Standing at 6“3, the Germany-born Kleindienst has a tall presence. He is right-footed and has always played as an out and out striker. The 24-year-old initially came through the youth ranks at Energie Cottbus, making his first-team debut in the 2013/14 season. Having made his debut, Kleindienst went on to make a total of 38 appearances across both the Bundesliga.2 and Liga.3 for the Cottbus first team. In 2015, he then joined SC Freiburg.
Playing time was limited at Freiburg and he made only a handful of appearances in his first season. He was loaned to future full-time employers, FC Heidenheim, where he found relative success with a return of seven goals in 27 league games. He returned to Freiburg where he got his first taste of Bundesliga football. 22 appearances in total, with 12 of those as a substitute, gave him invaluable experience at the highest level of German football. However, the 2018/19 season proved a disaster, seeing only 210 minutes of match action in the league. In search of more game-time, and to kick on with his career, he returned to former club, FC Heidenheim, this time on a permanent transfer. An excellent 19/20 season has resulted in a £3.15m transfer to the Belgian top-flight where he will look to establish himself in the title-chasing Gent team.
Last season proved that Kleindienst’s main quality is in front of goal, finishing top scorer for Heidenheim. In 27 games, he scored 14 goals in the league, as well as two more goals in the Bundesliga playoffs. The striker ranked as the 7th highest scorer in the league, with an impressive 0.53 goalscoring average per 90 minutes. With an xG of 11.87, the statistics are right to suggest that Kleindienst is definitely a goalscoring threat.
If you do not shoot, you do not score. Last season, the man born in Jüterbog was certainly not shy when it came to attempts on goal. A total of 78 shots in league play was the 6th highest for the season, averaging 2.94 per 90 minutes.
A poacher in the box
Of the 16 total goals that Kleindienst recorded, 15 were scored from open play. The one other additional goal was scored from the penalty spot against Werder Bremen in the first leg of the playoffs. What is interesting is that 14 of those 15 goals were all scored inside the penalty box.
Playing either as a lone striker or the advanced forward in a two, it is no coincidence that many of his goals have come from central areas around the box. Even the one goal scored from outside the box came from a very central position. What is interesting, as seen in the image below, is how much Kleindienst uses his left foot to shoot on goal. For a right-footed player, he recorded nearly twice as many shots across 29 games with his left, rather than his right. This data suggests the player is more than comfortable using both feet rather relying on his naturally favoured right.
As seen in the image below, Kleindienst proved to be most threatening for Heidenheim from set-piece situations. Five of his goals resulted after set-pieces into the box, something you would expect from a player with so much aerial presence. Of the 13x attempts on goal after set-pieces, six of them hit the back of the net. To have a 38.5% conversion rate from these situations is a healthy statistic for anything forward in any league.
Good goalscorers always need good positional sense. Finding yourself in the right place at the right time is the quality of some of the worlds best strikers. Kleindienst gets himself into some excellent positions around the box. Below, the image shows Kleindienst been the quickest to react to rebound off the post and score.
The next image shows him once again lurking inside the box to score a tap in vs Jahn Regensburg.
Fitting in at high scoring Gent
Going from the 2.Bundesliga to the Juliper Pro League and Champions League football is a big step up for Kleindienst. However, on the back of a strong season with Heidenheim, now is the right time for his career to kick on.
Gent finished 15 points behind the champions, Club Brugge, last season. They will be determined to close the gap and put in more of a serious challenge this time around. Their activity in the summer transfer window so far is a sign of that intent. Kleindienst will be joined by Heidenheim teammate Niklas Dorsch, who signed for the same transfer fee. Other notable signings to date include Nurio Fortuna from RSC Charleroi, Sven Kums from Anderlecht, and Jordan Botaka from Sint-Truiden.
Gent led the league last season in goals, with a total of 59. Kleindienst will not have it easy and should expect a fight for a starting spot. The good news for him is that talented Canadian striker, Jonathan David, has left the club to join Lille in Ligue 1. It was David who was the top scorer with 18 goals in total. Fellow striker Roman Yaremchuk also pitched in with 10 and experienced forward Laurent Depoitre notched eight.
Competition for playing time will also come from younger players such as Dylan Mbayo and Anderson Niangbo, plus Georgian international Giorgi Kvilitaia.
Tactics fluctuated a lot last season for FC Heidenheim. In the final three league games, for example, they started with three different formations, as seen in the images below. From left to right, a 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1, and a 4-3-1-2.
The number 10, Kleindienst, started up top in all three games. It was in the 4-3-1-2 against Jahn Regensburg that he found the most success, scoring two. 4-3-1-2 is the same formation that Gent play.
In the first two games of this season, Gent have so far started both with a 4-3-1-2. The main starting striker this season will likely be Roman Yamaschyuk. In the season opener against St.Truiden, it was Laurent Depoitre who started alongside him. However, in the second game against Kortrijk, it was in fact the young Anderson Niangbo who partner Yamaschyuk.
Kleindienst’s first involvement in the Gent squad came in this game against Kortrijk. He replaced Niango with 30 minutes left but could not influence the scoreline which resulted in a 2-1 defeat. It will be an interesting battle between Kleindienst, Depoitre and Niangbo to strike up a good partnership with key man Yamaschyuk.
Contributing more than just goals
It will be important for Kleindienst to offer more than just goals if he is going to make one of the starting centre-forward positions his own. His return for assists last season was only two. For comparison, David contributed seven assists and Depoitre three, both in a harder league. He will certainly hope to contribute more this season.
At 6ft 3″, his aerial presence will give Gent an outlet for the long pass. In the 2.Bundesliga last season, he received the 20th most long passes in the league. This can be seen in the image below. With support from advancing midfielders such as Roman Bezus, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, and Sven Kums, his aerial presence can potentially be very important for bringing others into play.
Data would suggest that there can be more from Kleindienst when defending from the front and taking care of possession. He ranked 61st for recoveries in the final third, averaging 1.13 per 90 minutes. He also averaged 2.19 counter-pressing recoveries per 90 minutes. Whilst this is not alarming, and actually not that bad, there are plenty of opportunities for Kleindienst to contribute more defensively.
In possession, Kleindienst does tend to be guilty of losing the ball quite a lot. Strikers do not need to be masters of keeping the ball, but again, looking back to last season, there are improvements he will want to make to this kind of data at Gent. He averaged 17.39 losses per game, with over half of 425 losses either in the central or defensive third.
To conclude, Tim Kleindienst has had an excellent 19/20 season with FC Heidenheim. He has earned a big move to KAA Gent that will give them the opportunity to challenge for silverware and play in Europe.
However, there are elements of the strikers game that will need to improve if he is to make a big impact at Gent. Having scored 21 league goals with Heidenheim over two spells, his impact at his previous club, Freiburg, was disappointing. Turning 25 this month, he still has some of his best years ahead of him.
It will be interesting to see how he settles into his first club outside of Germany. He will most likely be battling with Depoirte to establish a strong starting partnership with Yameschuk. He has proven he can score and will be now playing in a side with more talented players around him. If he gets his chance, Kleindienst should be able to score plenty of goals in Belgium.