After only being promoted to the first-team just over a year ago, Charles de Ketelaere has already started to become a household name for Club Brugge fans. Even with limited first-team appearances and only 19, de Ketelaere has already earned his first cap for Belgium at senior level, with his performances catching the eye of national team boss Roberto Martinez. He has also established himself firmly in Philippe Clement’s plans, with the 19-year old Belgian a regular now in Club Brugge’s starting eleven. It is now only a matter of time before his name starts getting linked with some of the biggest clubs in the world. The following scout report and tactical analysis will analyse what makes de Ketelaere such a promising future star and that tactics that he is deployed with.
A true Swiss Army Knife
de Ketelaere’s primary position is the left wing, as the heat map above shows. However, his positional flexibility is something that is a prized asset for him. Most of his appearances have been on the left wing, but he has also played as a centre-forward, a centre-midfielder, a sole striker, and even in defence as a left fullback. Even more promising, he has excelled in every position that Clement has started him in.
In Club Brugge’s last match in the league against Royal Excel Mouscron, de Ketelaere started at left fullback and was man of the match, with him attempting the most duels of any player on the pitch (18) and winning the most as well (13). He also made 10 recoveries and was dispossessed 0 times. While there is still no doubt that de Ketelaere’s future is brighter as an attacking player, his ability to play in multiple positions, including in defence, shows his capabilities of being a true Swiss Army Knife football player.
Off the ball movement & positioning
One of de Ketelaere’s strongest attributes is his off the ball movement, and his positioning with and without the ball. While still only 19, his awareness and vision is that of a more seasoned player, with him able to consistently find space in between the lines, and in behind the opposition defence. Following are some examples of this movement and positioning.
Though de Ketelaere stands at 1.85 m tall (6’1”), he does not excel at being a target man in the box for Club Brugge. His favored tactic is to drop in between the lines, as shown above. In the match above against Zenit St. Petersburg, de Ketelaere started as on paper as a #9, but his actual position was more fluid. While he also did drift out wide left occasionally to open up the space in the middle, he was more apt to drop in between the opposition defensive lines. His positioning in this phase above allowed him to receive the ball in space, and also have the time to turn and be able to switch the play to one of his teammates on the opposite touchline. He also utilised these moments to hold the ball up, which allowed his teammates to run past into attacking positions.
He is also good at making perfectly timed runs in behind the defence, as shown above. Both Zenit defenders are caught ball-watching the player in possession, which leaves the space in behind unmarked. de Ketelaere is able to notice this space open up and make a perfectly timed run in behind. Operating from the left wing is de Ketelaere’s natural position, so in these types of scenarios, he excels. After receiving the ball, he is able to play a good cross into the box that results in a good chance for Brugge. His vision to notice the space open up and run into it, partnered with his willingness to drop between the lines to receive the ball shows his high work rate. He does not enjoy sitting in the opposition 18-yard box and acting as a target man, rather, he enjoys being the player who links all the play together, almost like a #10.
Though in Brugge’s setup de Ketelaere normally plays out wide, as a sole striker, or as a false 9, he will also occasionally be put in a two-striker setup. Above, de Ketelaere is in a front two with Emmanuel Dennis, and is playing as the deeper of the two. As mentioned before, this is so that he can play to his strengths of dropping between the lines and holding the ball up. This setup also allows the pacey Dennis to make darting runs in behind. However, while not the quickest, de Ketelaere is able to make runs in behind if the space opens up, which is does in this example. Club Brugge are countering and de Ketelaere (circled in red) is positioned a little deeper than Dennis. The gap closes for Dennis, and as a result, space opens for de Ketelaere to run into. He notices the space, and is able to find a quick burst of acceleration to run into it.
The amount of ways that de Ketelaere is able to exploit defences makes him a very useful player for Phillipe Clement. His ability to line up in various positions, and his off the ball movement and positioning are just two attributes that make him such a bright young talent for the future.
Potential to be a fox in the box
With only 5 goals throughout all competitions for Club Brugge since being promoted to the first team, de Ketelaere is not necessarily a potent finisher that can finish from anywhere within 20 yards. What he does offer however, is a fox in the box like finishing ability, where if the ball drops to him in the 18-yard box, he very often is dangerous. A couple of these types of finishes happened this season in the UEFA Champions League, which will be looked at in more detail shortly. With his normal position being out on the left wing, he doesn’t always get the opportunities to score goals, rather, he is more of a chance creator when playing out wide. He is though able to show some of his finishing ability when he is utilised in a more central position.
In this first example, Brugge are counter attacking, and de Ketelaere (circled in red), is making a run into the box, and into the space. The ball is crossed in from the wing, and the goalkeeper is able to punch the ball out. However, the ball is punched right to de Ketelaere, who is able to one touch fire the ball into the back of the net past the goalkeeper. This fox in the box ability is put on display here, as de Ketelaere is the first to react, which allows him to fire the ball into the top corner. Though he is not the best goal scorer in the Club Brugge team, this potent ability to finish inside the box is a quality that allows him to excel in the #9 role that Clement occasionally puts him in.
