Insider im Gespräch über … Emir Karic

Sachen gibt‘s: Anna lebt in Moskau, begleitet aber als Analystin den österreichischen Fußball für Football Radar. Das in London ansässige Unternehmen hat sich darauf spezialisiert, den Fußball penibel zu durchleuchten, um möglichst genaue Vorhersagen zum Spielausgang in allen möglichen Ligen zu treffen. Warum ich Anna kontaktiert habe? Weil Darmstadt 98 heute Emir Karic vom SCR Altach verpflichtet hat. Der 23-jährige Österreicher ist Linksverteidiger und kommt mit der Empfehlung von mehr als 70 Spielen in Österreichs Bundesliga. Am Ende des Interviews habe ich die Kernaussagen des in Englisch geführten Interviews auf Deutsch zusammengefasst.

Anna, the name Emir Karic frankly meant nothing to me until now. You have been following his career for a long time. When you think about him, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
To put it simply, Emir Karic is one of the best young left-backs in the Austrian Bundesliga of the last few seasons. Yes, the LB position is generally a rare one, and high-quality classic left-footed LBs are pretty hard to find, but Karic evidently stands out in Austria.

What do you consider to be the strengths in his game?
He’s a classical, perhaps even a little bit old-fashioned type of fullback, not the one that spends 70% of the time in the final third, no, not at all. He’s a well-balanced defensive-minded player with a strong set of skills that are required for this position and this precise role: he’s strong at tackles, 1v1s, key defensive actions. He’s always careful and attentive to his positioning and the spaces around him. He has enough technique to be considered good with the ball and could be a good starting point for counter-attacks. And without it he knows well how to press (which is pretty expectable from someone who went through the LASK/Linzer regional academy and Liefering, Red Bull Salzburg’s IIs, two best places in the country to learn what high-intensity pressing is). Another strong point is air challenges.

What do you rate as his weaknesses?
His attacking contribution, as it can be concluded from my previous answer, isn’t too efficient. His right foot is quite weak. And he can’t really be called a versatile player: he looks pretty uncomfortable out of his natural position (he was an left center-back a few times when the team needed that, and a few weeks ago he made his first appearance on the right flank in his career, which was a mixed success).

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Coach Markus Anfang is known as a coach who prefers playful solutions and likes to win every game. How does Emir Karic fit into the system?
I believe Anfang could find some use of his skills of playmaking from the deep in order to keep up with the forward-minded playing style. But as it was mentioned before, his strengths lie in his defensive stability.

Was Karic a top performer in Altach?
Certainly. Altach’s squad quality was quite questionable during all of his time at the club – faces changed, but general scouting principles remained the same. So a young talented player with youth nation team experience for Austria and a great background from two of the best youth systems in the country was something out of the ordinary by itself.
But he really flourished under the previous manager, Alex Pastoor (in charge between March 2019 and February 2021). Pastoor had a great connection with Karic both on sporting and personal levels, and he knew how to get the best of him, often using him as his key defensive weapon and a starting point for his buildup combinations.
And last season Karic reached his best form, especially in the second half of the season and after lockdown. This season was less impressive – but it could be connected to the overall decline of the whole team as a mechanism that led to Pastoor’s dismissal.

Did you expect him to leave and was he being discussed by other clubs?
Rumors about some interest from other clubs (namely mid-table Austrian Bundesliga clubs and 3.Liga/2.Bundesliga in Germany) appeared every now and then in the last two seasons, but they mostly had no solid background underneath. This time, though, a move was easier to expect: the new manager Damir Canadi, who was initially called up to be an option until the end of the season but is looking to stay, isn’t particularly fond of Karic and sometimes leaves him out of his plans (he clearly prefers more attacking-minded fullbacks). This, I believe, was the final push for the player to look somewhere else outside Vorarlberg.

Do you think he can succeed in the 2nd Bundesliga?
This is always a hard question, because all we can make is pure predictions. He has enough skills, talent, necessary mindset, and determination to make it work in theory, and it feels like he could be ready to make a step forward in his development. What happens next, depends on too many factors, but he has everything he needs for success on this level.

Can you say something about his mentality on the pitch? Is he more vocal and a fighter or even a leader, or is he more quiet and introverted?
He’s not a very loud player, but he’s not too introverted either. He has his job to do, and he’s going to do it as well as he can and as the circumstances allow it. He often appears very determined and usually fights until the end – but it needs to be mentioned that Altach is a team notorious for their abilities to fall apart on bad days and collectively give up mid-match (it was a massive issue under Pastoor that often ended with high-score losses), and Karic was as prone to that as any other member of the team. But apart from these episodes that didn’t happen too often, he’s very reliable on an individual level.

At the left-back position, he has to compete with captain Fabian Holland, who is not a particularly spectacular but very solid second-division player. Is he really that limited to his favourite position as you suggested above?
Not really. A left center-back in a back-3 setup and potentially an emergency option on the right, and that’s it. At some earlier stages of his career, namely in the RB-system, he was sometimes used as a DM, but that’s now long forgotten.

