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Griffin O’Neill writes a detailed Scout Report about Leicester’s promising new signing, Bartosz Kapustka.
After winning the Premier League title, Leicester City wanted to make sure that they didn’t become complacent with their squad. They needed reinforcements because of the added stress of playing in the Champions League. One of these reinforcements is Polish winger and midfielder Bartosz Kapuskta. Kapustka broke onto the scene in the Ekstraklasa as an eighteen year old and hasn’t looked back since. His impressive performances for both club and country have gained him a big time move to the English champions.
Born in Tarnòw, Poland on December 23, 1996, Kapustka (which translates to “little cabbage” in English) started his playing career for Tarnovia Tarnow in his home town, but was soon snapped up by Cracovia in 2006 after a slew of impressive performances while on trial at Legia Warsaw. After playing for Cracovia’s various youth teams, Kapustka was given his first team debut in 2014 at the age of seventeen against Widzew Lodz. He made only one more appearance that year, but his true breakout came in the 2014/15 season when he played twenty-six times in all competitions, bagging three goals and a further two assists. After that year he was even in the running to be appointed captain by coach Jacek Zielinski, and while a lot of players have a “sophomore slump,” this was not the case at all for Kapustka. In the 2015/16 season he played in 35 games for Cracovia, scoring five goals and assisting ten times. This speaks volumes about Kapustka’s maturity and physical ability to be able to play this much and at such a high level as a nineteen year old. This maturity and performance gained him a reported 3.5 million pound move to Leicester City. He has yet to make a competitive first team appearance for Leicester, but his time will soon come because of the ridiculously congested Premier League schedule.
Kapustka also got his first national team call up in 2015 in a European Championship qualifier against Gibraltar. He was awarded the number ten shirt and his locker was placed between Polish legends Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski. When he was subbed on in the second half, it only took eleven minuets for Kapustka to score his first international goal, and because of his club and international form, Poland coach Adam Nawalka included him in his EURO 2016 squad. This inclusion wasn’t just for him to gain experience. Kapustka started Poland’s first game against Northern Ireland. He impressed greatly during that game, but after that his performances began to drop off because of the rigorous physical demands that an international tournament causes; he was duly replaced by Kamil Grosicki during the knockout stage.
Kapustka is primarily a winger who likes to drift inside. He does a lot of his attacking damage by cutting inside on defenders and either passing the ball off or going for goal. If needed he can also isolate defenders out wide and beat them with pace and/or skill. When he plays like a false 10, his style can be compared with players like David Silva who are incredibly good at finding and exploiting space out wide and in the middle of the park. For Leicester, Kapustka will have to play in a slightly wider role than he was used to at Cracovia. Thankfully for him, though, he played this wider position for the Polish national team at the EUROS. When he played in a more no. 8-like role for Cracovia, he looked like Schalke playmaker Max Meyer, patrolling in behind the striker and trying to find passing lanes to attack.
Kapustka’s biggest strength is his versatility. For Cracovia he played on both wings, as an attacking midfielder and a no. 8 role in the center of the pitch. He is also capable of playing as a false no. 10 on the left wing. This is his best position because of his combined skills of knowing how to utilize his favored right foot as well as being able to effectively play with his left foot. He also posseses the creative ability required to play in a false 10 role. This is exemplified in the words of his former coach, Robert Podolinski, who said, “Bartosz is a natural No. 10 or No. 8, but he can play as a defensive midfielder as well.” While he only played eight games combined in center midfield, he still impressed his coach enough to gain praise for his play in that position: “I am convinced he can play on the wings and in any position in central midfield.”
Kapustka is also very composed in front of goal for a player of his age. Most players who are eighteen or nineteen haven’t developed a finishing touch yet, but this isn’t the case with Kapustka. Many times this season he has found himself through on goal, and instead of rushing a shot, like most young players do, he had the ability to either square it across for a teammate or calmly finish past the Goalkeeper. His goals don’t always come from one-on-one situations either. In a game against Jagiellonia, Kapustka got the ball on the left and dribbled down the line, past two defenders, cut inside and unleashed a rocket into the far post.
Another strength that is on show week in and week out by Kapustka is his level of in- game maturity for such a young player. He isn’t afraid of big games, and this is exemplified by his performance against Northern Ireland at the EUROS this summer. He was one of the few Poland players to show real initiative to go on the attack and go after the defense. During that tournament he went up against defenders who play for teams who had possibly never heard of Kapustka at the beginning of the season. These defenders included Cedric from Portugal, a starter for Southampton in the Premier League; Benedikt Howedes from Germany, club captain and possibly best player for German powerhouses Schalke; and Stephan Lichtsteiner, a Scudetto-winning right back with Juventus. Kapustka went toe-to-toe with all of them and held his own in almost every exchange.
Although Kapustka has shown that he is able to perform in big games, he isn’t always the most level-headed of players. After losing against amateur side Stargard in the Polish cup, Kapustka reportedly insulted the opposing players, saying that “Tomorrow you will be forgotten… while we will be playing football for money.” He did later apologize for these comments, but this isn’t a totally isolated incident. During last season he was involved in a brawl at a Polish nightclub. Afterwards he was too afraid to call Nawalka, the national team coach, but he was eventually let off with a warning. An issue more relative to the football pitch, though, is the fact that he got three yellow cards in four games at the EUROS this summer — a worrying ratio for a player who doesn’t have to make many tackles. If Kapustka keeps his emotions under control, he should end up being a great star instead of somebody who let his attitude undermine his ability (*cough Mario Balotelli cough*).
While there are many things about Kapustka’s game that are mature, his use of physicality is not one of them. He relies on his speed and agility more than he should, and doesn’t get stuck into tackles too often. He might have been able to mask this reliance on pace in the Ekstraklasa, it will be much harder to do when he comes up against the physical giants in the Premier League this season. This isn’t something that should plague him throughout his career though, and if he can get in the gym the right amount he can become a player strong enough to fight off a tackle from a Ryan Shawcross in no time. With his talent continuing to develop, and a great player to learn from in Riyad Mahrez. Kapustka is on the fast track to greatness after his move to Leicester, and will hopefully become the next Polish superstar.
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