Patrik Hrošovsky joined Genk in the summer of 2019 from Czech side Viktoria Plzen. Hrošovsky joined after captaining the Czech side and leading them to the league title, as well as playing in the group stages of the Champions League against AS Roma, Real Madrid, and CSKA Moscow. After joining the then Belgian champions, he was a regular in the side for most of the 2019/20 season, and became an influential part of Genk’s midfield. He was a consistent performer for the side as well again in the Champions League, with Genk in a tough group that consisted of RB Salzburg, Napoli, and Liverpool.
However, for some reason, this success didn’t carry over to the beginning of this Belgian First Division A season, with Hrošovsky not playing a part in any of Genk’s first five league matches after being frozen out by Hannes Wolf. He was then restored to the squad after the sacking of Wolf, and started Genk’s last league match against Mechelen. This scout report and tactical analysis will analyse Hrošovsky’s strengths and weaknesses, and show why Genk’s slow start to the season was, in part, due to his absence.
Diving into some data about Hrošovsky, the role that he plays in Genk’s midfield is a very interesting one. As the heat map below shows, he likes to roam in the half-spaces and between the lines and doesn’t just sit in a central position.
As I will discuss in more detail later on in this tactics piece, one of Hrošovsky’s main strengths of his game is his range of passing, which helps him to excel with all of the positions that he is present in throughout any given match.
Genk normally will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Hrošovsky forming a double pivot with his midfield partner. In the 2019/20 season, his partner was Sander Berge, a more defensive-minded midfielder who has since moved to Sheffield United. This partnership allowed Hrošovsky to have more freedom to roam throughout the midfield last season, as the heat map shows since Berge was a rock in defensive midfield for Genk. However, in Genk’s last match, Hrošovsky was partnered with another Norwegian, 21-year old Kristian Thorstvedt, a more attack-minded midfielder. It will be interesting to see how Hrošovsky’s role now evolves in Genk’s midfield moving forward.
Without a doubt what Hrošovsky excels at the best is his movement off the ball. Operating in that central midfield position with the authority to roam lets his passing abilities shine.
Above is a couple of statistics from the 2019/20 Belgian First Division A season. As shown, Hrošovsky attempted almost 47 passes/90 in the league last season, which ranked in the top half of all players. He also had a pass accuracy percentage of 86.75%, something that should not be scoffed at, especially with the number of passes that he is attempting every 90 minutes.
The image above shows one passing instance. Here, Hrošovsky is able to use his vision as well as his knowledge of surroundings to get this pass off. Genk are trying to play out from the back and the centre-back is getting pressed by the opposition forward. Hrošovsky notices this and drops deeper in order to receive the ball and try to break the press. As he receives the ball, the opposition fullback is dragged out of position to close Hrošovsky down. This leaves the space down the flank for the Genk fullback. Hrošovsky notices this and plays a one touch backheel into the space, which the fullback receives and can then start the counter attack.
Above is another example of Hrošovsky’s patience and composure on the ball. He receives the ball in a pocket of space and starts to get closed down by three opposition players. This closing down cuts off the passing lanes of the players at the near touchline and also prevents him from playing the ball back to one of his two centre-backs. This leaves his only option as turning with the ball and trying to pick out one of his two open teammates near the far touchline. Hrošovsky decides to take the safest option and play a cross-field ball to his fullback on the opposite flank who is in the space and able to move the ball forward. This pass was the safe one as well by Hrošovsky. While his other teammate is in space in the centre of the pitch, if the ball was passed to him, there was every opportunity for the two opposition players to quickly close him down. Playing the ball out wide lets Genk switch the play, and gives them a better opportunity to get an attack started.
Above, Hrošovsky is in space in the attacking third and is scanning the field for passing options. He had an option to play the ball to the right with two players in space on the far side, but the Genk player on the near touchline found the space and is able to make a run in behind. Hrošovsky spots the run and plays a perfect pass in between the two defenders and get to his teammate in stride for him to cross into the box. He was able to use his vision to spot his teammate in space, as the opposition fullback was dragged out of position trying to close down Hrošovsky. He was able to use his composure to make the pass, and this phase of play resulted in a good chance for Genk.
Off the ball movement and positioning
Another feather in Hrošovsky’s cap is how he moves off the ball, as well as how he is positioned in various scenarios. Hrošovsky is not just a midfielder who likes to spray passes around and sit in certain areas in the midfield. Hrošovsky will make line breaking runs and also sit in between the opposition’s lines, waiting for opportunities to get further advanced. His off the ball movement is superb, and he will look for the pockets of space to exploit and will move into them. Below is one of these examples.
Above, Hrošovsky is in possession of the ball and is being closed down by two Antwerp players. The one Antwerp player in front of Hrošovsky was dragged out of position in the midfield so he could try and close the ball down quickly. Hrošovsky notices this and is able to play a quick pass to his teammate before driving into the space that was left by the Antwerp player. No one closes him down, so as a result, he receives the ball back from his teammate and is able to continue progressing the play, this time in the opponent’s half of the field. While this phase of play does not result in a good chance for Genk, it does show Hrošovsky’s ability to recognize the space and to drive into it and progress the play from there.
