Data Analysis: Scouting the Ekstraklasa
The Polish domestic market is one of my favourites to scout in. There is an interesting mix of teams with some being more competitive than others but almost all are willing to trust in young players as a part of their first-team setup. This means that there are often players with interesting profiles to watch as well as a mix of foreign players who quite often come from interesting markets. When you take this alongside the fact that often valuations are on the relatively affordable side of the scale in relation to the quality of the league I think there is a real opportunity to get players of genuine talent out of Poland. In this article, I will be identifying five players in the Polish top-flight who have impressed me so far this season both in terms of their data output and in terms of their performances when watching matches on video.
When I am using data in the recruitment process my methodology remains relatively static. I use Wyscout as the data source, the best option from a cost/quality/depth perspective and Tableau as the tool for visualising and interpreting the data. Using these simple tools I am able to gain insights into the performances of players and indeed clubs from across the football world. I have my own combinations of metrics that are used to identify players that are well but these are also combined with metrics that meet the specific requirements and style that the client club prefers. Having assessed player performances I then move on to the longlisting process using custom-built dashboards within Tableau. These will be shown below and allow me to quickly assess player performance across a number of key metrics depending on the position of the player in question.
While I always use data as part of the data process that does not mean that I think that data is alone for a decision to be made on the recruitment of a player. Instead, I use data to identify players who are either performing well or who have metrics that fit specific KPI’s of any of the clients that I work for. Once I have used the data to identify the players that might be of interest they then go into the workflow for video scouting and to have a profile and report made up on the player in question.
#1 Konrad Gruszkowsi, 20-years-old, right-back, Wislaw Crakow and Poland
The first player on my shortlist for this week is the 20-year-old right-back Konrad Gruszkowski. The young fullback is currently contracted to Wisla Krakow and is well on the way t0 having his breakout season. Gruszkowski is a product of the youth academy at Wisla although he did spend a short spell on loan at Motor Lublin in 2019. Last season saw the young fullback play 423 minutes at first-team level across all competitions. So far this season he has already played 1064 minutes across all competitions with 805 of those coming in the league.
Gruszkowsi is a combative right-back out of possession but he is also confident and capable in possession of the ball. He is listed at 183cm | 6’1″ with a broad frame. In the defensive phase, he impresses with 7.68 defensive duels per 90 and a success rate of 66.13% as well as 2.97 aerial duels per 90 with a success rate of 54.17%. As well as being capable and comfortable when defending in direct duels he also impresses with his reading of the game and ability to break up opposition attacks this is shown in his 7.65 possession adjusted interceptions.
While he is strong defensively he also uses the ball extremely well and he is averaging 45.68 passes per 90 with 10.65 progressive passes per 90 and 7.18 passes to the final third per 90. In possession, he receives the ball well and then shows the ability to play the ball intelligently down the line or into the feet of the strikers. Interestingly he is also averaging 3.47 passes into the penalty area per 90 as he shows his creative side when joining the play in the final third.
#2 Adrian Gryszkiewicz, 21-years-old, Central Defender, Gornik Zabrze and Poland
The next player on my shortlist is the 21-year-old Gornik Zabrze central defender Adrian Gryszkiewicz. He is a left-footed central defender who tends to play this season on the left of a back three at club level although he also profiles as a player who would be comfortable playing as one of a pair in a back four. He is a product of the youth academy at the club. He made his debut for the club as a 17-year-old in the 2017/18 season although last season saw him make a real breakthrough in terms of playing time with 2899 minutes across all competitions. So far this season he has played 685 minutes across all competitions with 588 in the league.
Gryszkiewicz is listed at 185cm | 6’2″ and he is predominantly left-footed with an athletic build. He also has a contract that is due to expire at the end of this season.
Starting with his defensive output Gryszkiewicz is balanced and strong across the board. He is averaging 5.51 defensive duels per 90 with a 66.67% success rate and 5.66 aerial duels with a success rate of 48.65%. This is combined with 7.70 possession adjusted interceptions per match. He is comfortable defending as a part of a block or when pulled wide to defend in space where his mobility allows him to defend against quick attackers.
