Sebastian Szymański: Feyenoord’s new number ’10’ making a name for himself in Rotterdam – scout report
In the last few years, there has been a resurgence of young talent in the Poland national team setup. One of the more recent entrants into this list is 23-year-old attacking midfielder Sebastian Szymański. The talented Pole came through the youth setup at Legia Warsaw, making his debut for the senior side in 2016.
However, now he is a Feyenoord player after joining them on loan from Dynamo Moscow for the season, with the Rotterdam-based side holding an option to buy the young midfielder. Szymański is tasked with replacing the gaping hole left behind by Guus Til, who was electric last season when on loan from fellow Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow. The Dutchman had 21 goals and 6 assists across all competitions for Feyenoord; which then netted him a permanent move to fellow Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, who are managed by former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The heat map above shows the typical positions that Szymański operated in during his time with Dynamo Moscow. When playing under Sandro Schwarz in the Russian capital, he was deployed as the right central midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation, which is the reason behind most of his positioning being in the right attacking half of the pitch. He also drifted into a central position and played as the most advanced of the three central midfielders during his time in Moscow.
Now in Rotterdam, Szymański will likely be deployed as the central attacking midfielder in Arne Slot’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system. In fact, during the first game of the Eredivisie season last weekend, this is where Szymański played, and he contributed two assists. With the losses of Guus Til to PSV Eindhoven and Luis Sinisterra to Leeds United, Szymański will be relied on to help replace the production of Feyenoord’s two star men from last season.
Range of passing
When looking at the underlying stats of Sebastian Szymański’s game, as well as how he plays, his range of passing should be considered his greatest strength. During his time with Dynamo Moscow, Szymański attempted 37.67 passes per 90 with a 78.5% success rate. He also attempts long line-breaking passes a significant amount of the time, with 3.25 long passes attempted per 90 at a success rate of 56.7%.
Being a central attacking midfielder, Szymański is also tasked with advancing the ball into the final third, something he also does well. During his time in Moscow, the Pole attempted 5.76 passes to the final third per 90, with a success rate of 70.6%. This section will take a more detailed look at some examples of the vision and passing range of Sebastian Szymański.
The image above shows an example of the vision and range of passing that Sebastian Szymański possesses. Off a Dynamo Moscow goal kick, the ball is headed back towards Szymański by an opposition player. With the Polish midfielder getting closed down, he takes a touch to keep the ball in the air before sending a half-volley pass through the opposition midfield and defensive lines and into the path of his teammate.
In this sequence of play as well, Szymański is constantly scanning and looking for passing options, which showcases his vision on the ball, as well as quick decision-making to attempt to complete a difficult pass such as this one.
The image above is able to demonstrate the first-touch passing ability of Sebastian Szymański, as well as his vision again to notice the space to pass into. In this phase of play against FC Sochi, Szymański has put pressure on the opposition midfielder, winning the ball back as a result.
Before he is even able to comfortably gather possession, he notices the midfielder stepping up, and the fullback out of position, which allows the space in behind to open up. Szymański is able to send the ball in behind into the space, while still essentially wrestling with the opposition midfielder. This leads to an assist for Szymański, with the attacker able to drive into the box and score.
The image above shows another example of Szymański’s ability to pick out teammates. In the phase of play above, Dynamo Moscow looked to counterattack quickly after an opposition free kick. Szymański noticed the run of the player through the middle and played the ball at the correct time to prevent the attacker from being offside. The ensuing ball from the midfielder is perfectly played into the forward’s path, with him able to run onto it before being 1v1 against the goalkeeper and scoring.
Arne Slot is getting a highly-creative young midfielder to replace Guus Til, with the range of passing of Szymański similar to the Dutchman’s. In fact, the Polish midfielder’s range of passing is already on display in Rotterdam, with two assists in Feyenoord’s first match of the season against Vitesse.
Not just an attacking midfielder
Though Sebastian Szymański’s main role is as a number 10, tasked with creating chances and being heavily involved in the attacking third of the pitch, he also puts in a shift defensively as well. During his time in Moscow playing under German manager Sandro Schwarz, Szymański was asked to play more like an ‘8’ at times, which allowed him to round out his game and become more of a box-to-box midfielder. During his spell with Dynamo Moscow, Szymański averaged 8.41 defensive duels per 90 minutes, winning 61.1% of them.
The phase of play above shows an example of the type of defensive work rate that Sebastian Szymański possesses. This is an example of a perfectly-timed slide tackle from the young Polish midfielder to knock the ball away from the attacker, preventing the opposition forward from continuing to run forward into the vacant space.
What is not shown is the recovery run that Szymański made as well to get back and make an attempt to win possession back. He was able to track the attacker from all the way back in the opposition’s defensive third, displaying his fantastic defensive work rate.
The image above shows an example of the strength that Szymański also possesses when it comes to the defensive side of his game. With the CSKA Moscow player in possession on the touchline, Szymański tracks back and goes into the challenge shoulder-to-shoulder with the attacker. He is able to use his superior strength to win the ball off the opposition player fairly, which allows the Polish midfielder to then start a counter-attacking sequence for Dynamo Moscow near the midfield area.
When it comes to the defensive side of Sebastian Szymański’s game, it will be another useful asset for Arne Slot to utilise. Szymański’s ability to play as more of a box-to-box midfielder at times will surely be useful when Arne Slot looks to possibly switch up his tactics at times, with it possible that Szymański could be played as one of the two deeper lying midfielders in Feyenoord’s 4-2-3-1 formation, especially with Fredrik Aursnes being heavily linked with a departure to SL Benfica this summer.
Movement off the ball
The difference between being a good attacking midfielder and a great one sometimes comes down to the player’s off-the-ball movement. When an attacking midfielder is able to recognise the pockets of space to move into consistently, they then are able to more often create goal-scoring chances. This final section will take a look at the off-the-ball movements of Sebastian Szymański.
The image above shows the types of movement that Sebastian Szymański is capable of to find the pockets of space that allow him to progress the ball. In the phase of play above, Szymański plays a pass to the other midfielder, which results in a 2v1 in Dynamo Moscow’s favour. The Polish midfielder notices the space between the midfield and defensive lines and moves into it. The subsequent pass is played to him and the attacking sequence is able to continue.
The image above again demonstrates the intelligent movements that Sebastian Szymański tends to make when trying to find pockets of space to receive the ball. Szymański waits until the defender commits and moves out of his position before running into the vacant space left behind by the defender. The ensuing pass is played towards his run but ,unfortunately, the pass is not good enough and it is intercepted by the covering defender.
This final example is actually from Szymański’s first game for Feyenoord this season, but the same trends appear. The midfielder is able to notice the space between the two closest Vitesse defenders and runs through them, making himself an unmarked passing option in an advanced position. While the ball to him is overhit, it still shows the lengths that Szymański will go to in order to become an advanced passing option for his teammates.
This scout report has shown some of the strengths that are most prevalent in Sebastian Szymański. While Szymański was one of the best players on the Dynamo Moscow side, it will be slightly different with this Feyenoord side. This analysis has also given a glimpse into how Szymański may fit into the tactics used by Arne Slot. With two assists to his name already in the first match of the season for the Rotterdam-based side, it looks like he may fit in quite nicely.