Gian Piero Gasperini is doing an outstanding job at Atalanta, who are currently sitting on the fourth spot ahead of Roma on a three-point gap. With some great transfer policy and brilliant coaching, Atalanta managed to get their first-ever Champions League participation last season and this season they are already looking forward to the round of 16 clash against Valencia this Wednesday. However, even with right resource management clubs who play two times a week because of European football, always need a necessary depth in their squad to compete on a decent level. So, after getting second place in the Champions League, Atalanta’s transfer business was aimed at strengthening some positions. The signings of Adrien Tameze and Boško Šutalo are meant to widen midfield and defensive options and provide more tactical flexibility to Gasperini. Nonetheless, the third signing on which we will be focusing on was made to provide competition to the left wing-back Gosens, who was the only suitable candidate on that position in the first half of the season. This signing is Lennart-Marten Czyborra, the 20-year-old left-back purchased from Heracles FC and following the footsteps of his current competitor, Robin Gosens. In this scout report, we will look into what he can bring to his new team, what improvements can he make in order to challenge for the first-team starting spot and how he’d fit in in Gasperini’s side.
His role at Heracles
In his two seasons in Heracles playing in the Eredivisie Czyborra played as a left-back in a 4-2-2(or 4-2-3-1 with one one of the strikers dropping and acting as an attacking midfielder) and 4-3-3 formations. Regardless of the scheme, he played with similar functions, acting as a more attacking full-back most of the time, providing width and staying near the touchline.
In the heatmap above you can also note that Czyborra tends to spend a lot of time in his own third too, it is mostly down to Heracles having only 48.2% of possession this season and thus Czyborra had to spend a lot of time defending in his half. The other reason that despite him being a full-back who is used in a more attacking role, during the build-up he sometimes stayed in the defensive line with centre-backs to help them circulate the ball.
Here you can see Czyborra’s usual positioning during the build-up:
In this section, we mostly covered his positioning, and we will see his defensive and attacking output in the next part of this analysis.
Crossing and shooting
Any new Atalanta wing-back needs to possess good attacking qualities to provide his team with goals and assists, just like Gosens with 11 goal contributions in 20 appearances this season. Czyborra doesn’t have such a level of attacking output yet and he needs some time to develop it, but he already showed this season what he can do in the attacking department. He can’t boast such a great statistical record as Gosens, but he got himself five direct goal involvements this season with two goals and three assists.
Let’s begin with his crossing. Czyborra is left-footed, which is important for left full-backs. So, he doesn’t need to get the ball to his strong foot after receiving a pass and thus he is able to easily put in a cross after a couple of touches. As he is a left-footer, he makes outswing crosses, meaning after his crosses the ball curves away from the goal. Also, most of the crosses are lower-level and some of them are easy to prevent as they hit the full-back or the player right around the penalty area. He puts a lot of power in his crossing attempts as well, so they reach the player in the box really quickly. Here’s an example of his assist to the striker Dessers in their victory against Venlo:
He is capable of putting in a cross in a zone between the defenders, where his teammates can run into and meet the end of it. It doesn’t happen that often now, but it shows his football intelligence and great anticipation, which he can surely improve and get better at under Gasperini.
He makes 3.6 crosses per game with an accuracy of just 26%, and that is not up to par to Atalanta’s standards. For me, the main reason that 3/4 of his crosses are unsuccessful is that as we mentioned previously his crosses are not that high and they are often blocked by opposition players. He definitely needs to upgrade this aspect of his game by improving his decision-making or maybe by adjusting his crossing technique and diversifying the height of his crosses. He has great skill and talent in this aspect, he just needs to get better at it.
Considering his shooting, we don’t have that much of a sample to analyse, as this season he only took five shots and four of them were hit on target. His shooting technique is someway similar to the crossing one because he relies on the power of his shot a lot. What is surprising about his shooting is that out of that five shots he managed to score two goals, and both of them were incredibly difficult to score. One of them was a match-winning strike against Groningen, which was taken from way too far out and the other was a beautiful one-touch volley around the six-yard box, which I illustrated in the image below:
From his small amounts of shots, I can’t conclude how he will keep up his scoring record in Italy. Hateboer and Gosens are entering the penalty area much more often than he did during his time in Heracles. If he has the same role as Gosens, he will have to finish inside the box sometimes and this season we haven’t seen that from him yet. So, it will be interesting for sure how he will adapt and play in his new team.
