Over the coming months, the site will be embarking on a small project. A team of analysts will work on providing detailed scouting reports for clubs entering European qualifying rounds, and they will be published free to all on this site.
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This report looks at Scottish side St Johnstone’s opponents in the Europa League first qualifying round: FK Trakai of Lithuania. It was written by Stewart Brown (@TheSPFLRadar), Tiago Estêvão (@TiagoEstv) and myself (@dougie_analysis). We hope you enjoy. DW
FK Trakai finished runners up in last season’s Lithuanian league, conceding just 26 goals in 33 games. They are currently midway through the 2017 season, where they remain second. Having not lost in their past six fixtures (aggregate score 14-3), they are currently in a great spell of form.
Attackers Oscar Dorley and Maksim Maksimov have contributed five goals each in this spell. The former is an 18 year old from Liberia who has only been playing professional football for a year. Dorley plays in the shadow of 21 year old Maksimov, signed from rivals Altantis in April. DW
Shape and Structure
In analysis of FK Trakai I wanted to gauge how they played when a team allows them dominate the ball. In the last two games against Kaunas Trakai have racked up 45 minutes of time of possession(72%) and most recently 40 minutes(64%). Most recently, against Kaunas, Trakai looked to have a 4-2-3-1 shape on paper but as the event map shows Dorley played as a second striker as close to Maksimov as possible and with full backs stationed in the opposition half:
Trakai looked to commit a lot of bodies to attacking moves in a more 4-4-2 type shape. Although Trakai’s personnel may be different I’d expect them to line up in a similar style and shape.
Trakai dominated the ball in both games but were unable to win either against the team second bottom of the league. Looking at the shot map for Trakai they certainly took a good number of shots but bar one good chance in the 6 yard box from a corner they struggled to really penetrate and create anything meaningful:
On the flip side Kaunas had 3 chances in good areas usually from counter attacks leading to crosses into the box which Trakai seemed to struggle with. If St Johnstone can defend as resolutely as normal and counter quickly they stand a good chance of frustrating a Trakai side going well in their respective league:
Trakai have a consistent corner routine which can be very difficult to deal with if St. Johnstone do not prepare properly. Number 11, Dorley, starts either in the centre of the goal (right by the goalkeeper) or on the first post and makes a quick movement towards the corner taker.
If not tracked, Trakai make use of that short corner routine, playing a simple one-two, with the corner taker whipping the ball into the box after the marking system has been disrupted. Two of the more aerially capable players tend to move from the top of the box to the space at the near post left by Dorley and that’s the area they target:
If a defender follows Dorley they still tend to hit the ball to that area, now even less occupied because a defender was dragged out. Ideally, the best way to deal with it would be to keep a man on the previously mentioned player so they’re unable to take it short while also not giving space to the onrushing duo.
When this happens Trakai are forced to swing the ball to the far post, which they only really do when forced to do so, and aren’t used to create danger from:
Free-kick wise they tend to be very shot heavy, having several right and left footed takers that more often than not will try to hit it at goal anywhere from around the box. While conceding free-kicks around the box isn’t ideal, I wouldn’t be overly preoccupied since they don’t tend to make the most out of them – not often getting it on target and not doing so with much quality when they do. TE
I have very little doubts when it comes to their key player. Oscar Dorley, the previously mentioned number 11, is an extremely talented winger that can play behind the striker as well. He is the shining star when it comes to the technical ability in a squad that doesn’t really have much of it, and prefers to play somewhat direct football.
With 7 senior caps for Liberia already at 18 years old, he is a tricky player to deal with. Very quick and good on the ball, he likes both to attack space in behind with his pace and is good beating defenders 1v1. Even when playing from the outside areas he tends to drift inside to combine with his teammates or find players in space with his passing ability. While he has some shooting capacity too, I don’t think that’s his best asset.
The best way to deal with him would likely be to keep a distance. If defenders are dragged out towards him, he’ll make use of his best characteristics – beating them 1v1 or finding a teammate in the space left behind. If St. Johnstone stay organised, with their lines slightly deeper, he’ll have trouble being a creative force and could be nullified.
Wakili is a very offensive left wing back that tends to be a force from wide, with a good cross on him. If St. Johnstone are to sit deeper he is someone to look out for as he’ll be overlapping constantly to swing balls in. Maksim Maksimov should start up top and while he can be dangerous poacher in the box, I don’t think he does enough on his own to be a threat if his support is controlled well enough. TE
Suggested Game Plan:
Bearing in mind that Trakai are a team who use their full backs to cross into the box, it is sobering for St. Johnstone that only Dundee conceded more headers in the Scottish Premiership last season (13). Therefore, St. Johnstone should limit Trakai’s ability to get these crosses into the box altogether.
The St. Johnstone back four of Easton, Anderson, Shaughnessy and Foster were Tommy Wright’s preferred defenders last season. Full backs Foster and Easton only really got up the park against weaker opposition, tending to otherwise sit closer to their centre backs.
Trakai’s “Christmas tree” formation shown above suggests that the Lithuanian side will look to overload the centre of the park ,with the width coming from the fullbacks. Looking at their chance map, we can see most of their chances conceded come from crosses. I would therefore suggest moving Foster and Easton higher up the park to close down Trakai’s crossing full backs, whilst ensuring the midfield is responsible enough in the centre of the park to prevent any overloads in the centre of the final third.
In terms of attacking, St. Johnstone should rely on quick transitions to exploit the space in behind Trakai’s fullbacks. Neither Kluk or Klimavicius are particularly quick, however they do anticipate well and are solid in the air. It therefore may be a good idea to play flat through balls into the channels behind the fullbacks (particularly on Kluk’s left side- the slower of the two).
If the Trakai midfield is not disciplined enough in getting back, these through balls will drag one centre back out with his partner covering the centre by himself. Stefan Scougall, Liam Craig, Blair Alston and Steven Maclean are all technically accomplished footballers: between them they should be able to create excellent scoring opportunities against a defence with this vulnerability. DW