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Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 – scout report

Aleksandar Vukotic is a 24-year-old centre-back for Waasland-Beveren. The club signed the player from FK Krupa, based in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for €350,000, a club record fee at the time, highlighting that the Belgian club rated Vukotić highly. Since then, Vukotić has been highlighted as a standout performer in a recent data analysis piece comparing all centre-backs in the Belgium First Division A. The data analysis piece, written by Toni Bilandzic, outlined that the Serbian, Vukotić, is a commanding centre-back who demonstrated strong data-based performance in defensive and offensive based metrics, therefore, suggesting the centre-back for more detailed scouting. What makes this player even more interesting is the fact that he has produced such data in a Waasland-Beveren team who have recently been relegated. Yes, the team at the bottom of the league will naturally have a lot of defending to do, but the player also impressed in offensive metrics. Waasland-Bereven’s relegation adds further fuel to the fire that the club could sell one of their record signings. Interestingly, Celtic are reportedly interested in the player, further justifying this detailed look at the man who could be plying his trade in the Scottish Premier League next season.

This tactical analysis scout report will draw on previous data analysis,  generate new data insights and subjectively analyse in-game performance to appraise Vukotić’s defensive and attacking contribution. From this, Vukotić’s strengths and weaknesses can then be concluded and hopefully provide an in-depth insight into his ability, tactics which suit or contradict his style and discussion on the player’s future.

A towering centre-back

Vukotić is a towering centre-back. The player stands at 2.01m, which is 6ft 7in in imperial measurements. The player also weighs around 92kg, meaning overall, he is a tall, strong central defender. The player is left-footed, further enhancing his reputation, given left-footed centre-backs are a precious commodity in the modern game. The player is yet to play for the Serbian national team, but his performances and the fact that Waasland-Beveren have been relegated, have increased interest in the player. The good news for Waasland-Beveren is the fact that they tied Vukotić down to a long term contract, ending in 2023, shortly after signing the player, meaning any club interested will need to pay off his existing contract.

By taking a look at the data-based conclusion from Toni Bilandzic’s work, the statistics suggest that Vukotić performs well in defensive metrics in comparison to all centre-backs in Belgium with relevant minutes for comparison. Such comparisons included ex-Premier League centre backs, Vincent Kompany and Wesley Hoedt, along with many other fine Belgian league centre-backs. Specifically, the player is stated to excel in aerial duels, which is understandable due to his size. He is also exceptional at intercepting, blocking shots and recovering possession. Although, the downside for Vukotić is his number and success rate of defensive duels and a question mark on whether he can play swift football in a high pressure set up.

From the data analysis, a conclusive comparison of the frequent leaders in each metric was created, this can be seen below and provides further insight into the above comments.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Belgium First Division A centre-back data analysis. Created by Toni Bilandzic.

Defensive ability

Whilst we know how Vukotić performs in league-wide data, we do not have any specific comparisons with his team-mates at Waasland-Beveren or in-game examples to provide more context to his suggested strengths and weaknesses or his utilisation in the Waasland-Beveren system.

Initially, it is worth pointing out that Waasland-Beveren utilised a 4-2-3-1 most often during the 2019/20 season, therefore, the team utilised a two centre-back system which has different responsibilities and tactics to a three-man system frequently used in Belgium. A two-man system also influences the data, as generally, the centre-back pair will be responsible for more defensive coverage and actions, compared to a three-man system which balances responsibilities and involvement three-ways.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Waasland-Beveren formation.

To provide additional context, below is a table comparing Vukotić with his centre-back teammate within the 2019/20 season in general profile and defensive capacity. There were 4 possible comparisons, however, given Valterri Morren and Alexis Gamboa both played fewer than 500 minutes, they were excluded from the comparisons. Waasland-Beveren relied on Vukotić and Maximiliano Caufriez to occupy their LCB and RCB positions in the 4-2-3-1. Both players are at similar stages in their career at 24 (Vukotić) and 23 (Caufriez) years old. The metrics presented are per 90 values, with the successful frequency in brackets when frequency and success rate are combined.

