting attacks.
In the next section of this analysis, we’ll see how Bojan behaves in situations that require more creativity.
Creativity & dribbling
In the first section of this tactical analysis, we saw that Bojan stands out as a player who gets into lots of duels and attempts lots of dribbles. He likes to attract players and once they have committed to marking him, get past them and move into free spaces which he spots very easily.
Apart from the skill in tight spaces, Bojan is very quick over three or four steps and rivals are often caught off-guard and can’t react on time to stop him. Timing is also a very important part of Bojan’s dribbling efficiency as he excels at accelerating at the exact moment the rival moves, winning that fraction of a second he needs to easily run past the defender.
The next picture is a good example of Bojan’s skill and agility to move between rivals without space. Coming from the right and facing two rivals, Bojan first takes a touch with the inside of his right foot to get away from the first player. Taking a quick touch with the outside of his right foot, Bojan puts the ball between both rivals and gets forward.
Using the rivals’ movements against them is another key part of Bojan’s ability to dribble and escape pressure despite his lack of top-level physicality. Let’s have a look at the next example. Trapped between a rival and the touchline, a second rival sprints towards Bojan confident of putting him in an impossible situation and recovering the ball.
However, Bojan sees the defender approaching, and with just one touch to the side, he uses the rival’s momentum to let him pass and takes the ball with a lot of space to continue playing. Again, Bojan’s awareness and intelligence are key here as the play doesn’t require excellent technique or pace.
Once he’s facing the goal, Bojan has developed a great passing range and is capable of playing with his head up and creating chances for his teammates.
From the left half-space, Bojan can launch through passes with top accuracy and power so he just needs movement in front of him to create chances and become a creative force. The next example is something that happens quite regularly.
Bojan comes very deep to take the ball, and with space to turn and raise his head, he puts his teammate one against one versus the goalkeeper with an excellent through ball.
Going to a league where he’ll have some more space and time to think and create, we can expect Bojan to shine. If Vissel Kobe manage to play Iniesta and Bojan together and make the most out of their creativity, their striker should score tons of goals by benefiting from the former Barcelona pair’s creativity.
Moving to Japan at 30 isn’t what we would have expected when Bojan first started playing for Barcelona in La Liga. However, after a career in which injuries and excessive expectations have held him down, seeing him play alongside Iniesta will be very interesting and, most importantly, make him happy.
Barcelona fans will surely have even more interest now in watching Vissel Kobe games and if Bojan continues his form as a creative force in midfield, they’ll be a joy to watch next season.