This scout report is an extension of the last data analysis “Finding the best DMs and CMs from Belgian Pro League”. In that data analysis, we shortlisted three players we should scout, and one of the players that we shortlisted and is really interesting is KV Mechelen’s talented youngster Aster Vranckx. Throughout this scout report, we will make a detailed tactical analysis of Vranckx’s abilities and see what he brings to the football pitch when looking in the tactics department. As well as this, we will compare some of Vranckx’s statistics with other young midfielders from the top five European leagues
After seeing good numbers for such a young player it is important to do tactical analysis to find out how he copes with senior football and tasks on the field for his position. This scout report will allow us to define Vranckx’s strengths and weaknesses.
Vranckx is a 17-year-old midfielder playing for KV Mechelen and in his first senior season in the Belgian Pro League, he scored one goal and made two assists in nine appearances. He can play with both feet, but his preferred foot is right. At 183 cm tall and a weight of 78 kg, he is more than ready to physically compete on a senior level.
Vranckx is versatile enough to play as a defensive-midfielder and central-midfielder. In the league, KV Mechelen used him five times as a central-midfielder (winning 13 points of a possible 15) and four times as a defensive-midfielder (only one point). We will not conclude yet that the number of points is related to his playing positions, but it is a big difference in the number of points. Below are heatmaps of his events in both positions.
He is more comfortable playing in central midfield as a box-to-box midfielder than playing a defensive midfielder. We can see he spends a lot of time near the opponents’ box. Vrankcx is good at getting into the space around an opponents’ box where he anticipates a cutback pass to be in a good chance to shoot.
When playing as a defensive-midfielder his main task is to defend his backline, so he holds his position most of the time which can be seen on the heatmap when playing DM. We will further analyse his movements in both directions.
Passing is the first ability we will evaluate because it is essential for every central midfielder. If we look at Vranckx passing numbers he averages 27.54 passes per 90 with 83.41% accuracy. Below is the table of rankings in each passing category. Every number represents player rank compared to the others on the table.
As we can see he is ranked below average in almost every passing metric compared to the others. He must improve the number of passes because only Mattias Svanberg who plays for Serie A side Bologna attempts fewer passes per 90. To improve that part of his game, he should make more contacts on the ball since passing is essential in his position. Mechelen is usually dominated by the opponents in possession, so part of the blame for his bad passing stats belongs to his team.
Vranckx makes a lot of off-the-ball movements as he likes to move through the channels to create space for him and his teammates as well. In the image below we can see how Vranckx starts his movement in the middle of the pitch. As the ball goes to the right centre-back, he accelerates intending to make an overload situation (3 vs 2) on the right side of the pitch.
Vranckx often does this type of movement when his team switches the focus from one side to the other. His work rate and pace allow him to be a step ahead of his marker when moving off the ball.
The teenage midfielder likes to get into dangerous positions and his 0.29 xG per 90 is the best from all of Belgian Pro League central midfielders. We will compare him to other U21 central midfielders who play in Europe’s top five leagues.
As we can see on the graph below Vranckx tops all central midfielders in xG per 90. If we judge by xG per 90, his team can count on him to get into advanced areas of the pitch and provide support for attackers.
Vranckx is averaging 1.28 shots per 90 with an accuracy of 30.8% shots on target. In his shot map below we can see from which positions Vranckx took his shots.
Regardless of the small number of shots, their xG value is high. He gets into really good positions to shoot in the penalty area and even three of his 10 shots came around the six-yard-box. This shot map confirms Vranckx is really dangerous in the final third. Examples below will give us insight on how Vranckx gets in those high valued xG positions.
The image below describes the attack he started around the half-line with a lateral pass before he made run towards the goal. That supporting run increases the likelihood of his team finishing the attack with a shot because of the greater number of options in the final third.
The image below is another example of Vranckx getting into free space. This can be seen regularly by the youngster as he is always looking for space to harm the opposition. On this play, he opened to receive the ball from his left-back but if the ball gets crossed, he is there to potentially be in a good position to shoot.
If we mention how natural fitness, stamina, work rate, and aggression are Vranckx’s main attributes, it is clear that he has all he needs to exceed when defending. Vranckx is responsible in most situations, but as with most young players, he sometimes misreads situations for when to attack and when to fall back.
Because of his speed and anticipation, he often intercepts the ball. He is averaging 4.3 interceptions per 90. We will compare him with young midfielders from Europe top 5 leagues.
