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Filip Kostić: Why he should be under the radar this summer - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Filip Kostić: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer?

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Kostić’s heatmap showing his movement both in the attacking and the defending phases.

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
He is often positioned higher than the attacking line or at their level in order to pick up the ball and deliver it quickly to the final third.
Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
He then aims to stretch out and open spaces for his teammates to exploit and receive the ball once he crosses it, as seen in the image above.

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
The team’s average crossing map. The left-hand side is noticeably more active, mostly thanks to Kostić (number 10).
Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
In the image above he is put under pressure by both players, but still manages to cope with the situation in the best possible way and crosses to Kamada who arrives right on time to finish the attack and shoot.

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Da Costa was dropping back to pick up the ball and that’s when all defenders thought Kostić was going to pass to him. He instead saw the opportunity in sending it directly to Kamada, who eventually finished the attack with a header.
Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Another bit of proof of his intelligence and vision. He had a couple of other options to deliver the ball to the box but went for Chandler who was most likely to be left uncovered by the opposition defence.

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
The team’s average dribbles map shows that Kostić attempts to dribble most frequently and as per usual the left flank is more challenging.

Set-piece impact

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.

Defensive contribution

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
You’ll see him among the players that recover the ball in the opposition half most frequently. The average map also shows that the outcome in most of the times was the team creating a goal-scoring opportunity.
Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Kostić dives into a defensive duel with Hakimi, but what makes it more impressive is that he made a run throughout half of the pitch, just to cover depth and gain back possession.

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
He would often switch positions with the left-back N’Dicka during the build-up. The image above shows his link-up-play abilities. He contributed in the pass combinations while moving off the ball in efforts to bypass the press. He successfully moved out with the ball and delivered it to the final third.
Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
As mentioned he would switch positions with N’Dicka and sit deeper in his own half, but when they can’t escape the press, he would send long balls and switch play in order to advance the ball.

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.

Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Proof of his work under pressure and in 1vs1 situations. He dribbled past his marker despite the immense pressure and immediately shot bravely from quite a difficult angle.
Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
He didn’t think twice but moved off the ball so he could finish the attack.
Filip Kostic: Why he should be on the recruitment radar this summer? - scout report tactical analysis tactics
He ended up doing so and scoring. What makes an impression here is his strong decision-making. He didn’t get carried away in dribbling until he got closer to the goal. He picked the right moment to shoot and that’s why the outcome was positive.

What’s next?

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.