Above shows the usual position that Hrošovsky likes to occupy when Genk are in position of the ball. In this phase of play, Sander Berge is in possession of the ball and is acting like a third centre-back while the fullbacks are pushed forward. This allows Hrošovsky the freedom to be able to move in the space and occupy a position between the opposition forward and midfield lines. He is then able to manipulate the space and be able to receive the ball in a good area for him to be able to turn and find a teammate without having to worry about the press of the opposition. This was a common occurrence with Genk last season, as Berge and Hrošovsky formed the perfect double pivot at the heart of Genk’s midfield. Hrošovsky’s vision to find and move into these advanced positions is something that is crucial to getting Genk going on the attack, as he is the one that is pulling the strings in midfield as analysed earlier.
This final example shows how he uses his off the ball movements and positioning interchangeably. Here, Hrošovsky is in possession of the ball and is being closed down from behind and from the side. He realizes that there is space behind him, so he passes the ball to his striker who is dropping into a deeper position in order to support. The defender marked in yellow makes the wrong movement of trying to close down Hrošovsky, as this leaves the middle of the field open for him to pass into. After passing to his teammate, Hrošovsky is able to recognize the space behind him and is able to turn and drive into the space and plays a one-two with his teammate in order to retain possession and keep the ball moving forward.
Hrošovsky is not much of a defensive-minded midfielder, nor an attack-minded one, he is somewhere in between. He would be best compared to former Bayern Munich and current Liverpool midfielder Thiago. Hrošovsky is someone who likes to pull the strings in midfield, but also can contribute both offensively and defensively. His stats however, portray him much better as a more defensive minded player.
As the graph above shows, Hrošovsky won 60.34% of his defensive duels attempted last season, which is very good for a player who does not have much defensive acumen. Being only 5’8” tall, he is not the best in the air, so the majority of these duels won were ground duels, as he is very much of a bulldog type player when it comes to defending as the following examples will show.
Above, Genk are back defending and the ball is whipped into the box towards the man that Hrošovsky is marking. What is quite noticeable is the size difference between Hrošovsky and the opposition attacker. While Hrošovsky is not nearly as tall as the player he is marking, he is able to use his strength and aggression to hold the opponent off. This allows him to clear the ball away when it is whipped into the box by the opposition player. In this phase of play, Hrošovsky uses his superior aggression and strength to hold the opponent up to give him the time to clear the ball away. Also, very good is that Hrošovsky had the knowledge as well not to get too hands on with his man, as he could have gone to ground and given up a penalty.
Above, Hrošovsky, circled in red, is operating near the middle of the pitch as the opposition are trying to build up the play from the back. As the opposition player receives possession the Genk player, circled in black, attempts to close the man down and win back possession in a dangerous area. However, he cannot win possession, and the opposition player is able to get past. This then makes Hrošovsky react, who quickly closes down the opposition player and wins back possession before he is able to pass to his open teammate down the line. Here, Hrošovsky is able to sense the danger and uses his aggression to quickly close down the opposition and win back possession before a dangerous counter attack is launched.
While Patrik Hrošovsky does not excel greatly at the attacking aspect of his game, he does put in a consistent approach to his defensive work, which he will be having to do more frequently this season with the departure of Sander Berge.
Even though Hrošovsky is a very influential player for Genk and one of their best players, he is not without his flaws. While passing is something that is one of his defining traits, he does sometimes lack quality on certain types of passes. Below is one of these examples.
The one thing that Hrošovsky does not do well with his ball distribution is long balls across the field. In this phase of play above, the Genk player finds himself in space on the far touchline, and is able to make a run in behind the opposition defense. Hrošovsky spots the run and attempts to play the pass, but it goes short and is intercepted by the opposition defender closest to the touchline. This then allows the opposition to start a quick counter attack, when it instead should have Genk having a chance in on goal. While Hrošovsky excels at passing the ball in all types of situations, he does need work on this long ball distribution. It seems in situations like these that he either overhits or under hits the pass and there is really no in between. If Hrošovsky were to perfect this, then it could be argued that he is the best distributer of the ball in the Belgian league.
The only other weakness that I noticed in Hrošovsky’s game was his occasional indecisiveness on the ball. He will sometimes dwell on the ball for too long when he has an easy option for a pass. Above is one of those examples. In this phase of play, Hrošovsky is in possession of the ball and is driving into the space in the opposition’s midfield. The striker makes a great run and Hrošovsky had a great pass on to play his teammate in behind, but he decided to keep driving forward. As a result, he lost possession and the opponent started on a quick counter attack. This lapse did not cost Genk a goal, but has been another thing that has been a weakness for Hrošovsky.
Patrik Hrošovsky is one of the most influential midfielders for his side in the Belgian First Division A as this analysis has shown. He has put Genk in many situations that they would not be in if it was not for his passing acumen, his off the ball movement or positioning, or anything else that stands out about his game. When he was frozen out of the squad earlier this season by Hannes Wolf, his presence was missed in the centre of that Genk midfield. After being restored to the side after Wolf’s sacking, Genk won their next league match 3-1 after a very poor run at the beginning of the season. While this could also be a new manager bounce, Hrošovsky being back has also helped. He thought of leaving Genk in the summer, but after being restored to the side, Genk need their star midfielder back in form if they are to climb their way back up the table this season.