If Saturday’s 3-0 win over Birmingham City gave Bristol City fans a glimpse of what life could be like under Nigel Pearson then it surely illustrated just why Tomas Kalas will be central to it.
The Robins centre-back and captain produced a dominant display at the heart of their backline as he helped his side keep a clean sheet and secure all three points.
Such a performance is unlikely to have surprised the Ashton Gate faithful, however, because this term he has shown that quality time and time again.
Injuries have ravaged the City squad but Kalas, who missed much of last season, has been absent just five times in the league this term and has thrived in his new role as captain.
His quality has been recognised by yet another international call up and we’ve put a spotlight on the 27-year-old to examine why he has been so impressive.
After a 2019/20 campaign that was plagued with injury issues and saw him play just 23 times in the Championship, having Kalas as a consistent part of the side has been huge for City this term.
Ball-playing central defenders are very much in vogue in the modern game but the 27-year-old is cut from a different cloth, though that doesn’t make him any less impressive.
His no-nonsense and physical style of defending has saved the Robins countless times this season as his defensive statistics illustrate.
Kalas has blocked a mammoth 45 shots this season – by far the most of any player in the Championship with Jason Knight’s 30 the closest to him. The Czech defender averages 1.41 blocks per 90 minutes, which is quite the statistic when you consider only two other players in the division average more than 1.
The Robins skipper is so much more than just a physical presence, however, and as his blocking ability highlights, one of his key strengths is how well he identifies danger in the box and extinguishes it.
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Only five players have contested more aerial duels in their own penalty area than Kalas’ 60 this term, indicating his willingness to challenge balls into the box, while he has an overall defensive duel success rate of 67.9%.
That ability to read the game and stop opposition threats is not just restricted to inside the box either as illustrated by his 219 interceptions, at the 10th highest average per 90 in the division, and his 135 clearances at 4.23 per 90.
City fans will likely remember fondly the strong partnership that Kalas formed with Adam Webster in his sparkling single season at Ashton Gate and finding a consistent partner for the Czech international next term will surely be high on Pearson’s list of priorities.
Exactly who that will be remains to be seen, though Zak Vyner seems a likely candidate, but Kalas has proven this term that the Robins already have one centre-back that is among the very best in the division.
That is a fantastic foundation for Pearson to build on.