In possession, he is averaging 44.08 passes per 90 with 9.64 progressive passes and 8.11 passes to the final third. Interestingly, Gryszkiewicz is also comfortable when carrying the ball forward and driving to cross the halfway line. He is averaging 1.07 dribbles per 90 and 1.99 progressive runs per 90 so far this season.
#3 Alasana Manneh, 23-years-old, Central Midfielder, Gornik Zabrze and The Gambia
The 23-year-old Gambian midfielder Alasana Manneh is a perfect example of some of the foreign talent that we can see and up in the Polish leagues. Manneh is a product of the Aspire Academy although he moved to Europe to join the youth ranks of Barcelona before he became a first-team player. Following spells on loan at the likes of Sabadell and Etar he then moved to Poland to join Gornik Zabrze in 2019. Last season saw Manneh transition to become a key player at club level as he played 2482 minutes across all competitions. This season so far he has played 679 minutes with all of them coming in the league.
Manneh is a left-footed central midfielder who is listed at 170cm | 5’6″ and he likes to drop into pockets of space in the midfield where he can receive the ball before progressing it and accessing all areas of the field. He has an excellent passing range and the vision to allow him to find space and identify runs across the whole pitch.
As you can see from his data profile he is at his most effective when in possession of the ball with his ability to create opportunities and access the final third. He is averaging 51.43 passes per 90 with 6.76 progressive passes and 7.82 passes to the final third per 90. This is combined with 2.25 passes to the penalty area per 90. His strong output is further shown with his assists per 90 of 0.27 although his xA per 90 is only 0.02.
#4 Kacper Kozlowski, 17-years, old, Central Midfielder, Pogon Szczecin and Poland
The term generational talent is one that is perhaps used too often but when applied to the 17-year-old Polish midfielder Kacper Kozlowski it might just fit. This summer past he featured for the senior Polish national team and he became the youngest player to ever feature in a European Championship. Despite his young age he never looked out of place at senior international level and he took the entire experience in his stride.
The young midfielder is a product of the youth academy at Pogon Szczecin although he is likely to be moving sooner rather than later with some of the biggest sides in Europe already circulating. He made his debut at first-team level in the 2018/19 season but it was last year that we saw him start to make a consistent impact at first-team level with 1244 minutes across all competitions. This season so far he has played 678 minutes across all competitions with 490 of those coming in the league.
Kozlowsi is at his best when he is allowed to impact the game in the final third. He is averaging 6.37 passes to the final third and 1.91 passes to the penalty area per 90 as he looks to find ways to access dangerous areas when in possession. In the attacking phase he also has an interesting profile with 0,37 goals per 90 from an xG per 90 of 0.21. This is combined with 2.33 shots per 90 and 4.03 touches in the opposition area per 90 as he shows an impressive output in the attacking phase.
For a player who is so young, he is also strong in the defensive phase especially with his defensive duels of 7.64 defensive duels per 90 with a 75% success rate.
#5 Jakub Kaminski, 19-years-old, Winger, Lech Poznan and Poland
The final player on our shortlist is the 19-year-old left-winger Jakub Kaminski who is currently contracted to Lech Poznan and who has been capped once so far at senior international level by the Polish national team. Kaminski is a product of the youth academy at Lech Poznan and he made his first-team breakthrough in the 2019/20 season where he played 2772 minutes. In the 2020/21 season he played 3225 minutes and this season so far he has played 1057 minutes across all competitions with 754 of those coming in the league.
He is a right-footed player who likes to play from the left with the freedom to attack inside into the half-spaces and central areas when in possession of the ball. He is listed at 179cm | 5’9″ and he has an athletic build with pace and the agility to quickly change direction when moving in possession.
He is very effective in the attacking phase and is averaging 6.09 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 62.75% along with 2.27 crosses per 90 and 2.15 passes into the penalty area per 90. So far this season he has an excellent output in terms of goals and assists with 0.24 goals per 90 from an xG per 90 of 0.28 and 0.24 assists per 90 from an xA per 90 of 0.22. He is also averaging 2.51 shots per 90 and 4.89 touches in the opposition area per 90.
Domestic football in Poland is, for my money, amongst the most underrated in European football. There is really talent in this league across almost all position groups and with young players looking to break through all of the time. It’s well worth spending some time scouting this market for almost any club.