1. FC Köln: Transfer analysis by Kristian Pedersen

Honest football in England: Kristian Pedersen wrestling with Nottingham’s Lewis Grabban. (Photo: IMAGO / Pro Sports Images)

Kristian Pedersen could be more than just a backup for Jonas Hector for 1. FC Köln. The new signing from Birmingham City brings many qualities that are in demand under Steffen Baumgart. It also increases the billy goats’ tactical flexibility. A data analysis of the free transfer from Denmark.

The slightly different career

Kristian Pedersen took a slightly different path in his youth – he only joined the Danish second division club HB Køge at the age of 20, having previously only played in the amateur division. Under coach Henrik Pedersen (not related), the left-footed player made the leap to becoming a regular player and was allowed to train as a guest player at Borussia Mönchengladbach in the winter of the 15/16 season – but there was no transfer.

In the summer of 2016, coach Henrik Pedersen moved to Germany and became an assistant coach at the then second division club Union Berlin. The sponsor steered his model student to Köpenick in the same transfer period (transfer fee: 250,000 euros). Here, too, Kristian Pedersen was set directly as a regular player in the left-back position. After two years in Berlin, Pedersen moved to the Championship at Birmingham City FC in 2018 for €2.5m – a perfect move for Pedersen and the club.

Pedersen’s changing role in England

Because of his immense physical quality, he became a valuable force for the Blues in “the toughest league in the world”. In all four years of his contract he fought with his team against relegation (always successfully) and was always set as a regular player. In the past 21/22 season, trainer Lee Bowyer regularly experimented with a back three. Pedersen was set up as a left central defender here, also because of his height, while the lively winger Jeremy Bela occupied the position of the left wingback.

A flexibility that could also be of great importance for 1. FC Köln, because in Pedersen the billy goats now have a player who, as a left-footed and robust defender, could take over the role in a back three at any time. Especially since Jeff Chabot and Bright Arrey-Mbi could not yet convince as other left-footed players in the squad. Also important: Pedersen has only had to deal with minor injuries twice in his career.

The dates 2021/22 in comparison

Kristian Pedersen 2021/22Championship Full-Back 2021/22
Successful defensive actions12.99.6
Defensive Tackles (% Won)8.8 (65%)7.2 (61%)
Air Duels (% Won)6.3 (60%)4 (51%)
PAdj Interceptions8.96.6
Crosses (% successful)1.2 (38%)2.3 (34%)
Dribbling (% successful)1.4 (69%)2.1 (57%)
Goal assists0.310.53
Passes (% rate)29 (77%)39 (77%)
Progressive passes (% share of all passes)7.1 (24%)8.1 (21%)
All data per 90 minutes compared to all English Championship right-backs and left-backs playing at least 1,000 minutes in 21/22 (31 players)

Pedersen’s style of play: Defensive back

Kristian Pedersen’s direction in Birmingham was clear – the focus was on the defensive. He was practically not needed offensively. Accordingly, the 27-year-old defines himself through his work against the ball, is a physically strong tackler who, in the Bundesliga, which is less physical than the English championship, should quickly have a major impact on Cologne’s ball conquests. A circumstance that plays a major role in Baumgart’s approach.

But not only his physicality, but also the good positional play help the Dane to be involved in many direct duels or to intercept passes. Although he often goes with a foul from a duel. Thanks to his height of 1.89 meters, however, Pedersen is a force in the air for a full-back and did not let anything burn in the English second division’s style of play, which is often characterized by long balls.

During his four years in England, Pedersen required a simple and risk-averse style of play with Ball, also due to the rather low overall quality of his team and the offensive Bela in front of him. The result: rare advances, few crosses and hardly any speed dribbles, Pedersen’s influence on the creation of opportunities was limited to a minimum.

When starting and accelerating, Pedersen has solid values, but the 27-year-old is not a sprinter. Although Pedersen usually prefers a rather simple game, he plays almost a quarter of his passes progressively (good value!), mostly he sets the scene for the winger acting in front of him. Especially after his many duels and winning the ball, this ability fits into Baumgart’s game idea and is similar to Benno Schmitz’s build-up game, who also often looks for the progressive ball along the line. Striking: Although Birmingham often used the long ball, Pedersen used almost exclusively flat passes. This also fits with Baumgart’s game idea.

How does Pedersen fit in with 1. FC Köln?

Jannes Horn is leaving FC after five disappointing years. With Pedersen, on the other hand, Cologne will get a player who is almost never injured and who knows the high frequency of games in the championship (46 league games) – so there is a lot to suggest that Pedersen is much more than a back-up for Jonas Hector. At least theoretically, the 27-year-old could play the position of left-back completely alone and in all competitions – the triple burden would not be a problem for Pedersen.

Jonas Hector, who played almost 90 percent of all minutes as a left-back last season, would then be available as a strategist in the central defensive midfield more often than in 2021/22 – if there was a need there. In addition, Pedersen gives Baumgart the option of a back three for the first time, thus increasing personal and tactical variability on the defensive. Thus, from a data point of view, a strong move by the squad planners!

In addition, Pedersen strengthens the defensive network in terms of physique. The Dane convinces with his good defensive positioning, has better qualities in the air than all FC defenders of the previous season and thus also increases the stability of opposing free kicks and corner kicks (with twelve goals conceded according to standards, FC was one of the weaker teams in the league) . On the other hand, one cannot expect miracles from Pedersen in attack, as long as he sticks to his style of play from Birmingham. But Linton Maina has also been signed for Florian Kainz on the left and wants to add another winger. Pedersen would reliably protect all offensively oriented winger players defensively.

All in all, a great transfer for free, which further strengthens the defensive and also closes the supposed gap in central midfield caused by the departure of Salih Özcan.

This text comes from the football consultancy CREATEFOOTBALL GmbH, which advises national and international professional clubs, consulting agencies and media institutions in the fields of data scouting and analysis.