Player

Succ. Def Actions Def Duels Def Duels Succ. Rate % Aerial Duels Aerial Duel Succ. Rate % Sliding Tackles Sliding Tackles Succ. Rate % Shots Blocked Interceptions

Fouls

Yellow Cards

Recoveries (Opp Half %)

Vukotić

12.31 5.05 59.46 (3.0) 5.8 76.47 (4.44) 1.3 47.37 (0.62)

0.89

8.01

1.19 0.31

12.65 (11.7)

Caufriez

11.63

7.35

67.84

(4.99)

2.43

56 (1.36)

0.16

60 (0.10)

0.75

6.48

1.36

0.13

10.27 (6.9)

Overall, you can see that the league-wide data comparison is reflective with Waasland-Beveren. Vukotić completes more successful defensive actions than his team-mate, along with more successful aerial duels, more successful sliding tackles, more shots blocked, more interceptions and more recoveries with a higher proportion of opposition half recoveries. This highlights that Vukotić is the standout defender at Waasland-Beveren. However, as highlighted, Vukotić’s weakness overall and compared to his colleagues is his defensive duels. The player attempts fewer defensive duels than Caufriez, whilst this may be influenced by tactics, he also has a lower success rate and successfully completed defensive duels. The other weaknesses this analysis has highlighted is Vukotić’s yellow card rate, he completes fewer fouls than this teammate, but, his fouls must be more cynical or forceful as he earns more than double the number of yellow cards, potentially impacting the rest of his game, maybe resulting in a decreased confidence to engage in defensive duels when on a yellow card.

So, let’s take a look at these defensive metrics in action.

As stated, Vukotić is very effective at aerial duels. Within the system at the club, it is he who squeezes up the pitch to engage and win most aerial duels against the oppositions main aerial threat. This is done, even if the opposition threat moves over to the right side of the pitch.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Vukotić wins an aerial duel on the right side of the pitch.

Vukotić’s long legs enable him to win the ball effectively in a lunge or sliding movement to poke the ball clear.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Vukotić wins a slide tackle.

The players long legs enable him to cover ground effectively, making it possible for him to intercept overhit passes and recover the ball. It is worth noting that as per Wyscout’s definitions, an interception can also be a header which is un-contested by an opponent, therefore, this aids Vukotić’s interceptions stats further.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Vukotić quickly intercepts an overhit pass.

Whilst the above analysis is positive, via video scouting, it is clear that Vukotić is a very aggressive defender, who likes to squeeze up the pitch and play with the ball and the opponent in front of him. Whilst is successful, especially when the ball is airborne, he tends to struggle with technical ability, agility, pace and struggles with the ball being played in behind accurately or an opponent taking him on. This all plays a part in the player’s low defensive duel success rate. Again, it should be noted that it is a tactical ploy to push Vukotić up and have Caufriez cover, therefore influencing the aerial duel and defensive duel frequencies, however, as we know, Caufriez and the successful data-based players in the league perform better in terms of success rate in defensive duels than Vukotić. When he squeezes up aggressively to take part in a ground-based defensive duel, Vukotić often fouls his opponent or can be beaten if he is too eager to push up, leaving himself in a poor position. Generally, due to his size, he lacks the agility to quickly react and recover.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
1. Vukotić squeezes high up the pitch. Usually, he engages aggressively and gets touch tight to the opponent and commonly concedes a foul. Here, he squeezes up but remains a few yards from the player. He had the option to hold a deeper position to jockey and delay the opponent while his teammates retreated, or get touch tight and not allow the opponent to turn.
Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
2. Vukotić allows his opponent to turn and is not agile enough to follow his movement and cut off the flank.
Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
3. After squeezing up and being turned, Vukotić struggles to regain ground and ends up fouling his opponent on the flank, parallel to the 18-yard box. A dangerous area to defend a freekick.
Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
On this occasion, Vukotić, in more typical fashion, aggressively pushes up and is too eager to win the ball and gives away a freekick. The positive is that the opponent did not turn him and get goalside. However, Vukotić could be more patient once tight, rather than diving in and giving away a freekick which could be delivered into the box.

