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Andrew Thompson writes a detailed scout report about Konstantinos Stafylidis, the Augsburg and Greece footballer.
Augsburg have garnered somewhat of a cult following over the past two seasons, haven’t they? Their unexpected run to a fifth-placed finish and subsequent passage into the Europa League (as well as making it into the knockout stage) in 2014/2015 gave every football hipster an underdog club to claim as their own. Though they struggled mightily last season, relying on hitting during the second-half of the Ruckrunde to avoid the drop by five points come the end of the campaign, they’ve targeted this season as one to rebound through under new manager Dirk Schuster. Unfortunately for Fuggerstadter, their longtime struggle for goals has continued early doors this season, and although they remain solid at the back, it may be a bridge too far for the Bavarian-side if adjustments cannot be made further forward.
It’s not all doom and gloom for FCA, though. In Schuster, they have a manager who has built a successful career out of getting the best from players who reside at “lesser” clubs – his recent achievements with SV Darmstadt lending weight to the notion that he is the right man to take keep Augsburg in the German top flight.
You’d be hard pressed to find many who would claim that Augsburg are blessed with a Christmas stocking full of gifted players (and many may feel this is why they could continue to struggle on the whole despite Schuster’s leadership), but one player who indeed has stood out in the Bundesliga this season under Schuster’s guidance has been young Greek international Konstantinos Stafylidis.
Born in the port city of Thessaloniki on 2 December 1993, Konstantinos Stafylidis, remains a relative unknown in the discussion of young European footballers – a notion which could very well soon change.
Despite beginning his footballing days at the age of six for his village side of Aetos Akropotamu, Stafylidis did not make the leap to a recognized youth system till he was twelve, when hometown Superleague side PAOK Thessaloniki opened their academy doors to him in 2006. After rising through the youth ranks where he featured at every level, while also breaking into the Greek national youth set up after earning call-ups to the U17’s and U19’s starting in 2010, Stafylidis would make his full debut for the White-Blacks in the fall of 2011 against Panetolikos, even registering the first-assist of his full professional career in the same outing.
After impressing at the U-19 European Championships in 2012 and being named to the team of the tournament, the left-back with a burgeoning reputation was prized away from Greece by Bundesliga-side Bayer Leverkusen for a fee of 1.3 million pounds. However, he would immediately be loaned back to aid his continued development, and Stafylidis went on to make twenty-one total appearances for PAOK in the 2012-13 campaign, while also scoring his first senior goal. After returning to Leverkusen the following season, he would feature for Leverkusen II in the Regionalliga West on eight occasions, along with one appearance for the first-team – a seven minute outing off the bench in the league against 1.FC Nuremberg.
Having failed in breaking into the first-team at the Bay Arena, he was again chucked out on loan, this time to England where he would join up with Championship side Fulham, who he would go on to make forty-four appearances (thirty-eight in the league). By now he was a full Greek international, having moved on from the U21’s when he made his full Greek debut against the Republic of Ireland at Aviva Stadium back on 12 November 2012. Though he would return to Leverkusen, fellow Bundesliga outfit Augsburg would bring him to Bavaria in a deal worth 2.1 million pounds. Despite the move at the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign, Stafylidis would only go on to make sixteen total appearances (eleven in the Bundesliga) in what would be Markus Weinzierl’s final season in charge before moving Schalke this past summer. It has been under new boss Dirk Schuster that Stafylidis has been truly impressive during the current campaign, to the point where it would be hard to argue against the Greek left-back being tipped as, on form, the best in his position in the Bundesliga on current form.
Though defending has become an art mastered by the Greeks dating back to the Greco-Persian wars all the way to as recent as their heroics at Euro 2004, Hellenic football is certainly trying to move with the times. Though famed for their stout, physical defenders in the mold of Kostas Manolas and Sokratis, and rough-and-tumble holding midfielders like Giannis Maniatis, Stafylidis is very much a more modern full-back than perhaps Greece has really been used to having in its arsenal in recent years.
Rather that sit back, defend and call it a day at the office, Stafylidis is very much a left-back who loves to bomb forward. Given Augsburg’s annual struggles in front of goal, he has taken it upon himself to be a source of goals for the team, scoring two of their five in the Bundesliga this campaign. Though the landscape is ever changing in regards to the tactical commitments for each position on the pitch, Stafylidis is very firmly entrenched in the idea that an attacking full-back is (no pun intended…or…was it?) the way forward for him for both club and country.
As stated above, Stafylidis is very much an attacking full-back, and as such you would imagine that his strengths mirror that fact. The truth of the matter however, is that the 5’10 Greek is a very well rounded full-back. His numbers on the offensive side of the ball are all certainly excellent; two goals, two shots/90-minutes (second only behind Caiuby for Augsburg) and with strong technical ability on the ball make him arguably more important to Dirk Schuster than what Paul Verhaegh was to Markus Weinzierl in regards to an offensive standpoint. However, again, don’t let his ability going forward make you underestimate his effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball.
Averaging 1.5 tackles/90-minutes is certainly a decent tally that you’d want from a full-back, but it is a few other key markers that show his strength in defense – Stafylidis currently sits on 2.7 headers won/90-minutes (69.7% of his challenges in the air he wins), while also averaging 5.17 interceptions and clearances during the same time period. Not only is he quite capable to influence proceedings further forward, but his strength in reading the flow of a match to patrol the passing avenues as well as challenge in the air (quite strong for an attacking full-back) truly make him an all-around threat for any opponent he faces off against.
Though he has been unquestionably the best player to don an Augsburg kit this season, Stafylidis, like all footballers, is not above criticism. His only genuine weakness to his game, at least in the humble opinion of this blogger, is that he struggles to be a source of chance creation.
When you think back to the likes of Roberto Carlos, Philipp Lahm and Cafu, and even current full-backs such as Jordi Alba and Marcelo (just to name a couple), all of them had an excellent ability to be creative in the sense that they could play a quality ball into the box on a consistent basis. As the season goes on, it would be fair to suggest that the likes of Alfred Finnbogason, Ji Dong-Won, Caiuby and Raul Bobadilla will be amongst the goals at a more acceptable rate, and as such at that point, Stafylidis will no longer have to concern himself with being a source of goals (though unleashing his left foot from outside the box is never a bad idea per say), but rather a source of creation…something Augsburg certainly lack in any real abundance.
As the 2016-17 Bundesliga season progresses for Augsburg, it is hard to bet against the influence of Konstantinos Stafylidis decreasing by any great amount if at all. Though his game certainly include just a little bit more chance creation, and by extension key passes from deeper areas that can lead to a goal scoring opportunity, the positives in his game so greatly outweigh the negatives that you should not be shocked if he’s included in the Bundesliga team of the season come the end of the domestic campaign.
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