Eintracht Frankfurt have let some of Europe’s best prospects go in the past couple of years, making it incredible that they still manage to cope with the pressure and perform on a high level.
Although some said it would be impossible for the team to replace the likes of Ante Rebić (Milan), Luka Jović (Real Madrid), and Sébastien Haller (West Ham), the 27-year-old Filip Kostić came to prove them wrong.
The Serbian, who can operate as a wing-back and winger, has taken the Bundesliga by a storm in the last couple of seasons, becoming a crucial part of Frankfurt’s performance and future plans.
Having a complex attack-minded player, who can create and score, but also help out defensively has proven to be the right choice for the Eagles, who now have built a strategy that benefits from Kostić’s abilities.
Thanks to his speed and technique the winger has scored 12 goals and assisted 15 more in all competitions, starting off the team’s Europa League Qualifiers.
This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report aims to break down what makes him so important for Frankfurt’s tactics and why he deserves to be under the radar of the big European clubs this summer.
Frankfurt’s strategy and how his strengths fit
Adi Hütter wanders mostly between the 4-1-4-1 and the 4-2-3-1 formations and the more you dive into their strategy the more it looks like it’s completely built depending on Kostić’s strengths. That, of course, is a very bold statement, but the truth is that the manager tried improving the Serbian’s abilities to adjust them to serve his tactics and vision.
Kostić’s position on the left flank provides the team with the needed width not only in the build-up but when finishing their attacks as well. Frankfurt usually attack through the wings, and their actions are actively focused on the left-hand side exactly due to Kostić’s endless attacking abilities.
Not only does he use his pace to help in advancing the ball but he supports their attacking actions by constantly providing crosses and key passes that often turn out as assists. Crossing frequently from both sides is actually another part of the team’s strategy. With his movement on the wing, he often serves as a distraction and stretches out the defence to open gaps for his teammates.
Engaging his opponents and being under pressure doesn’t take off of the accuracy of his actions in the final third, though. Whenever he is not involved in the current actions, he tries to position in a way to be able to pick up the ball and help the team. That often results in him demonstrating his decision-making and creating scoring chances.
The team is performing very strongly when attacking set-pieces and that’s just another result of Kostić’s abilities, too, which we will explain later on. His presence brings balance since he doesn’t neglect his defensive responsibilities, always providing crucial support in key areas, although he still fails to react against quick counters, which is one of the team’s weakest areas.
Importance for Eintracht’s attacking actions
As mentioned above the Serbian international is crucial for the Eagles’ attacking ventures. They most frequently build-up through the left flank and finish off their attacks by using his services. That doesn’t mean he’s only stuck to the wide areas. He often occupies the half-spaces too and provides additional passing options in combinations with the left-back Evan N’Dicka.
He sometimes strolls higher than the rest of the attacking line in order to pick up the ball from the central areas and stretch it out wide, giving his teammates a chance to move off the ball and position in the box where they’d be able to receive his crosses.
Combined with his pace and smart positioning deep on the wing, crossing is his strongest asset. He delivers the ball with flair and precision and having a good connection with his fellow attacking players often makes the opposition’s defence struggle. The left-back’s movement allows him to position deeper on the flank and use every opportunity to send the ball into the box.
Whenever he is not able to take on his markers he would send long balls into key areas. That’s a result of his improved decision-making and tactical understanding. Being able to allocate his teammates while they move off the ball is equally as important as his confidence on the ball and the precision of his passes. He manages to combine all and that’s why the outcome is positive.
Kostić completes 7.81 crosses on average per game, being the team’s main provider in the final third, followed by either of the right-backs Almamy Touré or Timothy Chandler, who are not that active on the other side of the pitch, though. As seen on Eintracht’s average crossing map down below, the left-wing is used more frequently.
His overall passing rate could be considered as his only main weakness (64.3%), although the more important in this case is his contribution and success in the final third, which proves that despite his overall low rate of passing accuracy, he is still very efficient in key areas, providing 6.88 passes into the box on average.
