Layvin Kurzawa is currently set to become a free agent in a few weeks, after the 27-year-old spent much of the 2019/20 campaign as PSG’s second-choice left-back behind Spanish international Juan Bernat. The Frenchman started nine Ligue 1 games in the 2019/20 campaign as he approached the end of his contract with Les Parisiens.
Catalan giants Barcelona had been linked with a move for the 27-year-old of late, whilst more recently, London-based Premier League clubs Arsenal and Chelsea have also been mentioned as potential destinations for the Frenchman.
Whilst he didn’t accumulate as many minutes as fellow PSG left-back Bernat did last season, Kurzawa did manage to play a respectable 856 minutes of Ligue 1 football during the 2019/20 campaign and in this tactical analysis piece, we will provide a scout report on how the 27-year-old fared during the 2019/20 season. This scout report will look at some of Kurzawa’s most notable traits and characteristics, as we attempt to examine how he performed in his role within Thomas Tuchel’s tactics last season.
To kick off this 2019/20 tactical analysis of Kurzawa, we will first look at what may be the most notable aspect of his game, which is his impressive ability to make interceptions. The Frenchman has made an impressive average of 6.83 interceptions per game in Ligue 1 last season.
This is the seventh-highest number of interceptions per game that any PSG player has made during the 2019/20 campaign. He has performed impressively in this area despite playing for a PSG side who tend to dominate games and have made the lowest number of interceptions of any Ligue 1 side during the 2019/20 season.
Kurzawa possesses the ability to intercept the ball from his left-back position in a variety of different ways. He can intercept the ball on the ground or in the air, and in deeper areas of the pitch, as well as more advanced areas of the pitch.
At 182cm (5’11”) tall, Kurzawa stands at a decent height and this, combined with an impressive jumping ability, allows the 27-year-old left-back to compete in the air when the opponent plays crosses to the back post. In addition to his physical traits, he is generally a technically strong defender from these types of situations. He often has to move quite centrally when the opponent is in possession of the ball in a crossing position on the opposite wing, and when this is the case, he tends to deal with aerial duels quite well when the ball is subsequently played towards the back post and he can cut out opposition crosses.
On the ground, Kurzawa’s ability to successfully make interceptions is quite a notable part of his game, as this ability of his can prove to be a big asset for his side, both in the transition to attack, as well as the transition to defence. He showcases an impressive level of ability to read the game to successfully make so many interceptions, whilst his pace and agility also come in useful to help him perform impressively in this area.
The image above is taken from PSG’s UEFA Champions League away clash with Borussia Dortmund from February. Here, we can see Dortmund enjoying a period of possession, as they attempt to build further into the final third. Their right central midfielder is in possession of the ball here and as he is pressed by PSG’s midfield, he attempts to play the ball out to the right-wing.
As Dortmund are in possession here, PSG are defending quite deep and they have got plenty of bodies inside of their own half. Meanwhile, Dortmund are then forced to commit a large number of bodies to the attack in an attempt to open up Les Parisiens. However, this could leave the home side vulnerable at the back, should they lose possession.
As this pass is played from the midfield out to the right-wing, Kurzawa, who had been observing the play move out towards his side of the pitch, springs into action and knicks the ball away from the would-be receiver on Dortmund’s right-wing.
As we previously mentioned, this then allows PSG to go up the pitch and exploit the space and vulnerabilities that Dortmund have allowed to crop up in their defence, as a result of them losing the ball whilst they had committed plenty of men to the attack.
This provides us an example of how Kurzawa’s ability to make interceptions is a benefit for his side in the transition to attack. He is good at forcing turnovers in these types of situations. As he wins the ball back here, he has plenty of space to carry the ball into and advance up the pitch in an attempt to hurt Dortmund. His pace and agility then become even more important as he attempts to put the opposition into an even more vulnerable position.
PSG typically press quite high up the pitch. They had the lowest PPDA of any Ligue 1 side during the 2019/20 campaign by quite a large margin, indicating that they don’t allow their domestic opponents to make many passes before challenging them high up the pitch. We can see an example of PSG committing bodies high up the pitch during the defensive phase in this next image above.
Just prior to this image being taken, Lyon played the ball up the line from a slightly deeper position. However, as the player who we can currently see in possession of the ball here receives the ball and attempts to turn, he is immediately greeted by the aggressive press of Kurzawa. He has advanced high up the left-wing from his left-back position in an attempt to win the ball back high up the pitch.
This type of organised, aggressive team press that we can see PSG deploying here is a frequently-seen aspect of their game and Kurzawa’s interception-making ability helps him to perform successfully within this system.
His pace and reading of the game are on full display in these types of situations and as Lyon attempt to build out from their own half here, Kurzawa manages to win the ball back for his side high up the pitch with an impressive interception. This passage of play gives us an example of how Kurzawa’s interception-making ability can be a big benefit for his side during the transition to defence.
Making interceptions is a key aspect of Kurzawa’s game and it’s clear that there are plenty of benefits of this trait for his team during the transitions, in particular.
Tackling and 1v1 defending
Kurzawa engaged in 8.19 defensive duels per game in Ligue 1 during the 2019/20 campaign. He is a player who is happy to defend aggressively and he particularly likes to defend and commit tackles high up the pitch. Kurzawa’s tendency to defend aggressively can be a benefit in an aggressive pressing system, however, it can also lead to him giving away somewhat reckless fouls in advanced areas of the pitch.
Kurzawa committed an average of 2.05 fouls per Ligue 1 game during the 2019/20 campaign, whilst PSG committed an average of just 12.15 fouls per game in Ligue 1 last season. This indicates that Kurzawa generally committed his fair share of fouls last season when he played.