He was a junior international who trained at Liefering, RB Salzburg’s farm team. Do you know if he was said to have greater potential at the time than he has delivered so far?
It would be fair to say that the current level is roughly what was expected from him. Liefering sees a lot of young talented players coming through this system every year (although the average age has decreased wildly since Karic’s time there), and not everyone is destined for first-team success at RBS.
His time at Liefering was pretty solid, he was a core starter for 1,5 seasons at just 18, and then he proceeded to become one of the best players in a Bundesliga team that went from the bottom of the table to mid-table and back during his stint there. And now a move abroad follows. From an outside point of view this career development might seem modest, but in Austria it’s a sign of steady development and good progress.

At Liefering, he probably also played together with his new teammate Mathias Honsak. He usually plays on the left attacking side for us. Does that sound like a new version of a left wing Karic / Honsak. Or was there no such thing back then?
Not really. Honsak was mostly used as an attacking-minded LB in a back-4 back then, making them direct competitors if Karic wasn’t used as a DM, and Honsak also went on several loans, which didn’t allow their paths to cross that much on the pitch at the same time. So this could be a novelty for both of them.

Anna, thanks a lot for your really detailed insights.

Zusammenfassung:

  • Anna sagt, Karic sei für sie in den letzten Spielzeiten einer der besten Linksverteidiger der österreichischen Bundesliga gewesen. Er habe mit seinen Leistungen herausgestochen.
  • Karic interpretiere die Linksverteidigerposition eher klassisch. Er verbringe jedenfalls nicht den Großteil der Spielzeit im gegnerischen Angriffsdrittel. Er konzentriere sich folglich zuerst auf die Defensivarbeit.
  • Der Neuzugang sei ein zweikampfstarker und aufmerksamer Außenverteidiger. Er sei gut am Ball, wodurch er ein guter Ausgangspunkt für Gegenangriffe sein könne. Er verstehe es den Gegner gut zu pressen und sei auch im Kopfballspiel stark.
  • Sein Offensivspiel sei noch ausbaufähig, sein rechter Fuß schwach. Zudem sieht ihn Anna als nicht sehr vielseitig einsetzbar. Er wurde ein paar Mal als linker Innenverteidiger aufgestellt und auch mal als Rechtsverteidiger, allerdings mit durchwachsenem Erfolg.
  • Sofern Markus Anfang wieder einen stärkeren Fokus auf eine offensive Spielweise legt, könne Karic seine Fähigkeiten in der Spieleröffnung gut einbringen.
  • In Altach sei Karic ein Leistungsträger gewesen. Immerhin wäre er ein junger talentierter Spieler mit Juniorennationalelf-Erfahrung und einer Ausbildung in zwei der besten Jugendakademien des Landes (Liefering & LASK). In Altach wäre er für Anna unter seinem vorletzten Coach dessen wichtigste Waffe in der Defensive und Ausgangspunkt für Aufbaukombinationen gewesen. Dieses Jahr sei es für das gesamte Team nicht mehr so gut gelaufen, auch Karic‘ Leistungen wären weniger beeindruckend gewesen.
  • Es hätte in den letzten beiden Jahren immer mal Gerüchte über einen Wechsel von Karic zu einem anderen Erstligisten oder deutschen Zweit- bzw. Drittligisten gegeben, aber wohl ohne größere Substanz. Nun war ein Wechsel zu erwarten gewesen, da der neue Altach-Coach eher auf offensiver ausgerichtete Außenverteidiger baue.
  • Ob Karic sich in der 2. Bundesliga durchsetzt, sei für Anna schwer einzuschätzen. Er habe genug Fähigkeiten, Talent und die nötige Einstellung. Er habe alles, um den nächsten Schritt in seiner Entwicklung zu nehmen. Eine Garantie dafür gaäbe es aber nicht, denn das hänge von zu vielen Faktoren ab.
  • Karic sei weder ein leiser, noch ein sonderlich lauter Spieler, er wirke aber auf dem Platz oft sehr zielstrebig und kämpfe meist bis zum Schluss und sei ein sehr zuverlässiger Spieler.
  • Auf anderen Positionen sehe Anna den Neuzugang weniger. Bestenfalls als linker Innenverteidiger in einer Dreierkette oder als Notlösung rechts hinten.
  • Die zurückliegende Entwicklung von Karic beschreibt Anna als stetig mit guten Fortschritten. Er war bereits mit 18 beim Farmteam von RB Salzburg in Liefering Stammspieler und wäre dann nach seinem Wechsel zu Altach zu einem der besten Spieler geworden.
  • Mit Mathias Honsak habe er bei Liefering nur kurzzeitig im Nachwuchs zusammengespielt. Allerdings hätten sie damals eher um die Linksverteidigerposition konkurriert, die zumeist der offensiv ausgerichtete Honsak einnahm. Karic habe dann durchaus auch als defensiver Mittelfeldspieler agiert. Diese Position habe er laut Anna aber im Seniorenbereich nicht mehr gespielt.

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