Speaking of abilities to contribute in short pass combinations in order to retain possession in the central areas, he is not as good, but having in mind his role and the team’s strategy, that’s not what they aim to achieve through him.
His flair for key passes often turns out decisive in Eintracht’s games, since he is one of the main providers in the team. His through balls and key passes often end up as assists, complementing the attacker’s performance in the best possible way. His confidence on the ball and improved decision-making results in providing 2.63 shot assists per game but also shooting 2.55 times on average.
He manages to balance between taking the risk and trying to deliver on his own and focusing on finding a better way to finish the attacks, hence passing the ball, putting his ego aside.
A huge part of his successful actions is his dribbling skills. The Serbian shows impressive confidence and technique on the ball and often leaves defenders behind with one touch. Being able to take actions immediately after being put under immense pressure and taking on an opponent, makes him unpredictable and hard to resist.
Kostić dribbles 6.64 times on average per 90 minutes with more than half of them being successful. The importance lies not in how many of the dribbles themselves are successful, but in the way how he takes advantage of his opportunities. It is definitely that once he manages to pass through his markers, he would create a goal-scoring opportunity. And that is why his impact is so big.
As mentioned, Frankfurt are very strong in attacking set-pieces. The 27-year-old is the main set-piece taker and his precise actions, combined with his teammates’ movements have resulted in the team scoring 11 goals from set-pieces in Bundesliga this season.
He has already contributed in 23 corners and seven free-kicks. That’s another aspect where his confidence and technique result in sending perfectly measured balls. And although he can without a doubt directly threaten the goal, he often shows that he is a great team player and goes for providing a good ball for his teammates to score.
Kostić is good at holding on to the ball. Thanks to his technique and confidence he is quite solid under pressure. Despite his attack-minded playing style, he has a quite high success rate in his defensive duels (59.2%) which adds to his defensive contribution. He is keen to support the defensive actions and aims to win the possession back as quickly as possible, hence while the ball is still in the opposition half.
He makes sure to disturb the opposition defence and often force them into individual mistakes, resulting in 4.74 recoveries and 3.03 interceptions on average per game.
What he needs to improve is his timing during defensive transitions, especially when he is in a wing-back role. His speed won’t always be enough to stop the opposition from creating chances. Increasing his awareness and using him positioning smartly so he could trouble the opponent’s build-up, would add up to his set of skills.
Movement and decision-making
The Serbian wouldn’t only impress on the ball but would put efforts into his positioning and movement off the ball. Since the team mainly attacks through the left flank he is often the main figure to help in bypassing the press and advancing the ball. That’s when his link-up-play abilities come in handy. He uses his movement smartly and often succeeds in sneaking behind the makers, which combined with his pace afterwards is often enough to penetrate defences.
When the actions are focused on the right he makes sure to be positioned in or around the box in a good position to shoot. When he is not being a direct threat to the goal, he moves around the half-spaces and serves as a distraction for the opposition defenders.
As previously mentioned his work under pressure and actions in 1vs1 situations are also impressive. He is never afraid to use his dribbling skills and always look for a way to threaten the goal. That’s why you won’t only see him serving his teammates, but also taking advantage of every situation and shooting on his own.
As you’ll see in the examples below, he seems to have a better understanding of what’s tactically going to work out better. If previously he would’ve got carried away with his movement and dribbling, now more often than not he would judge the big picture better and act in the best possible way.
Despite doing well in re-building the team after their star players left, it might be a tad more difficult for Frankfurt to recover if Kostić takes off in the summer. He is extremely important for them to be able to employ their strategy and if he leaves the club it might make the manager’s life miserable.
He’s been heavily linked with a Premier League move to Crystal Palace who might be fighting for his signature in the summer, but the analysis above proves that he should be on the radar for every team with title ambitions. His abilities could improve every team’s attacking performance and combined with the gained experience in such a dynamic league as the Bundesliga is these days, he should be considered as one of the best options on the transfer market.