Professionals | 26/03/2021

FC midfielder

Ellyes Skhiri: Under the radar

Ellyes Skhiri’s role at 1. FC Köln can’t be understated. The Tunisian midfielder's is having a stellar season and is one of the league’s leading defensive midfielders in many aspects

Key figure in the middle

Since Ellyes Skhiri arrived at 1. FC Köln from Montpellier, the 25-year-old has been an almost ever-present in the team. He endeared himself to the FC fans almost immediately, with his third appearance in red and white producing a stunning last-minute solo goal to win the game against Freiburg. However, it is not just his knack for coming up with something special in front of goal that has underlined his importance to the team.

Skhiri has taken on the role of communicator in defensive midfield this season. Not only on the pitch on matchday, but the defensive midfielder is noticeably louder even around Geißbockheim. The unfortunate lack of fans this season has only served to emphasise Skhiri’s constant communication from the base of midfield.

Leading the league

His endless and tireless movement around the pitch allows Skhiri to have an active and important impact all over the park. The 25-year-old has managed to total 311.45km this season; the only player to pass the 300km mark in the Bundesliga. Only Hertha BSC’s Vladimir Darida averages more than Skhiri’s 12.85km covered per 90 minutes. As the below graphic from StatsBomb shows, his interceptions have come from a variety of positions – thanks to his incredible ability to cover ground.

Where Skhiri has really excelled this season, aside from his goalscoring exploits, has been in winning possession back for FC. Skhiri tops the Bundesliga in terms of interceptions, racking up 86 in his 25 games this season. Only Nico Elvedi comes close (80) to toppling the FC midfielder, and just one player has managed more in Europe’s top five leagues this season; Dijon’s Ngonda Muzinga (89).

Not only does Skhiri sit atop the tree when it comes to interceptions, but he is right up there in terms of tackles. Only Wataru Endo, Daniel Caligiuri and Xaver Schlager have won more tackles this season than the FC defensive midfielder. Add in the fact that Skhiri also ranks in the top five in terms of blocks, it only adds another string to his bow.

The ability to keep the ball when it has been won back has also seen Skhiri largely be the midfielder to drop into defence and cycle the play from there. The Tunisian has a pass success rate of 86%, a number that only Jorge Meré (88%) and Max Meyer (89%) can top. Add in his spectacular strikes against Freiburg and Bayern, as well as the brace against Dortmund, and it’s not hard to see why Skhiri is a fan favourite.

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