28, Oct, 2021

Mateusz Klich and The Half Space

Visualization of SciSports' half-spaces and flanks drawn on a field
The half-space is a zone on a football field, between the centre and the wing.

Klich is a centre midfielder, right?

Well, not quite. Yes, he is a midfielder, but central isn’t the word to describe him. Klich spends most of the game operating in the half-space or out wide. In the image above you can see where the half-space is located on a pitch. The half-space is a zone on a football pitch, between the centre and the wing. This is where Klich shines.

This is his heatmap. As you can see Klich doesn’t actually spend much time in the central areas of the pitch. Instead, favouring to drift wider into the opposition half-spaces and wing areas. Predominantly the right side. This is because of Bielsa’s tactical strategy of overloading the wide areas. A phrase we all know too well now. Klich’s role is to drift into these areas and help the winger and full back overload the opposition winger and full back 3>2.

Klich’s 19/20 Action Map (Via SmarterScout)

Klich’s actions map above shows what Klich does, and where on the pitch he does it. The bigger the square means the more he has done in that location. It clearly shows us how much time he spends out right. The majority of his time out right is spent playing small passes. This is because his role is to have very good link-up play in these tight areas of the pitch.

His smarterscout radar, shown to the right, shows how good he is at certain areas of the game. As you can see he stands out in three areas. Disrupt, Recieve in box and link up. His link up play is rated at a huge 86. He doesnt dribble much instead Klich and Leeds choose to pass round the opponents and carve them open. His quick one touch passing ability is what makes him so good in this area of the pitch.

These quick passes between Klich, Ayling and Costa pull players in disrupting the opposition’s shape. Then, when they have successfully sucked them in. One of them will play a forward pass into the right half-space where the other will have an opportunity to cross the ball. This is a position Leeds get themselves into frequently. Often its Ayling or Klich making the third man run into the half-space. Another area he ranks highly in is recieve in box with 77. This is because he always finds space inside the box in the half-space where he can recieve the ball and create dangerous chance.

This example shows Klichs assist to Bamford last season vs Preston. Here Klich has made the run into the right half-space and Hernandez has played the through ball. He has recieved the ball in the box and put a great cross into Bamford who headed it past the Preston keeper.

The above image shows you which Championship centre midfielders cross the ball the most. As you can see Klich is represented by the yellow dot in the top right-hand corner. He has the most crosses per 90, 2.79, and deep completed crosses per 90, 1.05, compared to other Championship centre-mids. This shows he is getting into the half-spaces and wide areas more often than his counterparts. Then delivering a cross into the box, like the previous example for Bamford’s goal. Mateusz is a very talented crosser despite not being a natural winger.

Three of Klich’s last 6 assists have been from a cross in the half-space, as seen below. In fact, four have been, as Roofe’s “Hand of God” imitation from last season was also assisted by Klich in this position. The latest to the collection was his incredible chipped cross to Tyler Roberts vs Hull City at Elland Road, shown below. This demonstrates that Klich is at his most dangerous when he gets into the right half-space. Much like De Bruyne does for Manchester City to such good effect. This has been very profitable for Klich. He ranks third-most for expected assists (xA) compared to his central midfield opposition. He has 6.38xA this season only behind former white Alex Mowatt and Barry Bannan.

Klich assist for Roberts vs Hull

Below is another example and one of his last 6 assists. This was again against Preston last season but instead crossing the ball for Roberts not Bamford. He had again drifted into the right half-space, not even sprinting. He slowly moved into this area unmarked and then again received the ball in the box with time to deliver his cross. He put it on a plate for Roberts who was clinical as ever.

So to answer the original question. No. Klich is not your typical central midfielder. He will spend most of the game in the wider areas of the pitch creating overloads for Leeds to exploit. The tactical principle of rotations which Bielsa uses is another reason for Klich’s movement. He will often switch and change positions with players. Especially when Hernandez plays right wing as Pablo loves to come inside. Klich is a master at this half wing position where he spends most of his game. It brings the best out of him and hopefully Leeds can find their clinical side and score the chances Klich consistently sets up.

Data and game images from Wyscout. Images also from SmarterScout.

Thanks for reading, Hope you enjoyed. Written by TheYoungPeacock.

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