Offensive ability

Player

Goals (xG) Shots Dribbles Dribble Succ. Passes Pass Succ. Fwd Pass Fwd Pass Succ. Long Pass Long Pass Succ.

Progressive Pass

Vukotić

2 (1.59) 0.41 0.72 52.38 (0.38) 38.73 78.35 (30.34) 18.68 68.43

(12.78)

8.08 44.3 (3.58)

9.68

Caufriez

0 (0.53) 0.26 0.55 82.35 (0.45) 34.41 85.4 (29.38) 13.44 75.42 (10.14) 5.77 61.8 (3.57)

6.64

To start the discussion, it is clear from the data and video that Vukotić is an aerial threat. Standing at 6ft 7in, the player is not only a defensive asset but an offensive threat. Whilst the player has only scored 2 goals in 27 matches, he is finishing just above the expected rate. His goal scoring record could be improved, potentially at a club with better set-piece takers or set-piece routines which play to his strengths. Having said that, his threat is not only with direct goal-bound efforts. Given his size, strength and aerial ability, he is also a threat in terms of knock-downs, general disruption in the box and the occupation of the oppositions best aerial defender.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Vukotić rises to score a header.

Given his size, Vukotić is sometimes capable of clumsy touches and his ball control in tight spaces is sometimes poor.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Vukotić’s poor touch allows the opposition to regain the ball.

However, given his size and strength, when the player has space, he is not afraid to drive with the ball, utilising his long legs to cover ground effectively with power, rather than utilising acceleration and agility. This can be seen by looking at his dribble and dribble success rate. Vukotić attempts more dribbles and drives but his technical ability and ball control leave him with a lower success rate and successfully completed dribbles than his teammate.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
1. When the team win back possession, Vukotić drives with the ball.
Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
2, Vukotić carries the ball to the opposition box where he is fouled after releasing the ball.

As stated, Vukotić is a good passer and ranks high in terms of progressive passes per 90 and forward pass percentage when compared to league centre-backs. This is the same in the data comparison with his teammate, Caufriez. However, the importance of data context is vital here. Vukotić plays more passes, more forward passes, more long passes and more progressive passes. This suggests that in frequency terms, Vukotić is an effective passer. However, the key here seems to be that Vukotić is a riskier passer, this translates to successful results in terms of more successful forward passes, long passes and progressive passes to move the team up the pitch, but in being a riskier passer, his success rates are lower than Caufriez for all types of pass. This risk vs reward question is something for individual teams and coaches to assess in regards to scouting players and instruct their players based on their tactical preferences for progression. Having said that, when frequency and success rates are combined to calculate successful frequency, Vukotić is still higher in all pass categories.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Vukotić plays a long switch to the right-winger, progressing Waasland-Beveren up the pitch effectively.

The interesting thing to note about Vukotić’s passing is the fact that he plays for a team with a low passing rate and low ball possession. Therefore, to produce a high number of progressive passes per 90 and play a high proportion of his passes forward in comparison to league-wide players, it does suggest that Vukotić is both an effective and risky passer, given his team have the ball less and do not zip the ball around as fast as other teams to manipulate the opposition and create progressive pass opportunities.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
League passing rate 2019/20

 

