Lee Johnson’s Bristol City have made an impressive start to this season’s Championship campaign, with the Robins picking up 11 points from a total of 18 up for grabs in their first six games, with the Ashton Gate side picking up three wins, two draws and one loss.
One of the keys cogs in Johnson’s starting 11 is defender Tomas Kalas, who signed from Premier League giants Chelsea this summer for a fee of £8.10 million, following on from the Czech Republic international’s successful loan spell last season with the Robins.
It is clear Johnson saw enough of Kalas last season to pay what is now a club-record fee for the centre back, who will be looking to establish himself in the team as well as he did the previous season, in which he played 41 games in all competitions for the Robins.
The defender registered a total of 10 clean sheets, averaging 0.9 tackles per game and 2.1 interceptions per game, this portrays one of Kalas’s main strengths which is intercepting passes.
He also had an average of 5.2 clearances per game, showing the Czech’s suitability for the role as a sweeper centre back in a two-man central defence.
Interestingly, the defender also had one of the best pass success rates in the Robins squad last campaign with a percentage of 77.7, which is made even more impressive by the fact that Bristol City are traditionally viewed as a side that is poor at keeping possession of the ball for long periods, which is in parts down to their long-ball tactics.
So far this season, Johnson has deployed Kalas at the centre of a back three in a 3-4-1-2 formation, this is a position that allows Kalas to operate as not only a sweeper, but also as a deep-lying playmaker or, as it is commonly referred to in modern Football Manager culture, a Libero role, that allows the player to drive forward with the ball into midfield and distribute it to his teammates through long or short passes.
Thus far, Kalas and the Bristol defence have only managed to keep one clean sheet in their first six games, which may be a sign that Johnson should look to change back to the 4-2-3-1 system that worked so well for his charges last season.