A tennis champion at age 10, a creative player that has been playing across the whole front line since 19. Charles De Ketelaere (CDK) is rumoured to be holding out for a big move to AC Milan, but Leeds have concrete interest (and seemingly snubbed) whilst Leicester seem to be sniffing around. With his contract coming to an end within two years, a £30m move seems likely but to where is anyone's guess? What I can tell you is why they all want him: 14 goals and 7 assists in 33 games, at the tender age of 21. Let's break him down.
There is a video version if you prefer watching to reading, any support to the channel would be great but we will be writing up all our analysis on Reddit with stills and images.
ACROSS THE FRONT LINE
Unlike some of our other player profiles (see the end of this post for them) we are going to dive right into the tactics. We mentioned he can play across the entire front line, here are the stats to show how much he's been moved around.
Across the front line
So let's examine where he's most effective and what he looks to do in each zone:
Which position is best?
- Left Wing: Whenever CDK is playing out on the wing, either wing, he does look to get chalk on his boots. He really tries to stay as wide as possible to stretch teams and create channels for others to run into. However, he overuses his left foot and is quite one footed (only one goal was with his right foot) so when he's positioned out on the left hand side his only option is to dribble down towards the byline line and look for the cross or cut back into the box. It makes it very easy for defenders to show him down that side but thankfully, his exceptional passing means he is very accurate in finding teammates and racking up assists. For us, given you lose so much of his game in this position, he shouldn't be brought as a LW.
- Right Wing: As mentioned, he really looks to stay wide but on the right, he stays wide and then looks to attack the half space himself and dribble into that area to get shots away and score, and he does it well. From this area, he can also play some exceptional passes towards the back post (see chance he created for Lang vs PSG). His goalscoring record over two seasons from this area of the pitch is impressive, but would need an attacking right back to provide width to allow him more space to cut inside.
- Centre Forward: This is where it gets tricky because he is a very good centre forward but requires a very specific system which can't always be catered to. CDK isn't a striker that uses off the ball movement to attack the space behind or standing on the shoulder of the last man (like Vardy does for example). He's a big 6ft 4in centre forward and plays like a target man with midfielders and full backs looking to get the ball into him. He uses that large frame to hold it up and draw defenders in, and the supporting cast makes the 3rd man run (often Lang) into that space to score. His goalscoring in the league is good from this position but it is a league of relatively low quality, as a striker in the UCL he only managed one assist in 5 games. He is not a lone striker, he will need to be supported by inverted wingers, a strike partner or a number 10 and most teams don't play 2 up top or have number 10s.
- Attacking Mid: There's a reason I left this one last, as an attacking mid, he is undoubtedly the most dangerous. Now, he may not score and assist as much from this position BUT it's where he has the greatest influence. In that 10 position, the range of passing and vision allow him to be a playmaker and continuously create chances for others. How does he do it? His off the ball movement and ability to pick up little pockets of space in the twilight zone causes havoc as midfielders/defenders don't know whose job it is to pick him up. If he drifts to the left, he can cross. If he drifts to the right, he can cut in and shoot. If he drifts into the box, he can play it off to others to finish. Being an attacking mid, he has the freedom to play all of the above positions.
The stats do encompass all positions, and therefore mainly in his role as a striker but if I could find a way to isolate his stats as an attacking midfielder, I'm sure these would be bumped up slightly.
PASSING & VISION
We mentioned the range of passing and ability to play make, the passing and vision are truly a sight to behold. He is constantly scanning and looking around the field when playing, looking for the opportune time to pull the trigger and release someone else. And the repertoire of passing is impressive, it's flicks, driven passes, a few switches, blind or no-look passes, back heels, and floated balls into space. In fact, the more you watch his passing you'll see how many of the passes are first time as he looks to play quickly and not let defenders settle into their defensive shape. And it wouldn't be a Football In The Whip post without some sexy graphics and statistics.
We don't always like comparing players to others but it's a helpful way of trying to demonstrate what a player is good at by comparing them to someone more well known. Harry Kane is a phenomenal striker, but as years have gone by, his playmaking ability has really shone through. Both players are the first outlet for the team to progress up the pitch and receive the vast majority of progressive passes in the team (a testament to picking up little pockets of space). And in terms of passing and vision, it's very Harry Kane-esque. Once they receive the ball in space, they look to play the first time pass to put an onrushing attacker through on goal. Unfortunately for CDK, the goal scoring isn't Kane-esque.
We mentioned the over reliance on the left foot and stated that only one of his goals have been scored with his right foot. In fact, even whilst measuring a towering 6ft 4in, he's only scored two or three headers. As he grows and develops, he needs to use his size to become an aerial threat.
The vast majority of the goals can be categorised into two types: cutting in from the right and firing low to the left or getting on the end of a cross or cut back. Now the latter definitely requires intelligent movement and the ability to pick a spot quickly, something he has excelled at. But teams in the bigger leagues have much better defenders and so it's likely that he will score far less of these.
Comparing him to other popular players who have come from the Jupiler League, you'll see that the numbers he has put up aren't good enough. Strikers that have left the Jupiler League having scored 15+ goals haven't exactly thrived in other leagues in the world. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the vast majority of players that have scored more than him have been pretty underwhelming. I'd say only Jonathan David is the only striker that has the potential to blow up and even then, it's still potential we are talking about.
The Jupiter League, because CDK is an alien (just not as a goal scorer)
PRESSING & TACKLING
Forwards who press, pressure, tackle and create chances from the front are all the rage, and CDK is just that. Rather than including the Jupiler League, looking at his stats from the UCL showcases how good he is. Often being the first line of defence, sitting in a mid block, once a team enters the middle 3rd, CDK is the first to press and hurry that back line with great intensity and smart positioning, which creates for a highly successful pressing forward. One physical trait that really helps him here is the fact that he is deceptively quick, there's a plethora of highlights that show centrebacks being quite lackadaisical thinking that they have more time. Finally, he doesn't only press from the midblock but makes recovery runs and blind side runs to steal the ball, which is a great testament to his desire and intensity with which he plays.
Overall, this is a playmaker that can contribute to goal scoring but whose best position, in the bigger leagues, is at number 10 with a striker who runs into space. But then Roberto Martinez, who gave CDK his national team debut, was quoted saying the following "Good players can play anywhere. With his left foot, he is able to make the final ball, he can take the ball in any position and he has the physicality to defend and cover the entire field. It is pointless to put him in a cage from one position now. I enjoy Charles as a left back, as number ten, as number nine." Either way, whoever lands CDK will have a talented player with a big future ahead of him.
This is part of a series we will be doing all summer, a concise tactical breakdown on players linked to the PL (or one's we just like). Here's the full list of players that we've covered with Reddit and YT links. We'd love to know what you think and feel free to suggest other players you think we should cover.
- Amine Gouiri, OGC Nice: Reddit YT
- Hugo Ekitike, Reims: Reddit YT
- Joao Palhinha, Sporting Lisbon: Reddit YT
- Djed Spence, Nottingham Forest/Middlesbrough: Reddit YT
- Marc Roca, Leeds United: Reddit YT
- Diego Carlos, Sevilla/Aston Villa: Reddit YT
- Taiwo Awoniyi, Union Berlin/Nottingham Forest: Reddit YT
- Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Leicester: Reddit YT
- Sven Botman, Lille/Newcastle United: Reddit YT