Perhaps one of the more interesting players out on loan from Wolves at the moment is Christian Herc. After being born and raised in Slovakia, we picked him up in July 2014 when he was only 15 if Transfermarkt is to be believed. He flourished in our U18s so much that he was promoted to the U23s in 2016, still very wet behind the ears at 17. After a steady return of 11 goals and assists for the U23s, Herc needed some first team football and he wasn’t ready for the slog of the Championship in England, so in January of this year, it was decided that he should return to his native Slovakia and ply his trade there. FC DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda or DAC for short was his destination and that’s where we pick the tale up today.
Facing His Old Side
Last weekend saw Herc face his old side, FC Nitra. It was actually Nitra where Wolves signed him from, quite remarkably, over four years ago. Hopefully, Wolves would have seen Herc’s most recent performance in Slovakia because it was one of high quality which showcased many of his attributes. Shooting? Check. Composure? Check. Crossing? Check. So on and so forth. I’m slightly at a loss when it comes to the actual position he was playing as some of the footage I’ve watched from the game suggests he was playing on the left-hand side. The average position of each player suggests otherwise. Either way, we can safely say he was playing an advanced role, somewhere behind the striker.
Herc (#24) is clearly shown here as playing centrally behind the striker in what appears to be a loose adaptation of a 4-2-3-1/4-1-1-3-1 formation. The darkest pass line between Herc and another player shows between him and Erick Davis (#31). Davis is DAC’s left-back, which will hopefully begin to explain why I thought Herc was playing on the left-hand side. Ultimately, it was the left-hand side which made all the difference as that is where the goal came from. In case you’re wondering, it was Herc that got the assist in what was the only goal of the game. Let’s take a look.
Herc Gets On The Move Before Nitra Even Know What’s Happening
Instead of being self-centred in taking the ball forward, Herc opts for the simple option and plays the ball back to Davis, who plays the ball inside which starts a chain of events which culminates with DAC’s goal. Top decision making from Herc.
Before Simoncic has any idea what’s going on behind him, Herc is off and is expecting, rather than demanding, the ball to come his way. This proactiveness is a big part of Herc’s game and something you will see us revisit a number of times throughout this article. The Slovakian’s early run leaves him in this situation.
Being in a situation like this on a football pitch must be like legally placing your bet in the casino after the roulette wheel has already stopped spinning. You can’t lose. With Herc being predominantly right-footed, you would assume that he would cut inside and take a shot on goal. You would assume wrong.
As we saw earlier in the build-up to the goal, Herc doesn’t rush it. As opposed to driving at the goalkeeper and risk the wrath of his teammates for missing a one-on-one, he waits for them to arrive. Eventually, they do, Herc cuts the ball back with his weaker left-foot and bang, we have our goal. Not only does this exhibit confidence from the young Slovakian, it also demonstrates his talent with both feet.
On this occasion, his decision-making stands out for the right reasons, but that’s not to say he isn’t without mistakes. Throughout the game, Herc attempted three dribbles and didn’t complete a single one. Below, I will show you one and if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all as they are all almost identical.
Better Options Available?
You could look at this twofold. Firstly, could he have played the through ball to the central DAC player marked with the yellow counter? It wouldn’t be the easiest of passes with his right foot, although he has already shown he can use his left. Alternatively, if he’s not going to pass, wouldn’t the best idea to be to drive at the heart of Nitra’s defensive pentagon? Aim for the two players closest to the keeper and take it from there. In the end, he does this…
Essentially, he just shuffles to the side with the ball before having it taken off him. In this particular example, it was almost as if Herc didn’t have the belief to drive at the Nitra backline. Less than four minutes later, he set up the winner, so it can’t have hurt him much. You do have to wonder what might have been had he set up the goal before getting the ball in this situation. One thing is for sure, his confidence definitely soared after he picked up assist number three of the season.
Only Two Sublime Saves Prevented Herc Getting On The Scoresheet
This was evidenced by his shot tally of three, all of which came in the second half. Two out of the three hit the target and it’s those two that we are going to look at as they were both totally different opportunities. While the two efforts on goal may have been different, they have one thing in common. Star quality.
Not only is Herc readying himself to strike the ball, but he’s also found a decent-sized pocket of space which ensures he doesn’t have to worry about any incoming challenges. On another day, could he have brought the ball down rather than striking it first time? Potentially. Regardless, it was a great effort.
