Rasmus Kristensen 2021/22: What to expect from Leeds United’s latest summer transfer? – scout report
After narrowingly escaping relegation and holding themselves to stay afloat in the top division with Burnley biting the dust, Leeds United are currently in the process of providing their new manager with good signings to help them stay in the Premier League for a fourth consecutive season.
Jesse Marsch managed to keep Leeds United safe after they were amongst the favourites to face the drop right before his predecessor Marcelo Bielsa was sacked. He succeeded the Argentine with whom he shares some similarities in terms of playing style and slightly made some tactical tweaks to help Leeds improve their defence towards the final quarter of the season.
With the Raphina and Kalvin Phillips attracting a lot of interest from top clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, etc the onus is on the Leeds’ board to replace them or keep them or even potentially use the sales money to cash in on other prospects. They have already started their window with the purchase of Brenden Aaronson and have followed it with the signing of 24-year-old Danish right-back, Rasmus Kristensen (D.O.B – 11/07/1997) from Salzburg as he will be reuniting with his former coach Marsch.
This scout report in the form of a tactical analysis discusses the strengths and weakness of Kristensen both in the attack as well as in defence and states how he will be contributing to the tactics and playing style of Leeds United under Marsch. Let’s begin the analysis.
Kristensen is basically a right-back who is pretty much asked to provide the width for his side on the right side. Since Salzburg has predominantly used the 4-3-1-2 system under Matthias Jaissle, the lack of wingers in the formation means that the width is expected to be provided by the full-backs. So both him and the left-back are pretty much key in terms of this in the side.
In their system, the central midfielders are pretty much positioned to narrow and are mostly involved to deal with the situations happening in the interior. So mostly the forwards are the ones who interchange a lot with the full-backs by making decoy runs to drag players. But Salzburg are also heavily dependent on creating central overloads and they attack entirely through the centre by creating numerical superiorities. Even at times, he moves more towards the central zones due to their emphasis on creating central overloads which can be seen in the image below where he moves to central zones from the wings.
Also, all the Red Bull teams are built and drilled based on high-intensity defensive plays where the players are also expected to show high intensity. Kristiansen embodies that and is very intense in his defensive actions and always looks to press the opponent very high and in an explosive manner. More of his defensive role will be discussed further in the analysis.
With Possession of the Ball
On the ball, Kristensen has a very good first touch and neatly brings it down under his control when he receives the ball from his teammates. His angles when he receives the ball are also good and he is pretty adept at receiving the ball in half-turn as well which is important for a full-back hugging the touchline. He drops deeper to help his side build up and is one of their go-to options when they look to progress the ball from the deep.
In the example above we can see him dropping deep to receive the ball and we can also see there is not a single player other than him on the wing where the entire Salzburg setup is aimed at being narrow and prioritising central overloads. He also has a good sense as to when to create separation from his markers and receive the ball from his teammates.
When he receives in these deep positions, he mostly looks to play the ball over the top to one of his forwards making a run in behind the defence. This is similar to the lofted balls that Alexander-Arnold plays for his teammates at Liverpool especially the likes of Salah, etc. This lofted ball is the most common type of progressive pass that he makes from the deep. We can see an example of that in the image below. He lofts the ball over the defence when he finds his teammate is making a run behind the defence.
He also plays the sliding pass to his teammates making a run behind the defence which can be seen in the image below. Though one issue in his technique would be his tendency to overhit some passes which results in too much travel of the ball.
Among the full-backs in the league last season he also averaged the most progressive passes with 13.92 progressive passes per 90 which was the joint-most with Andreas Ulmer, who plays as the left-back for Salzburg. Since both of them come out as the top progressors, this shows that they are even amongst the most important progressors in the team if we consider all the positions as well.
Although, Salzburg’s dominance and style of play do help him to be a very high volume progressive passer he still completes 80.6% of his progressive passes which is a very high rate. He averages 1.36 deep completions per 90 which is the second-most in the league among the full-backs behind Ulmer.
As we mentioned before, the full-backs are the ones that are responsible for providing the width for Salzburg. This is pretty much reflected in the number of crosses that he attempts where he has attempted 3.92 crosses per 90 for his side which is the sixth-highest among the full-backs in the league.
He is capable of playing crosses from multiple regions on the pitch. Although his deep crosses are not very threatening, he does try them a few times and they can be challenging to deal with for the opposition. We can see him playing a cross from the wing in the image above where he aims the cross at his teammate who is situated exactly between the two opponent defenders. The ball was floated in the air in the right manner that had a very good pace in it for the player to head it for a good chance as well.
In this image above, we can see him playing a very good low cross this time, which is aimed exactly at the feet of his teammate and he was able to score a goal from this opportunity. His variety in terms of his crossing ability is his biggest strength in possession for his side.
One of the reasons why his deep crosses are not that effective is that he does not generate the same amount of curve in his deeper crosses that he looks to do in his low crosses. Also, whenever he passes over long distances, he lofts the ball too high in the air which results in the ball staying in the air for too long which means that at times the defenders are able to regroup on time to intercept the ball and defend it comfortably.
Although he is very good in terms of switching the ball to the opposite flank. We can see an example of this in the image above where he switches the ball to the other side where Salzburg has a 2v1 advantage on the opposition’s right-back. But the issue with this pass was the high loft on it that makes it very difficult for his teammates to quickly receive it as the opposition right-back was able to regroup and intercept.
