Recalled early: analysing why Graham Potter cannot wait to have Jakub Moder in his squad
Brighton & Hove Albion have made some very interesting purchases in recent years. Their recruitment team works diligently at scouting emerging player markets and picking out the best of the bunch. This is on top of finding bargains within more well-known leagues, such as the acquisition of Joël Veltman from Ajax for £900k.
One such player purchase was Jakub Moder of Lech Poznań in October 2020 for a fee in the region of £6m. A quick view of his statistics can tell us a lot about him as a player, and how well he has been performing for the Kolejorz over the last calendar year, and this analysis will explore what makes the 21-year-old so good.
The 6’2” Pole is a man of many talents. He possesses an excellent weak foot, can play just as well in a defensive-midfield role or in a box-to-box midfield role, and put simply, he can defend, progress possession, and contribute to goals all in equal measure. This scout report details how his role and value differentiates in each position, and where he will fit in Brighton’s tactics.
Moder broke into Dariusz Żuraw’s team in the 2019/20 season, and it is not hard to see how. He has become a talismanic figure for the club, and one can only imagine so for the Polish national side in the future, for whom he has made six appearances for already. He is a player who wants to take the game into his own hands, somewhat egotistically, and this can be witnessed in his ambitious long-range efforts. As much as he is fiendishly active on the defensive half of his game, it is his attacking contributions which make him distinctive.
Usually deployed as a double-pivot in a 4-2-3-1, Moder is a remarkably well-rounded player who has been relied upon in several key moments by his team. Namely, when the game is tied and they need one his thunder-stricken efforts to fly into the top corner, which is becoming somewhat of a trademark for the 21-year-old. Seemingly only score the spectacular, similar to Rúben Neves at Wolves. For a midfielder, he has an excellent shooting output, one which is only underpinned by his precise shooting technique.
Moder is a player who actively participates in possession with his marvellous technique, instead of letting the game pass him by. He is quite something to watch in a game, he is long-legged but remains silky smooth on the ball and nothing about his style of play come across as awkward. This lays the groundwork for his strong, but not yet outstanding passing and dribbling abilities. For such a tall player (6’2”) as well, he is a deceitfully high-class dribbler, but not yet mobile or wise enough to be labelled ‘press-resistant’.
Moder’s player profile, created by the wonderful Sathish Prasad (@SatishPrasadVT on Twitter).
Moder’s role in Żuraw’s system (and how it will help him fit at Brighton)
Under Dariusz Żuraw in the Ekstraklasa, Moder is positioned as the left-sided central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation, although, he is typically registered as a defensive-midfielder given his starting position. Interestingly, he spends a higher proportion of his time as the right-sided central midfielder, which is supported by his heatmap in his player profile. Given he is a right-footer, it makes sense that he drifts in between both positions.
At Brighton, under Potter, a double-pivot is also utilised, but only sparingly in a 4-2-3-1. Potter’s most used formation is the 3-4-2-1, which would require some adaptation for Moder to understand fully. There are elements to his game which are similar to Manchester United linked Yves Bissouma, and one can imagine that is who the Pole will be giving competition to. This, rather than the likes of Adam Lallana or Pascal Groß.
Now, Moder operates with a flat back four behind him at Lech, with typical modern full-backs who like to roam forward, and two centre-backs who naturally stay back at all times. At Brighton, he will be supported by a back three, with two outside centre-backs who tend to carry the ball into midfield, and in these situations, he will be expected to hold his forward run and provide defensive stability.
Going forward, Moder is usually paired with an equally balanced midfielder in Pedro Tiba, whom he has grown a great partnership with over the last season or so. When Moder goes forward, Tiba will often offset this by positioning himself slightly deeper, though this does not always happen, hence Lech’s problems dealing with the counterattack. Moder will have to learn when or when not to roam forward with the ball at Brighton.
Here, we can see Webster carry the ball up the pitch, with Bissouma drifting left to cover the gaps.
At Lech, he is a box-to-box midfielder in every essence. He is a disruptive defender who presses his opponent intently before stabbing a leg at the ball to win it back. In possession, he is difficult to stop when he wants to take the ball past his man, partly due to his sheer presence on the ball. Approaching the final third, he is not overly creative, but he has the right passing ideas, before frequently deciding to pop off a shot on goal.