Hrosso gets down well to deny Herc. If we take away the fact that he could’ve brought the ball down (not many would have, given the chance), let’s look at his technique. He’s watched the ball come down from a considerable distance, steadied himself and got the shot on target, all in the space of two seconds. Granted, it may not have gone in. Let’s look beyond that fact and marvel in Herc’s technique and confidence. Bravo. His second attempt, which came later in the half, was arguably even better.
Much like Connor Ronan, who we looked at last week, Herc is very proactive and presumes the ball is going to find the way through to him. If not, he’s not going to let the Nitra player go any further. In the latter stages of the second half when you’re defending a one-goal lead, this type of high pressing can be priceless. This also evidences Herc’s high-level of stamina as whether it’s the first minute or the 89th minute, he’s chomping at the bit.
Quick, Smart Interchanges
Herc wins the fifty-fifty and plays it out to the left before asking for the ball back. Confidence personified. Give me the ball, not anyone else! Great desire. Again, referring back to Ronan, it’s a dream to have two players out on loan that are so comfortable on the ball as it suits the way that Nuno plays down to the ground. He then unleashes this effort.
Yet again, Hrosso thwarts Herc. There’s no denying it was another sterling effort which ultimately resulted with his side being awarded a corner in the dying embers of the game. All the same, could he have slid the ball down to the left channel? Could he have played in the DAC player in acres of space in the penalty-area D? This might seem overly-critical, nevertheless, everything has to be considered. So yes, it’s good that he’s got the belief to do that and let’s take nothing away from that. Was it the best option, though? I’m not so sure.
If you agree or disagree with my stance on his decision-making, I respect where you stand, however, one thing we can all agree on is that its ace to see a Wolves loanee trying that sort of thing.
Passing Is Well Measured
Away from the shooting side of things, we’ve got two areas left to look at. We shall look at his range of passing first before closing with his high-pressing, which we have slightly touched on already, albeit, it deserves a section of its own.
An element of Herc’s play that surprised me in this game was the number of passes he plays backwards. That’s not meant in a detrimental way, I just had a preconceived idea in my head that he would play the ball forward more often.
In a rather contradictive manner to the whole decision-making debacle around his shooting, the above image shows that he’s a quick-thinker when it comes to passing the ball, regardless of the direction. In addition, Herc is not phased when put under pressure.
For the duration of the game, it was pretty much the same. Short, simple passes rather than the ‘Hollywood’ passes we see on a regular basis from Neves and Moutinho. This can be put down to a couple of factors. The biggest of those factors is that Herc tends to, and he did in this particular match, play further forward then the aforementioned Portuguese duo.
Due to the position that Herc plays, it allows him to press the opposing team high up the pitch which led to him making three interceptions in FC Nitra’s half.
We are going to take a look at the one which is closest to the FC Nitra penalty area as it epitomises everything that is right about Herc’s game.
Ready To Strike
This is the calm before the Slovakian storm that is Christian Herc. You can see his eyeline focusing on the ball, waiting to see what is coming next. As seems to be the case for a lot of what we have looked at, he’s not under the watchful eye of any Nitra players which either speaks about Nitra’s defensive capabilities or their opinion of Herc. Take your pick.
Like a rabid dog around an uneasy human, Christian Herc can smell fear. He knows that the FC Nitra player doesn’t want the ball. He also knows that the ball has got his name on it and he will stop at nothing to get it back for DAC. Note, the time on the clock. See? It doesn’t differ, whether it be the midpoint of the first half or the latter stages of the second-half, Herc is always roaring.
Not only does he win the ball, he knocks it into the area, too. It’s a shame that nobody was in sync to take full advantage of it as it would’ve meant that Herc would’ve finished with more than just a solitary assist from the game. The win for DAC means they remain second, four points behind Slovan Bratislava.
Christian Herc is a talented player. Wolves wouldn’t have picked him up when they did if they didn’t see something special in the lad and by the time he arrives back in WV1, he will have played more than 12 months of senior football. His only stumbling block may prove to be his position, as well all know what formation Nuno favours and that doesn’t include a ‘number 10’. At some point this season, we will revisit Christian Herc in a game where he hopefully plays slightly deeper so we can assess his credentials as one of our two holding midfielders. Just Neves, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Saiss, Gibbs-White, Watt & Goncalves to get beyond for those positions. Good luck, Christian!
Jokes aside for one second, Herc is supremely gifted with an eye for a pass and a shot amongst other things. After another few months playing in Slovakia, he could well surprise a lot of people.
Until the next time.