The image above shows us the beginning of a passage of play in which Kurzawa displays his aggressive tackling ability. We can see a Lyon player preparing to receive possession just outside of his team’s own box in this image, however, as he prepares to receive possession, we can see Kurzawa approaching from behind.
The previous section of this tactical analysis piece showed us an example of how Kurzawa likes to engage in defensive duels with the opposition high up the pitch and he does so again here. However, on this occasion, the 27-year-old doesn’t demonstrate as much patience as he did in the previous example as on this occasion. The Frenchman doesn’t wait to make an interception, instead opting to try and force the ball out of the opponent’s grasp by committing a more aggressive sliding challenge.
This next image above shows us the aftermath of this sliding challenge which is timed a bit too late and ultimately ends up wiping out the opponent after he had already released possession of the ball and given it to a teammate.
Had Kurzawa been a bit more patient, as he had been in the previous example in which he made an interception high up the pitch, he may have avoided giving away a foul here. However, the 27-year-old likes to defend aggressively and he did ultimately dive in, giving the opposition a free-kick deep inside their own half in the process.
This passage of play provides us with just one example of Kurzawa’s tendency to defend aggressively high up the pitch and how it can lead to an unfavourable outcome for his team at times.
The previous example illustrates that Kurzawa enjoys going to ground and defending aggressively, however, it is more difficult for him to do this in deeper areas of the pitch. This is because the consequences of his challenges going wrong are much greater in deeper areas such as the one we can see him positioned in, in this next image above.
When isolated versus an opposition attacker in situations like the one that Kurzawa finds himself in here, he does often struggle and opposition attackers can exploit a weakness in his game of defending 1v1 in deeper areas. His decision-making and timing can become more important than his reading of the game and pace in these scenarios, though both of those traits are still important here too.
The opposition winger confidently carried the ball forward just prior to this image and got close to Kurzawa before making a move to try and beat the defender.
As play moves on, after carrying the ball quite close to Kurzawa, the attacker knocks it to his right to continue his run towards the byline and he successfully knocks the ball on past Kurzawa by doing this. The 27-year-old PSG man attempts to pull off one of his sliding challenges here, however, his lunge is ultimately unsuccessful and the opposition attacker skips past the challenge without too much trouble.
This shows us an example of how Kurzawa’s tackling ability is not as impressive in deeper areas of the pitch at times, as the defender thrives further up the pitch where he can defend with a bit more room for error and freedom to be aggressive. In deeper areas, when going 1v1 with an opposition attacker, Kurzawa does look somewhat out of his comfort zone at times.
As mentioned previously, Kurzawa was a member of a dominant PSG side during the 2019/20 campaign. Tuchel lined his team up in a 4-2-2-2 / 4-2-4 shape for a large part of the season. When playing against more defensive sides who would attempt to shut PSG out by dropping into a deep, compact block, the wide men in this shape would come quite narrow, thus allowing the full-backs to drive forward, providing the width.
In these situations, Kurzawa would often find himself in quite advanced areas of the pitch and he did get the opportunity to play some crosses in quite a few games. On average last season, Kurzawa played 2.44 crosses per game, however, the 27-year-old only managed to play 24% of his crosses last season accurately.
His lack of accuracy from crossing situations hurt what may have been the primary aspect to his game from an attacking standpoint, and this lack of crossing accuracy may have played a significant part in the Frenchman failing to provide a single league assist from his 856 minutes of Ligue 1 football last season.
Additionally, despite playing an average of 2.44 crosses per game, Kurzawa only managed to accumulate 0.04 expected assists (xA) during the 2019/20 campaign, which isn’t particularly encouraging at all, for a left-back in a dominant PSG side. For comparison, Spanish left-back Bernat, who played 1390 minutes of Ligue 1 football for Les Parisiens last season, managed to provide four league assists for the club.
While Bernat did play more minutes than Kurzawa, it may be fair to say that this shows us that the Frenchman did still have plenty of game time to produce more on the attacking side of things than he did and he may be disappointed with his output last season in that regard.
The image above shows us an example of Kurzawa positioning himself high on the left-wing versus a deep, compact Montpellier block. Montpellier are playing with a five-man backline but they are still all sitting quite narrow, allowing Kurzawa to enjoy plenty of space on the left-wing once Les Parisiens’ left-winger shifts into a narrower position.
Eventually, the left central midfielder who had carried the ball forward for PSG does play the ball through to Kurzawa on the left-wing. By the time he receives possession, the opposition defence does manage to close him down somewhat, however, he still attempts to play a first-time cross, which ends up hitting straight off of the nearest opposition defender.
While Kurzawa is comfortable and confident on the ball, he doesn’t make a very significant amount of dribbles. The 27-year-old left-back attempted an average of just 2.15 dribbles per game in Ligue 1 last season, succeeding with only 50% of those. This statistic illustrates for us that when Kurzawa gets into crossing situations, he generally does so without carrying the ball into the position by himself, rather, he often finds himself in crossing situations after being played through by a teammate as he was here.
From there, again, as we saw him do here, Kurzawa often tries to play a first-time cross. However, he wasn’t particularly successful from this type of crossing attempt this season, as is evident by his poor xA statistic. This may indicate that he might not have utilised the best crossing technique last season. However, he did frequently get himself into positive crossing positions in the first place, which is a more positive sign.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, it may be clear that the highlight of Kurzawa’s game during the 2019/20 season was his ability to make lots of interceptions as his team benefitted from this greatly during the transition to attack and the transition to defence.
However, Kurzawa’s 1v1 defending and his playmaking quality left plenty to be desired last season. This may give his potential next club plenty to think about prior to making a move for him this summer if he does indeed allow his contract to run out and become a free agent at the end of this month.