Even though so far I’ve described Czyborra as an attacking left-back, from his heatmap we saw that he also defends a lot. Plus, his defensive stats look more impressive than the offensive ones which we discussed earlier. On average, he makes around six interceptions per game, and, although I don’t have the data to say how many of them were in the opposition half, I have that metric for recoveries. He is incredible in recovering the ball for his team, making nine recoveries per game, and what is really surprising, only 18% of them are in the opposition half. We saw earlier that his team’s tactics don’t rely on the possession that much, and this is the reason that less than a fifth of the recoveries actually happens in the opposition half(not even in the attacking third).
You can tell how much he helped his team defensively even if looking only on the recoveries and interceptions that we mentioned above. Above all, he is working really hard on the pitch and we can see that in the example below when Czyborra chases his opponent from almost a penalty area and eventually makes a tackle and gets the ball back to his team.
Also, he is very smart with his positioning, closing down the spaces and controlling the opponent’s movement. He has good agility and speed, and that helps him moving forward and when defending as well. Physicality and speed are important for a modern-day full-back, as they have to often split-up their duties between helping their team in attacks and in the defence. Czyborra possesses those qualities and has a great sense of positioning during defensive phases. In the example below, one of the Utrecht’s attackers is running into the gap between Czyborra and one of the centre-backs. Czyborra puts himself ahead of him and intercepts the pass.
Overall, his defending is really good and I think in this aspect he is good enough for Atalanta right away. Gasperini’s team uses maybe the most aggressive man-marking system in Europe when every player follows and marks his opponent, and I believe Czyborra can thrive in this system because from my analysis he is tenacious and that will surely help him.
Role at Atalanta
Gasperini uses a 3-4-3 formation with three at the back, two midfielders, two wing-backs and an attacking triangle of Gomez, Ilicic, and Zapata. Even though the centre-backs trio change from time to time, the same with midfielders, the wing-backs positions are most of the time occupied by Hateboer and Gosens. The German was the only real candidate for his position this season, and with the signing of Czyborra, he will put some pressure on him and add some competition straight away. Czyborra will be playing as a left wing-back.
Defensively, we already know what Atalanta’s coach will demand from Czyborra: strict man-marking, usually the opponent’s full-back or winger (more rarely). Offensively, he will cover the whole flank just as any of Atalanta’s wing-backs do. I mentioned earlier that in Atalanta Czyborra will have much more opportunities to play in the attacking third and in the penalty area even, and it will be interesting to see how fast he will adapt to the new requirements and different system. I think he will need some time to adapt and we will probably see Czyborra fully adapt after a pre-season in the summer.
Considering the fact that Atalanta are using long build-up with a lot of horizontal passes mainly between the defensive line to stretch the opposition, Czyborra will have a lot more time on the ball, as Atalanta is much more possession-oriented side than Heracles. He will be entering the penalty area a lot more too, so we might see a couple of goals from him in Atalanta shirt this season.
In this tactical analysis, we analysed the main strengths of Czyborra and where he will possibly be used in Atalanta, together with some aspects of his play that he needs to improve. I think Atalanta is the right place for him to develop, as he has the player that he can work with who also came to Atalanta from the same team and is playing in the same position. Gosens is also German, so I believe they can form a great partnership, compete for the first-team spot and get better by pushing each other. It is hard to imagine a better place for him at this stage of his career, and hopefully, he can become a world-class full-back in the next few years under Gasperini.
- UEFA Europa League 2015/16: Liverpool vs Sevilla – tactical analysis - April 3, 2020
- Preston North End 2019/20: offensive and defensive strategies – scout report - March 28, 2020
- Gabriel Barbosa 2019 – scout report - March 25, 2020