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
League possession 2019/20

Transitioning with and without the ball

A potential issue within transition for Vukotić is related to his aggressive nature. Again, his high positioning and aggressive nature may be a tactical ploy he is asked to complete. However, when he squeezes up the pitch to either win the ball or compete in an aerial duel, he tends to linger in his high position, rather than recovering back into the defensive line for more common defensive actions. Alternatively, if the ball goes beyond Vukotić and to a deeper defender or the goalkeeper, he is also slow to drop and offer himself as a passing option to get on the ball and build play, whilst also reducing the chances of being counter pressed. As described, this tends to happen in fluid transitional moments. When there is a more stoppage based transition, for example, a goal kick or a goalkeeper pick up for Waasland-Beveren, Vukotić and his centre-back partner both split and drop to receive a short pass to then play out, hence why Vukotić has high passing stats as he can then play the ball and utilise his aggressive passing style. However, this generally only occurs when the team are not pressed high. Overall, Vukotić has not been involved in a team who play possession-based football and aim to attract a high press to then play out. I believe that this is something that Vukotić could be effective in, although the constant movement and quick passing style do not appear to play to his core strengths. The ideal situation would be for a progressive, possession-based team to allow Vukotić to dictate play via progressive or forward passes when he has time and space, but a simple passing pattern when pressed high, therefore, getting the best out of the player in an offensive sense, whilst having the benefits of his raw defensive ability.

Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
1. Vukotić is advanced after an aerial duel. The ball goes back to the goalkeeper, but Vukotić is slow to retreat into the optimal receiving position and a position to defend if the team lose the ball.
Aleksandar Vukotic 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
2. Vukotić should have dropped much quicker to offer a passing option and a balanced shape for further play. A central midfielder could drop to occupy his current position.

Vukotić’s core strengths

Overall, Vukotić’s strengths lie in his physical ability in terms of his capability to dominate aerial duels in offence and defence, he can also and utilise his long limbs to poke the ball away when presented the opportunity via a standing or sliding tackle. He is a proven passer with a risky but rewarding style to attempt and complete a high number of his passes forwards and in a progressive nature. The player can drive with the ball and utilise his physicality and momentum but lacks the close ball control and additional technical ability to succeed in tight spaces. His high tempo passing under pressure remains untested, but I believe that the player is not specialised to extreme tempo or invitation of the press at the back, but, he could successfully perform within a more balanced, possession setup. However, Vukotić would need to be much more active in terms of his positional recovery or movement to offer himself as a passing option.

What lets him down?

To carry on directly from his strengths, his size is a clear influencer of his technical ability, which in general is good, but can let him down with his first touch or dribbling ability. His size also leaves him with less agility than smaller centre-backs, this combined with his aggressive nature leaves him vulnerable. Vukotić commits to attackers frequently and often does so high up the pitch, whilst this is beneficial should he win the ball, the agility, pace and dribbling ability of the attacker can leave him chasing opponents as they get goal side. Similarly, this could be the case if the opposition play a one-two to play the ball to a teammate before spinning in behind. In a similar vein, after pushing up, Vukotić is slow to drop back into shape as a defensive centre-back, or an option to get on the ball and utilise his passing ability. Whether any of these perceived weaknesses are tactical, personal or a mixture of both, unfortunately, scouting of this kind is unable to clarify information of this kind and therefore must be interpreted with some caution.

Conclusion

Overall, Vukotić is an impressive player with the physical traits needed to succeed at centre-back. At 24, he does still have years of development and can hopefully work on his perceived weaknesses, whilst further developing his style individually or whilst utilised in a tactical system which further enhances his strengths. In terms of next season, he could stay at Waasland-Beveren, something the club would be delighted with to aid their promotion push back to the Belgium First Division A. However, given the club’s relegation and Vukotić’s ability, it is no surprise to see reports of teams interested in the player. Whilst system based recruitment is becoming more and more popular, it would be interesting to see Vukotić adapt if utilised in a more progressive, possession-based style. As stated, his high tempo passing under pressure remains untested, but I believe that whilst he is not specialised to extreme tempo or the invitation of a press, he could successfully perform within a more balanced, possession setup. Should a club bid for the player, it would be interesting to further analyse Vukotić’s style in relation to their philosophy.