Above shows another example of de Ketelaere’s fox in the box ability along with some of his physicality as well (will be covered more later). The ball is played across the box by the Club Brugge player, and de Ketelaere is able to physically get past the Zenit defender to put the ball into the back of the net. This is a chance that most players should score, but it is even more impressive when you consider the situation. At only 19 years of age and only a handful of first-team appearances under his belt, de Ketelaere is tasked in the last minute of the match with attempting to score the winning goal. Players in situations like this with his level of experience could sky the shot, but he is able to have the composure to score. As he gets older and gains more experience, de Ketelaere will excel more in the finishing aspect of his game, but his ability to be in the right places in the box and finish with ease will go a long way to his development of the goal scoring side of his game.
Physicality and defensive capabilities
Charles de Ketelaere is also a very physical player, and is not afraid to go into 1v1 duels and challenge opponents to win back possession of the football. Defending from the front is something that he often does, as it is common for him to drop into deeper positions anyways. He also is able to put in a shift defensively as well, with the potential to start in defence as well as attack.
In regards to his ability to defend from the front, above shows an example of this during a match. Zenit have possession of the football, but the player in possession is dwelling on the ball for too long. Charles de Ketelaere notices this and decides to run back from his forward position to put in a 1v1 challenge on the player to try and win back possession. The player does not notice de Ketelaere coming from behind and he is able to nick the ball for a teammate to recover. This ability to defend from the front is something that he often does, as he does have a defensive mindset as well as an attacking mindset. This is because of his ability to start in defence, as he has lined up at left fullback in matches before.
As mentioned earlier, de Ketelaere has started at left fullback this season, and above is the match where he did. A couple of things that stood out when analysing his defensive capabilities during this match was that: (1) he was not afraid to go shoulder-to-shoulder with an opponent, and (2) he excelled in 1v1 duels. In the above scenario, the Excel Mouscron player is driving towards the 18-yard box, and de Ketelaere is responsible for trying to stop him. The first thing that he is able to do well is keep up with the player in possession. He then steps into the player’s path and is able to nick the ball away from him. He does well not to make a clumsy challenge that would have resulted in a dangerous free kick on the edge of the 18-yard box. Though not a fullback by trade, and with a more attacking mindset, de Ketelaere was able to step into a defensive role with no issues. He put in a man of the match performance at fullback, and his technical abilities in defence mean it would not be a surprise if he was deployed there at some point again in the future.
Another example of de Ketelaere’s physicality is shown above. Zenit are in possession of the football and are trying to play out from the back. de Ketelaere notices an opening and presses the Zenit centre-back and goes shoulder to shoulder with him in a 1v1 duel. The physicality of de Ketelaere allows him to win back possession for Brugge. This defending from the front mindset mentioned earlier is something that de Ketelaere excels at, as his free roaming capacity across the front line allows him the freedom to press as needed. There is no defender that de Ketelaere is scared to challenge in a 1v1 duel, and though this results in a high number of fouls being called against him, it is what makes him a very physical forward.
Weakness – final pass
Being a young player with only a handful of first team experience, he is bound to have small issues that need to be worked on. This is true of de Ketelaere, but the one bigger thing that he needs to improve on is his final pass. As mentioned earlier in this scout report, de Ketelaere is a forward who doesn’t enjoy being a target man, rather, he likes to drop into deeper positions between the lines and hold the ball up. Though he excels at this aspect, his final pass sometimes leaves more to be desired.
In the above phase, de Ketelaere has two options to play the ball to, the player out wide left, and the player through the middle. He chooses to play the ball to the man in the middle, but overhits the pass, with it instead going straight to the goalkeeper. Weighted passes are something that he still has yet to master, so with time he will surely become more accurate and composed with passes like that. This option was the right pass, as the player out wide left may have been in an offside position.
Here is another example, just from a deeper position. de Ketelaere is in acres of space and decides to try and play a weighted pass in behind the defence for his teammate to run onto. However, instead of overhitting the pass, this time he under hits it, which results in the defender being able to win the ball back and start a counter attack. What de Ketelaere needs to do a better job of doing is finding the final pass and weighing the pass better. No doubt that de Ketelaere is a very talented young player who has a high potential. However, the little things matter, and if he were to perfect his final passes, it would get him closer to the perfect player that he is probably striving to become.
Charles de Ketelaere is without a doubt Club Brugge’s most talented young player. As this analysis piece has shown, he offers so much in terms of an attacking player and a defensive player, and plays much older than his age suggests. He is a calm and composed player in whichever position he is put into, and excels at many facets of his game. While his final pass could leave something to be desired, there is no doubt it will improve with experience. Apparently, AC Milan and Atalanta are two clubs that are interested in de Ketelaere’s signature, even though he has just over a full season of first team football under his belt. It would be no surprise if clubs like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and other were linked to him in the near future. At only 19 years of age, Charles de Ketelaere is one of the most talented player in the Belgian Pro League, and may become one of the most talented players in world football.