In the interest of full disclosure I had no idea who Tomas Soucek was when news broke that we had agreed a deal with Slavia Prague for the Czech international.
I took to the Internet to see what I could learn. First port of call was transfermarket.com where I discovered the basics – defensive midfielder, often deployed as centre back or as a more advanced midfielder.
He had scored eight goals in 17 league starts and registered twice in the Champions League this season.
A quick hop over to wikipedia told me that he had bagged a total of 31 goals for Slavia in 114 games, won two league titles, two Czech Cups and was the winner of the Czech League Player of the Year award in 2019.
This caught my attention. But as we all know, the real litmus test for a player is how they are viewed by their own fans, especially at the moment they are being spurned.
Tellingly there were mostly well wishers, bidding him a fond farewell and hoping he makes a success of the move.
But, as heart warming as all that was, it didn’t tell me anymore about the player we were signing.
As luck would have it one fan said, due to time constraints, he would post a ‘quick outline’ of our new signing. He then produced a thread of 12 tweets detailing Soucek’s strengths and weaknesses.
We have known for some time that what our
midfield needs is a mobile, box-to-box midfielder. And
@czechfooty’s first few tweets then were less than encouraging.
Soucek is dubbed as having an ‘awkward’ running style, is ‘not explosive by any means’ and ‘not a great north to south runner’ – so not the box-to-box type we have craved.
However the thread then likens Soucek to an 800m runner, whose ‘smart lateral movement and coverage’ means he still hits 11-12km a match.
In fact it is Soucek’s positional sense and awareness that means @czechfooty believes he doesn’t need to go racing around: ‘He simply needs to be one or two steps ahead, and he sooo often is’.
This means we shouldn’t expect to see Soucek snapping around players heels and flying in to tackles: ‘He simply jogs to the right area (to get the ball). It’s unfair really.’
One of Soucek’s other strengths is his aerial prowess. It’s claimed that he ‘dominates in the air’. The thread suggests that his mixture of anticipation, height and timing often leaves opposition ‘motionless’ as he arrives to meet a cross.
The awkward Soucek disappears and is replaced by an agile weapon at set pieces: ‘A legit cheat code’.
Soucek, however, does divide the fanbase when it comes to his technical ability and press resistance.
He is simply not an elegant or stylistic footballer, with ‘no tricks or quick moves up his sleeves’ to evade the press.
However @czechfooty does point out that his footballing brain means he doesn’t hold onto the ball, instead looking to move the ball on and help the team get up the pitch.
Lastly, Soucek’s passing ability is evaluated with the conclusion that his passing is largely underrated.
Aside from the simple ‘water carrier’ type passing that you expect from a defensive midfielder, Soucek can hit precise diagonals, driven passes and through balls, although we are warned that he does sometimes get a ‘little too cocky while spraying the ball forward’ at times.
Overall it appears that Soucek will work well as a defensive midfielder alongside Declan Rice as part of a ‘double pivot’ behind our more advanced players, providing ‘great insurance’ for the side.
However @czechfooty believes that he holds more ‘intrinsic value’ than that. ‘Thanks to his smarts (he) knows when to sit back and cover and when to push on. If you can have him arriving late into the box, you will get the best value out of him – a cross between Fellaini and Kouyate’
And whilst that midfield monster hybrid does sound like something that would add some drive to our midfield, I couldn’t help but think, reading the threads breakdown, that Soucek sounds like Declan Rice (or Czechlan Rice as a few Hammers replied) – with an added goal threat.
On the plus side, having ‘two Declans’ might help us protect our sieve-like defence better, but whether the pair will be able to help us get up the pitch is another matter. BBM