Luka Sučić is a Croatian midfielder who plays for Red Bull Salzburg. This scout report will contain a tactical analysis of Sučić’s attributes and his playing style. RB Salzburg mostly plays with the 4-4-2 diamond formation and Sučić occupies either the #8 or #10 position.
It didn’t take long for Sučić to earn a call-up for the senior national team and make his debut, just one month after debuting for the U21 national team. His debut for the Croatian U21 national team would’ve happened earlier but he had to postpone his appearance twice due to injuries. For RB Salzburg he became a starter over the summer and appeared in the starting XI in UEFA Champions League qualifications and group stage. Sučić scored his first Champions League goal in a group stage opening match against La Liga side Sevilla by converting a penalty. Through this analysis, we will go through Sučić’s strengths but also highlight the areas where he has room to improve in the future.
Luka Sučić is a 19-year-old (born in 2002) central midfielder who is capable of playing multiple roles in midfield. He is predominantly left-footed and he is listed at 185cm. He was born in Austria but throughout his youth career, represented Croatia since 2017 when he made a debut for the U15 national team. In the visual below we will take a look into the data from this season. The visual will show us how Sučić holds up when compared to other U21 midfielders with at least 400 minutes this season from the top five European leagues.
Based on the visual above, Sučić looks impressive when it comes to offensive output. Of course, the players from the top five European leagues have tougher competition but Sučić’s performance should not be diminished. We can see that he has a good xG which is mostly connected with the four penalties he has taken this season. He attempts a lot of shots, mostly from outside the penalty area, which we’ll get to later in the analysis.
He is very creative in the final third, judging by his shot assists, deep completions and passes into the penalty area. His ability to play in different roles can be seen based on his passes to the final third and progressive passes, meaning he can operate deeper on the pitch by making quality passes towards the advanced areas closer to the opposition goal. He is above average in dribbles attempted, and around average in dribbling success rate. His passing accuracy is below average compared to the other U21 midfielders but it isn’t bad because it just shows his creativity and willingness to take a risk with his passes by attempting to create promising situations. If his passing accuracy was higher, he probably wouldn’t look that impressive in creative statistics like now. Overall, his profile looks very promising along with the areas like touches in the box and dribbling which could be improved. In the next sections, we will make a detailed analysis of his playing style and his strengths.
Spatial awareness and body positioning
We will start the analysis of his performances with his intelligent movement on the pitch. After this section, we will have a good insight into how Sučić gets into quality situations in the opposition half. Let’s take a look at an example from the ÖFB-Cup match against SC Kalsdorf.
RB Salzburg’s midfield is very fluid and all of their midfielders complement each other with their movements off the ball. In this situation, we can see how the ball carrier has drawn the attention of three players, with all three players focused on the ball and not on the space. Sučić positioned himself as a lateral passing option, but when he saw the body position of the closest opponent to him who isn’t capable of seeing his movement, he accelerated towards the space between the lines. This movement from Sučić can be seen often from him because he always tries to find open space between the lines or in the half-spaces where he can receive the ball without pressure.
This example is one of the reasons why Sučić stands out at such young age. His team is in offensive transition and he makes a run towards the open space in front of the defence from where his teammate with the ball can see him. However, he isn’t moving at the same pace when he got there but rather slows down to be able to receive the ball in front of him which enables him to run directly at the defence.
His body positioning opens him a wide-angle from where he can see almost all the opponents in front of him. If he didn’t slow down and progress further with his run, he would probably end up receiving the ball with his back towards the goal or under pressure because the centre-back would be closer and capable of pressing him quickly. Very smart thinking from a youngster creating himself time and space even before he receives the ball.
The next frame will show us what Sučić did when receiving the ball.
As we can see Sučić didn’t have much choice in front of him and the ratio of players didn’t go in his favour. He is always scanning the pitch and he is aware of his surroundings which led to him instantly attempting a pass towards the arriving right-back who had more space in front of him. This quick switch of sides allowed his team to keep the flow of the attack and he created a 2v2 situation on that side of the pitch.
The last situation in this section will show us how Sučić can receive the ball when dropping between the lines after being positioned higher on the pitch.
In this frame, we can see a situation where RB Salzburg’s full-backs hold width high up the pitch in an attempt to spread opposition lines to open channels for the central players to receive the ball. Sučić was positioned higher, close to the defensive line and decided to separate and position himself between the lines so that he is capable of receiving the ball without pressure. We can see that two opposition central midfielders are focused on the ball while the right-back and right centre-back are marking two players in the left half-space closely, which is enough for Sučić to receive the ball and turn quickly.
As we can see, while the ball was on its way towards the Sučić, he already positioned himself to receive it on the half-turn which then makes him more dangerous because he is turned towards the goal after the first touch. This kind of detail can be decisive to adapt to playing against teams that defend in a low block because when there is a dense structure in the central areas, it is important to create space with smart movement between the lines and quick turns with the ball.
This section is a foundation for the next section, where Sučić shows his vision and creativity along with his passing ability.
The previous section was a foundation for this section where we will take a look into Sučić’s vision and passing ability. In the data profile, we saw impressive creative numbers from Sučić.