As we can see, he is above-average in interceptions per 90. Vranckx is better at interceptions per 90 than the highly valued youngster from Ligue 1 defensive midfielder Eduardo Camavinga and Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde. However, in order not to underestimate the others, we have to remember Vranckx plays in the weaker league than those compared to him. Below is the example of an excellent piece of defending by Vranckx.
In the first image, we see how his teammate marked blue accelerates to the player with the ball, allowing a potential 2 vs 1 (red triangle) if the pass goes through. The second image shows how Vranckx anticipates potential passes and with his pace, covers the passing lane and intercepts the ball afterwards.
He wins 61.45% of his defensive duels which is impressive- he is already strong enough to clash with more experienced players. With his capabilities, he can successfully help his team when pressing high by seeing a potential error and reacting with his speed and firmness.
The examples above show glimpses of Vranckx’s ability to coordinate in a high-pressure setup. In the first image, the youngster lets his opponent get open so he can receive the ball, which allows Vranckx to press him from behind. The second image shows how he comes from behind with a perfectly-timed tackle, steals the ball, and produces a dangerous opportunity for his team. It is worth noting that this is a great example of team pressing.
His willingness to get stuck in sometimes leads to unnecessary fouls and yellow cards, however. He concedes 2.28 fouls per 90 which is an above-average number when compared to the others midfielders in Belgium and to most other young midfielders from the European top 5 leagues.
When it comes to transitioning, Vranckx has the potential to be extraordinary. There are very few central midfielders who can start the counter-attack by winning the ball, passing it, and moving forward in hope to finish the attack. Vranckx is exactly like that and can only get better with each game. The images below show Vranckx in transition.
The first image depicts how Vranckx reads the passing lane and intercepts the possibly dangerous ball. The second image is showing his reaction after he intercepted the ball. He looks for a smart solution to start the counter-attack. His pass to the left flank left five opposition players behind the ball. The third image displays how he wants to participate in that attack and his supporting run creates a slight overload with a 5 vs 4 situation.
He has the ability to start and finish counter-attacks because of his high work rate and anticipation at the defensive end, supported by his tendency to run at the opponent’s goal and shoot. KV Mechelen are always looking to start counter-attacks which helps Vranckx thrive in fast-paced football.
When comparing him with the other midfielders in the Belgian Pro League he was one of the worst in one particular statistic: progressive runs per 90. Now we will compare him to other young midfielders.
If we look at this metric Vranckx looks bad in terms of progressive runs per 90. He can improve in it because he has good control on the ball and has pace, but being in the wrong end of this stat is connected with his playing style. Vranckx plays simple and fast football – he likes to make a pass as fast as possible and then run into channels off the ball to receive it in the more advanced positions.
We evaluated Vranckx’s biggest strengths on both ends of the pitch and now we will point out what he needs to improve. We already mentioned that his passing ability needs great improvement to be able to compete on a higher level. In the defensive phase, he needs to make more right decisions when it comes to attacking an opponent with the ball. His aggression can be mostly attributed to him trying to get stuck into the opponent, but sometimes he needs to fall back so his backline is not endangered by his mistiming.
As we can see in the following example Vranckx storms out from position to attack a player with the ball who has a lot of time and space to pass the ball to the right-back (white circle). With his reaction, he can’t provide help to his left-back who already marks one player (blue square), but needs to cut out the arriving right-back. In this situation, he should fall back because already his two closest teammates are out of position and his falling out means his backline could be in a difficult situation to defend.
One thing that is worth noticing as well is his first touch. For a player who knows how to keep the ball when controlling it and plays with both feet, it is a little surprising that he often has a problem controlling it when receiving it with his back towards the goal. It is something that can be improved on the training field and by better body positioning as well. From below the first image shows the situation where Vranckx gets into the half-space between defence and midfield and he opens the passing lane to receive the ball. The problem is what he does on the second image.
He makes his first touch towards the half-line and loses control of the ball. In this situation, he should position his body laterally to see toward one side of the pitch. By turning his back to the opponent’s goal he is unaware of his surroundings and can’t make the right play. If he positioned himself better he could make a run toward the opponents’ backline or make a 2 vs 1 situation on the right side. The problem with his first touch is more of a positioning matter than a technical matter.
This tactical analysis supported by data analysis confirms that Vranckx has tremendous potential in all aspects of his game. This scout report gave us insight that it won’t take much time before a big European club makes a bid to snap him before the others. He has the potential to be a Belgium national team player.
- Aster Vranckx 2019/20 – scout report - April 21, 2020
- Finding the best DMs and CMs from Belgian Pro League – data analysis - April 14, 2020
- Finding the best centre-backs in the Belgian Pro League – data analysis - April 7, 2020