Moder’s gangly dribbling antics & fine passing fundamentals
As we mentioned previously, Moder’s dribbling is at a good level, without yet being exceptional, but it is certainly eye-catching. He has nimble feet for such a tall player, but not nimble enough to evade opposition pressure on a regular enough basis. In full flow, he is hard to stop, but he will have to improve at dribbling in his team’s half to reach the upper echelon of Premier League (or any top league for that matter) central-midfielders.
Similar to his dribbling, he is an adequate passer, and he has shown signs of improvement in this regard over time. In terms of ball progression, he has the right ideas to fit into a vertical passing system; he ranks 5th in the Ekstraklasa for number of passes into the final third per 90 (10.33) at a solid 67.11% success rate. Mix this in with his high-volume dribbling numbers, and it combines to make for a truly progressive midfielder.
Scatter plot of Ekstraklasa midfielders’ progressive passes per 90 compared with progressive runs per 90.
In his career up until this date, he has seldom been given creative responsibility by Lech, this has been the role of either Tiba or Dani Ramirez. In his half-season at Lech, he recorded 2 assists from 1.57 expected assists, which is a moderate return for a central-midfielder with over 1000 minutes played. Given these circumstances, it is hard to fully appreciate Moder’s creative potential, given more responsibility, he could grow into it.
From nearly inside his team’s half, Moder spots a teammate and finds him with a glided ball into the penalty area, to make for a stunning assist.
In the build-up, Moder either looks to travel with the ball or make good forward passes which would break lines of pressure and access attacking players who do more with the ball in the final third. As shown above, he can also spread the ball across the pitch with a great passing technique, he opens up his hips well and sprays it with a level of class usually reserved for high-level #6s.
Though Moder does sometimes struggle when facing his own goal, and can find it difficult to turn under pressure, and this certainly marks a weak point in his current game. This will spark key pressing triggers in the Premier League and forcing the possession backwards too often will result in Brighton struggling to get out of their final third and would give Potter no other option but to drop Moder for the more press-resistant Bissouma.
Moder picks up the ball inside his team’s penalty area and faces opposition pressure which pushes him backwards, and he is unable to evade such pressure effectively.
In this scenario, we can imagine Bissouma would keep his head up (rather than Moder’s eye’s that are focused on just the ball), scan for nearby teammates, and opt to play the simple one-two which would bypass the opposition pressure and bring Brighton out of their defensive third. This is something Moder will ultimately have learn as he gets more game time under his belt, but it rings true as a current weakness.
Despite these drawbacks in his game, his dribbling still provides good value to his team. Only four other central midfielders in the Ekstraklasa have a higher number of progressive runs per 90, and this is due to his marauding nature in possession, with physicality and mobility which is extremely difficult to stop in full flow. He is also an excellent progressive passer; his range and selection of passes will translate well to the Premier League.
Moder’s passing and progression radar over the last calendar year in Ekstraklasa.
As the radar suggests, Moder can provide a lot in terms of ball progression, which is a very valuable asset for a modern midfielder to have. This, in tandem with his other high-level attributes, makes for an extremely promising box-to-box midfielder. His passing accuracy in the final third could be improved upon, but at least this shows his admirable ambition in this regard.
Moder’s exceptional shooting output
Moder has a superb shooting technique, which is supplemented well by his intelligence in these attacking scenarios. His long-range efforts are quite the sight. He does not seem to slow down on the ball, yet his efforts are usually placed in and around the top corners of the goal. If it has not hit the upper echelons of the net, it is normally just wide of the mark.
He also has the composure to take and dispatch of penalties, free-kicks, and the know-how to score simple tap-ins. All of this underpins his superior match intelligence and knowing when, in the final third, to slow down his run, or speed up, to reach one of his teammate’s cutbacks. Adding to all this, Moder is pretty much ambidextrous and has no issue letting one fly off of either boot, making him incredibly complicated to defend against.
Scatter plot of Ekstraklasa midfielders’ shots per 90 compared with xG per 90.
Moder takes a lot of shots in a lot of good places. Generally, he carries the ball up the pitch, and despite his shot volume, is fairly selective over his efforts. This is not to say that he cannot get carried away in the moment and shoot when there is a better option to pass; this does happen somewhat infrequently. Overall, though, given that his sublime technique can be generated from both sides, he has the potential to a high-goalscoring midfielder.
