Socceroo Ajdin Hrustic has enjoyed a stellar start to the Bundesliga season in a new position, with the previously attacking midfielder looking increasingly comfortable in a deeper role.
Just five games into the 2021/22 campaign, the 25-year-old has already almost equalled the minutes he managed last season - sitting just 15 minutes off beating the mark of 272 minutes played for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2020/21.
Hrustic has made three starts across Frankfurt’s five games this season and has been a key cog of the side's creativity moving forward.
Hrustic has created five chances in five appearances for far, the joint third most for his team.
Three of those have come from set-pieces, putting the midfielder as outright first for Frankfurt in that category. However, it hasn’t just been his abundance of creativity that has shone clear.
With a move to a deeper position, Hrustic naturally will find himself engaging in more defensive actions and duels.
But even in the previous qualifiers for the Socceroos, with Hrustic playing in a more advanced position, he still stood out for his ability to anticipate play and time tackles to perfection.
In the six FIFA World Cup Qualifiers the Socceroos have played this year, no Australian player has completed more tackles than Hrustic (14), with Jackson Irvine, who recently partnered him at the base of midfield, second with 11.
Furthermore, Hrustic has won possession in the final third nine times, which is more than any player within the competition, while the Socceroo has competed in more duels (66) than any of his teammates.
But his creative instinct and passing range haven’t been left behind in Germany - Hrustic has been a key playmaker for the Socceroos as the Green and Gold won a record ten-straight FIFA World Cup qualifiers in a single campaign.
The young midfielder has created 15 scoring chances and eight from set plays, with Zhang Xizhe from China (16 and 10 respectively) being the only player to muster more in those categories this year.
Hrustic has played 54 passes into the box for the Socceroos in the qualifiers, more than any player in the competition while his eight shots on target are a team-high for the Socceroos.
Meanwhile, his performances in the Bundesliga and for the Socceroos have translated into some fascinating comparison statistics to the other elite midfielders in Europe.
When placed against midfielders in the top five leagues in Europe, Hrustic is in the 99th percentile (top 1-2%) for passes into the penalty area and crosses into the box.
He is in the 93rd for progressive passes, while all but three out of the 20 positive passing statistics see the Socceroo placed in the 85th percentile or higher.
He is rarely dispossessed (in the bottom 1%), while his touches, currently at 95.10 per 90 see him in the top 2% of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues.
Interestingly, FbRef has a formula to determine similar players to any given individual based on their statistical profile, and Hrustic’s form levels imply the immense quality of the Socceroo.
Hrustic's profile is considered most similar to Florian Neuhaus of Borrisua Monchengladbach, while Leicester City midfielder and FA cup winner Youri Tielemans comes in at second.
Nicolo Barella and Manuel Locatelli, the Italian duo who were instrumental to Italy’s European Championship win, sit at the sixth and ninth most similar players to Hrustic, while perhaps most notably, Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric is the seventh in terms of analogous statistics.
These stats don’t imply Hrustic is currently at the level of these big names, but just goes shows his outstanding form in the Bundesliga and how he is ajdusting to the deep-lying playmaker role in style.
This development further indicates the potential and quality he can continue to harness to star for club and country in the years to come.
Hrustic could feature for the Socceroos on the 7th and 12th of October, where Australia take on Oman and Japan as the journey of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying continues.