It is not easy to tactically frame an interesting player like Charles De Ketelaere. Especially bearing in mind the destination Milan, which is the reason why I am preparing to write this article. Belgian talent class 2001 of Club Bruges (yes, it has one year less than Raspadori and two less than Scamacca …) in the past season has exploded, scoring a total of 18 goals between the league (14) and cups (4). A significant surge considering the two previous years, in which, although still immature, he had already accumulated a lot of appearances and minutes, without however being as prolific (in Jupiler Pro League, in 2020/21, he had ‘stopped’ to 3 goals in 32 appearances).
In the last year the space at his disposal has certainly grown, with the full confidence of the club, but the impression is that it has also been facilitated by a more defined role (less experimentation around the field …), a role that on the basis of its characteristics it has proved to be decidedly functional and profitable. This demonstrates on the one hand how flexible (at first glance) De Ketelaere can be, but on the other raises the following question: and at Milan, where would he play? Since he vaguely remembers him for his movements, technique, foot and height, it would be like wondering where Kai Havertz would play in Pioli’s Milan.
IS IT AN OUTSIDE? – We know that the Rossoneri are looking for a right winger and a playmaker above all. We might as well start from here, from the band occupied by Saelemaekers and Messias in the past season and ask yourself: could De Ketelaere play the outside on this side, that is, with the foot reversed, given that he is left-handed and can return to kick hard and around? Nothing forbids him, but it should be pointed out that he does not tend to play there in Club Bruges. Or rather, practically never in the last year.
That said, in this sequence of two frames we can appreciate his ability to associate and change pace like a real winger asking the attacking midfielder for a sudden triangulation.
The acceleration is remarkable indeed, and it will help him to get face to face with the goalkeeper and score the four to one at Leuven. However, I would like to remind you that De Ketelaere in that championship match (15/12/21) had only slipped away in the wing for a moment, starting from the central forward role in Philippe Clement’s trident (then moved to Monaco in January). A week later, against the same opponent, but this time in the Beker van Belgie quarters, you find the confirmation in this phase of high aggression.
The central of Leuven, the Turkish Ozkacar, is almost as big (1.87 m, 85 kg) as an Acerbi, but the young De Ketelaere (1.92 m for almost 80 kg) in pressure knows his stuff, and he is a lot annoying when strong shoulder to shoulder comes. In fact, he uproots the ball and goes to assist Lang. In Milan it would be a shame to take him out from there in front of him to chase an opponent full-back along the flank.
ARE YOU A TREQUARTIST? – So is he a playmaker as he is mostly defined? Would Milan take him to put him under the striker in 4-2-3-1? It is true that in Belgium, for example against Poland, he took the place of De Bruyne, but they are still very fluid systems, those of Roberto Martinez. De Bruyne himself (who is De Ketelaere’s model) varied a lot, transforming the 3-4-1-2 into a 3-4-2-1 at will. Certainly in the national team, unlike with the club, De Ketelaere does not make the first striker, but he moves either from a pure front or from a right front. Also because there is no shortage of ‘heavy’ strikers in the national team …
Except that with Belgium he has 7 appearances and 1 goal (to Italy), for a total of 242 minutes played. So does it still make sense to talk about an attacking midfielder if he showed the best things from the first striker?
BUT SO WHAT IS IT? A CENTER FORWARD? – This is why I brought up Kai Havertz, because even the German, like De Ketelaere, can play both the role of attacking midfielder and that of advanced dynamic and maneuvering reference (in place of a Lukaku, maybe…). Indeed, it is precisely playing as a center forward that De Ketelaere spent and ended his best season at Club Bruges. And this also in the second half of the year, that is, after the change of coach, or under the guidance of coach Alfred Schreuder, who has now taken the place of ten Hag on the Ajax bench. Schreuder who, among other things, had been the deputy of ten Hag in the sensational 18/19 season of the Lancers. Here is a recent development of Club Bruges, with De Ketelaere aiming for a three-way system (3-5-2).
After having offered a hint of depth to Mata and lowered the opposing defense, De Ketelaere goes to meet the arm in conduct to join in the strait with the neighboring companions.
Clear the center of the attack and serve as a link player to free Lang with a touch from before. At that point the ‘fifth’ Skov Olsen can cut as an attacking winger on Lang’s possible through ball.
THE HEAD SHOT – Just like Kai Havertz, De Ketelaere also scored several headed goals. Let’s say that height unites them and benefits them in certain circumstances, resulting extremely effective as it is combined with speed, unpredictability and intelligence in movements. This below is an example that dates back to March 20, in the 3 to 1 at home against Genk: De Ketelaere is even seen moving away from the ball side (movement as a true finisher) to take advantage of the mismatch with the fifth on the weak side. Almost as if to cut him off from a possible development on cross.
Which in fact happens punctually on Vanaken’s filter for Mata, who reaches the bottom and finds the splendid header of De Ketelaere, in advance both on the fifth, and on the right arm of the Genk.
NEW SOLUTIONS FOR PINS – In conclusion, I argue that, in terms of characteristics, with De Ketelaere it would be a completely different Milan compared to the one with Calhanoglu first and Diaz then: Pioli would have a much more offensive attacking midfielder, a ‘high’ attacking midfielder, almost an extra center forward. A player who, most likely, would also help him experiment with new game systems, or even just new plays within the same 4-2-3-1.
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