In this example, we can see the movement we already saw at the start of the previous section. Sučić recognises how the player close to him is focused on the ball and turned his back towards him, meaning he doesn’t have control over Sučić’s movement which he easily exploits by accelerating into the space between the lines.
Sučić receiving the ball in the final third behind the midfield line then puts centre-backs into a dilemma: should they step up and press him leaving the space behind them open? Or should they hold their position? To be clear, Sučić can exploit both decisions because he can quickly turn with the ball and make a quick pass because of his vision which makes it even harder for defenders. In this particular situation, the centre-back stepped out and applied pressure on him which left the other centre-back in wide space between the two centre-forwards. Sučić made a quality through pass for the teammate who attacked the space between the right-back and right centre-back.
The next example is when Sučić receives the ball against Sevilla who, at that moment, was in a low block.
We can see that Sučić drew out from the crowd to receive the ball centrally while facing the opposition goal. In this frame, it can be seen how he scans the positions of the players which helps him to be a step ahead when he receives the ball. When receiving the ball, he can create himself a good angle for multiple actions as we can see in the next example.
He can create himself space to make a short pass towards the player in a purple circle and continue his movement. However, that is maybe the riskiest decision because the opponent is trying to close down that option and it could be dangerous for his team if he loses the ball there. Sučić can make a drive with the ball towards the opposition goal (marked with a dashed yellow line) which would open new possibilities for him. Given his quality passing ability, he can try chipping the ball over the defence on the left side (white circle). He was pressed well by the opponent which made him hesitate a little before finding his teammate between the lines (red circle) with a slick pass that surprised the Sevilla defence, given the tough angle to make it. Even though he is aware of his surroundings and he is often a step ahead of his opponents, he also manages to adapt to different situations and make quality decisions that add extra value to his game.
In this image, we will highlight his ability to switch sides of play in an attempt to create space on the opposite side. It is clear that Rapid Vienna is standing in the low block with all players behind the ball and closing all passing lanes towards the forwards. Sučić attempts a long pass to switch play with the idea to spread the opponent but also if the left-back manages to cross quickly, the forwards (positioned in right half-space) would have enough space in the penalty area to be able to get on the end of a cross.
Drifting and dribbling
Another version of Sučić’s creativity is his ability to drift wider towards the right-wing and dribble. Given the narrow formation of RB Salzburg, central midfielders must support full-backs on flanks both offensively and defensively. Sučić sometimes even plays as a right-winger which means he is familiar with that position.
In this image, we can see Sučić drifting wider to receive the ball in the halfspace unmarked. Once again, we can see that he receives the ball while having a good view of his surroundings.
The opposition midfielder tried to stop him from progressing further but Sučić, even though he is left-footed, is capable of dribbling on inside out towards his right foot. Beating an opponent in such a situation often opens many options in the final third which Sučić can exploit by making smart decisions. He has a potential one-two option with a forward (purple circle), but also the midfielder (white circle) making the run into the penalty area. His offensive skillset often makes him unpredictable for the opponents.
The last example shows Sučić cutting inside from the flank onto his stronger foot. He provides the passing option and a cover for a full-back who is positioned higher but when he receives the ball, he is capable of cutting inside onto his stronger foot. By cutting inside, Sučić can create himself a space to shoot or to attempt a final pass for his teammates. However, in the next section, we will discuss his shooting and how it can be improved.
When we talk about such a talented midfielder with an offensive tendency, we expect him to be able to score a double-digit number of goals per season. Sučić surely has a good shooting technique which portrays the best in his free-kicks and also penalties. He is a quality set-piece taker and his crosses from corners are often turned into assists. However, from open-play, Sučić will have to improve his output. The shot map will show us the locations and outcomes of Sučić’s shots from this season.
As we can see, most of Sučić’s shots come from outside the penalty area, closer to the right side of the penalty area. He scored twice from the outside of the penalty area and twice from the penalty spot. The xG value of his shots is not very high which isn’t surprising given the distance of his attempts. What is worrying currently is that 16 attempts out of 35 are blocked by the opponents.
It is clear that he often tries to adjust himself on his stronger left foot and sometimes decides to shoot even when it is clear that the shot won’t go through. Given his ball control and receiving skills, he should make better preparations for his shot just like he does when receiving the ball between the lines. Another important thing is that he works on his right foot shooting which will expand his options when getting into a good opportunity. The final statement is that he needs to arrive more often into the penalty area which will lead to more quality opportunities for a shot.
When talking about defensive ability, Sučić has to improve his aggression when applying pressure which is very important for his position. He knows how to close space and often positions himself well defensively, but when getting into a duel he often lacks intensity which can be exploited by the opponents.
This analysis gave us information on Sučić’s abilities. We focused more on his attacking qualities but also mentioned the weaknesses and areas where he needs to improve in the future. Of course, given the potential he possesses, we don’t doubt that he will improve over time in these areas. RB Salzburg’s tactics will help him a lot in his development because of the attacking football they nurture. The future is bright for the Croatian wonderkid.