From somewhat of a standstill, Moder generates the power and precision many other central-midfielders could not with time and space on the ball (all off of his ‘weaker’ foot).
Using his dribbling ability, he takes a couple of smart touches to take it past his opponent, before shooting at the near post, which is saved.
He has a powerful right boot. This will be owing to a combination of both his size and technique. He can shoot accurately across the body, arrowing straight into a corner of the goal, or even a first-time finish from inside the box, he is a well-rounded asset in this regard. As we mentioned, his decision making in this regard is generally wise beyond his years, though he is prone to the occasional low-value pot-shot.
At Brighton, he might be expected to cut down on his shooting exploits. He will seldom be afforded shooting responsibilities; these will be given to players typically inside the box, such as Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly. In his reputation as a new player, one can imagine he will have to earn that respect again before he is taking outrageous efforts from outside the penalty area regularly.
Moder’s attacking and creativity radar over the last calendar year in Ekstraklasa.
This seems to be a recurring theme, but Moder provides a lot of great value on the offensive end. His high xG per 90 (0.27) will be complementary to any side, but at a time where Brighton’s forwards are struggling to score consistently, a goal scorer from midfield will be an incredibly useful outlet. Though, as mentioned before, it will take a period of settling in before we can see Moder truly hit his stride concerning this.
Moder’s mobile defensive intensity
One of the main reasons that Moder fit so seamlessly into Żuraw’s team was due to his application on the defensive side of his game. His height and gangly nature make it difficult for opponents to get past him, given they are in the near vicinity to be challenged. He defends with a fierce mentality and has clearly been instructed by Żuraw to track his opponent down with a striking intent.
He patrols wide spaces successfully and can foresee loose touches by the opposition, which he then exploits by stabbing a leg at the general area to win the ball back. This is not to say he is clumsy, but his tackling method is certainly unique, but not traditionally uncommon within taller midfielders. In this respect, his match intelligence translates into his defending, which is a highly-rated attribute within midfielders.
Scatter plot of Ekstraklasa midfielders’ defensive duels per 90 compared with defensive duel win rate %.
He is adept at understanding how to adjust to various in-game scenarios which require different approaches. When his team faces significant opponent pressure, Moder sits in front of the back four to provide an energetic defensive barrier. This is evidence of an increased trust Żuraw placed in the 21-year-old to be used as a half-back in these moments and knowing that Moder learns systems quickly will be promising to hear for Potter.
Moder notices the loose touch of the opposition, and swiftly makes his way to the wide area, and intercept the ball and regain possession for his side.
In Europe League matches, Lech utilised a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Moder occasionally dropping into the #6 role to protect the backline.
He carries out this role as the deepest midfielder like he is a qualified veteran of the game, which is seriously impressive. He scans all across the field regularly which helps him anticipate opponent actions and stick a leg in to recover the ball for his team, and they often carry the ball up the pitch himself. He acts as a barricade in these scenarios, and it often results in the opposition being shunned wide and sending in crosses to create chances.
Just as it did at Lech, this defensive application will aid his transition into Brighton’s setup. He works hard with a decent level of aggression; he will not be physically beaten up in the Premier League. Operating in a double pivot from a defensive point-of-view, Moder should be able to fit into Potter’s current defensive system quite well immediately, and but he could struggle with some of the Premier League’s more mobile attackers.
Moder’s defensive actions over the last calendar year in Ekstraklasa.
Moder has learned intricate tactical systems very quickly, and he is not a burden out of possession, far from it, and this is so important in the modern pressing game. The fact he has applied himself with such class and enthusiasm straight away should bring Potter great confidence. His high PAdj interceptions are a decent indication of his intellect, and this is while being used a few different systems too, each varying in intensity.
Forecast for the future
Moder’s path for the future is unclear, but these next six months should be treated with leniency. He is a 21-year-old lad moving out of his home country for the first time, where he will have to learn a new set of tactics in a new, higher-level competition. Withstanding that, his talent will demand performances to that ilk eventually, but anything better than above-average immediately will be a gift to Brighton.
There are small areas to improve, such as press-resistance or some creative passing in the final third, but his upsides overwhelmingly outweigh his drawbacks. He has become a talismanic midfielder who can carry his team up the field and produce goals at a high rate, but his immediate role at Brighton will be slightly altered. He is joining a bloated squad, and he will have to earn his place before showing off his obvious talents.