In terms of dribbling, Kristensen is again a very high-volume dribbler who attempts a lot of dribbles in every game. He likes to carry the ball and when he faces a defender, he either sees an opportunity to pass the ball or looks to beat his man to carry it even further. He averaged 4.45 dribbles per 90 in the league last season which was the 6th highest among the full-back in the league.
Though he is pretty decent in terms of beating his man where he wins the duel at the rate of 57%, at times he struggles to beat his man and carry the ball forward. This is mostly due to his tall and bulky stature where his centre of balance in his body is pretty high compared to the other players which means that he lacks the agility to beat defenders in certain instances.
We can see in the example above where he beats his man initially where he initially receives the ball with a neat first touch and immediately flicks it in the other direction while the defender is moving in the opposite direction. But then immediately, when his marker finds his balance to defend him, he looked to beat his man again but this time he couldn’t beat the player. He could have carried the ball inward and gone forward without trying to beat his player again.
Off the ball, Kristensen makes a lot of runs and when Salzburg has the territory and possession, he pretty much positions himself higher up the pitch to receive the ball. We can see that in the image below where he is close to the frontline and receives the ball higher.
Due to his height, he is very good in the air and Salzburg generally use him as a set-piece threat where he joins the pool of attackers in the opposition’s box during corners where he is also one of the target men there. We can see him in this image below where the ball is being delivered into the box and Kristensen is the one attacking it first.
He had also scored 7 goals and registered 2 assists in the league last season and also averaged at least 1 shot per game. This means that due to his physical presence and intelligence with respect to his off-ball movement, he is also a very good out-of-the-box goal-scoring option. Although his assist output looks low his xA value was 4.26 which meant that, due to his teammate’s finishing, he underperformed heavily here.
As mentioned before, Kristensen is a very aggressive player who is systematically trained to win the ball back immediately from the opponent. He averaged 4.22 defensive duels per 90 in the league last season with a very good accuracy of 69%. Although it is not a very big figure, which can be attributed to the fact that Salzburg are the most dominant team in the league last season where they had a possession share of 59.8% on average (the highest among the league). So this means that the players will be having very less instances to make defensive actions as they will be mostly in the attacking phase.
But whenever he commits to a challenge he most likely sets to win it which can be seen from his accuracy. In the above image, we can see how he aggressively set out to press the opposition’s player and is almost pressing him in their defensive third. Salzburg’s system involves players being set out to press intensely and also counter-press immediately after losing the ball. He himself has averaged 4.39 counter-pressing recoveries which are in the top 20 amongst full-backs in the league.
He uses his physicality extremely well in winning those challenges and exerts his strength very well in terms of unbalancing his opponent while making those challenges. Despite being aggressive he also seems to be aware of finding the right timing in terms of executing his challenge to win the ball back from his opponent. He does find the right situations as to when to perform a tackle and dispossess his opponent. His long legs also mean that he can reach the ball even from a separate distance.
This can be seen in the image above where the opponent tries to beat him on the dribble and go past him. Initially, Kristensen came out to press him but found out that the opposite player is looking to go past him so he adjusted his balance and used his long strides to intercept the ball and win it from the opposition.
He is also well aware of his defensive positioning and tracks his marker really well even if he is on his blindside. In the above example, he set out to press the Austrian winger but realised that, by the time he went near him, the winger had already rebounded the pass back to his teammate, so he decelerates immediately and then finds the winger making a run forward. He then sprints back with him and also constantly scans him to keep him as well as the ball-carrying player in his eye-sight. Although the ball-holding player has the opportunity to pass it to that winger on the left wing, he cannot do it, as Kristensen is exactly at the right place to go forward and press him and win the ball back.
As we already mentioned, he is extremely good in the air which is his main defensive strength. He has won 65% of his aerial duels in the defensive third while contesting in over 75 such duels which means that the sample size is large and also his accuracy is really good. Due to his height which is very tall for a full-back, he is able to win duels easily against wingers and full-backs of the opposition who are mostly nimble-footed and short. We can see an example of him winning the duel in the air in the image below where he generates a very good leap compared to his opponent to win the ball in the air.
Defending the back-post is a very important defensive thing that is expected from a full-back and Kristensen is very good in that aspect where he is pretty solid in defending the back-post from his opposition due to his good height and positioning.
How will he fit in Leeds United?
At Leeds United, he will be joining his former manager Jesse Marsch. Ever since Bielsa took over Leeds, he managed to change the identity and the style of play at the club which is focused on high pressing and aggressive counter-pressing to win the ball back from opponents. His successor, Marsch, having come from the Red Bull hall of fame, expects the same as he did with his Salzburg team and briefly with Leipzig as well.
So in that aspect, Kristensen is a very good systematic signing for Leeds where he embodies the team’s aggressive identity and also has the physical capability to translate himself immediately into the Premier League as well.
With Luke Ayling being touted to be a long-term centre-back option and Stuart Dallas being the only right-back option for Leeds, the Kristensen signing makes a lot more sense from a depth perspective as well. But due to his understanding with Marsch, we could see Kristensen being used as the primary right-back option for the side in the next season.
Overall, Kristensen and Leeds are pretty much a match made in heaven in terms of identity and he also has the technical quality that he nurtured in his academy days at Ajax as well. So the transfer is a very good and an important piece of business for Leeds going into the new season.