Europa League Scouting Report – Śląsk Wrocław

Slask-WroclawWith the Europa League on this evening, we entrusted Ekstraklasa Magazine co-editor (and Śląsk fan) Michał Zachodny to run the rule over Club Brugge’s 3rd qualifying round opponents. You can view Chris Mayer’s Club Brugge scouting report in English and in Polish!

Levy’s loneliness in Wrocław

If you look closely at only four games that Śląsk Wrocław have played so far this season, you will see that a certain pattern has been already established. Not on the football pitch though, but in the time between the matches or at press conferences. With points and promotions already to be won in Europe and the league, Śląsk is a work still very much in progress.

It all looked better at the start of pre-season, when third placed Śląsk quickly operated on the transfer market, contracting good players in Sebino Plaku, Marco Paixao and Dudu Paraiba. Those three have scored six out of nine goals in the opening four games of the season. But their deals are not enough – only when the dust of the fans’ optimism has settled, two out of three best performers from last season have left, before the club could do anything about it. Śląsk were caught napping, and their defence was ripped away when it so clearly should have been improved.

Only one transfer of the defensive player (Dudu Paraiba, a left-back) was a reason for coach Stanislav Levy to moan again and again about the need of more dealing. After one of the games this pre-season, he was so desperate to point out his arguments, that he brought a sheet of paper for a meeting with journalists, where he proved to have let go more players than were signed in his tenure in Wrocław. Even after signing Oded Gavish from Israeli side Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Stanislav Levy, asked about further needs of his team, replied that majority of positions is still uncovered.

Unable to rotate his squad, Stanislav Levy has to put his trust into new players – the fifth one, central midfielder Tomasz Hołota is inexperienced even at Ekstraklasa level – and old guard. Whenever he was asked to describe how his team should be playing, the Czech manager said about dynamic movement based on one-two contacts with the ball and quick passes.

To say the least, Śląsk is still far from that. The leader of the team, troubled by small injuries and knocks, captain Sebastian Mila is probably the best playmaker in the league, but his legs are slower each year and he only adds to the lack of dynamism in the centre of Śląsk’s team. Przemysław Kaźmierczak has the experience and physical presence, but rarely brakes into sweat of short, pacy runs, as well as Dalibor Stevanović who is good at keeping possession and building up movements, but very poor defensively. Both problems have been already shown and used by opposition inferior than Club Brugge is.

But even worse is the back line. On the right side of it, Krzysztof Ostrowski is the first choice, once winger changed to be an attacking minded full back. He is the perfect reflection of Śląsk’s dealing system – he was signed in the winter when club was as desperate to extend their squad and that despite the only football he has played in previous six months was in amateur six-a-side league. To their luck, he turned out to be better than Tadeusz Socha, the other, nominal right-back.

When Śląsk was marching for the title in the spring of 2012, the defence was quite different. But players have left the club untroubled by the board or easily taking advantage of strange contract clauses that were put in. That is why now Levy has to put a left-back as a partner for Adam Kokoszka in the center. With Gavish in the side he will remain unhappy, as the only back-up centre-back, Marek Wasiluk, will leave the club over next few weeks. Cooperation between Mariusz Pawelec and Kokoszka is shaky, mistakes happen very often and lack of authority and organisation was best shown by Jagiellonia on Sunday. Each of three goals let in was a result of individual mistakes and it wasn’t the case of fatigue from travel to Montenegro and back or lack of focus.

Still, in the first leg on Thursday night Śląsk will be the more reactive side, looking more for counters rather than dominate. Definitely Waldemar Sobota is the one to watch, as he is able to give Śląsk the advantage in attacking zones with his skills. Focusing the interest of Greek and Russian clubs, the small winger improved his game from last season by adding the feature of key passing to his previously rather selfish dribbles.

It is Sobota and Paixao for whom Sebastian Mila looks to open the defence with his through passes. Despite being quite slow, his intelligence, vision and left foot allows him to create that little space needed to create chances – Club Brugge should also note, that set pieces of his are the finest and most dangerous in the whole Polish league. Mila’s defensive input may remain small but for Śląsk he is simply invaluable.

Torn by the lack of necessary dealing and with small space to rotate, Stanislav Levy’s target was to play in Europe for much longer than just four games. Perhaps losing the tie to Belgian opposition would not be the worst thing after all – with less distractions of Thursday nights, his squad might be just able to compete for top spots in the league. As for the next game, the target is to keep clean sheet and trust in creativity of Sebastian Mila, Marco Paixao’s finishing and Waldemar Sobota’s skills. The Czech manager will do everything not to let the trashing from the hands of Hannover 96 from last season (4-10 on aggregate) to happen again – if only the support from his board was the same he gets from Śląsk fans at the lovely Municipal Stadium in Wrocław week in, week out…

Śląsk possible line-up:

Gikiewicz – Ostrowski, Pawelec, Kokoszka, Paraiba – Stevanović, Kaźmierczak – Plaku, Mila, Sobota – Paixao

Michał Zachodny,, @polishscout

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