BRISTOL CITY – MATCH REPORT vs. BLACKBURN ROVERS (03/09/22)

Both sides entered this EFL Championship fixture having enjoyed reasonably positive starts to their respective seasons. Bristol City controlled large periods of this game, content with letting Blackburn Rovers possess the ball in unthreatening areas, then attacking effectively in transition. In their 3-4-1-2 shape, Bristol City pressed high at goal kicks, aiming to trap their opponents on the touchlines, before dropping back into a mid-block if their press was bypassed. Despite dominating possession, Blackburn ultimately struggled to sustain any pressure throughout the game, with their 4-2-3-1 shape becoming too narrow. Although the 3-2 scoreline may suggest otherwise, these factors led to a fairly comfortable victory for the Robins. 

Ratings:

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Alex Scott

  • Nationality: English 
  • Age: 19
  • Date of birth: 21/08/2003  
  • Current club: Bristol City
  • Career: Guernsey FC, Bristol City (Y)
  • Position: Central Midfielder, Right Wing-back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Lining up as a central midfielder, Scott took this fixture in his stride. Bristol City’s approach limited the number of touches available to their midfield pairing, and asked them to be both stable and progressive when they did receive the ball. However, he never appeared daunted, and this self-confidence provided a platform for a display of impressive technical quality. 

Scott wasn’t regularly utilised in build-up, with teammates predominantly opting to go direct, especially in the first phase. His movement in build-up was predicated around creating space in front of the forward line, dropping deep to draw opponents forward, instead of showing for the ball. However, in advanced positions there were passages where Scott could have been more purposeful with his movement: chances to exploit pockets of space or attack the last line were sometimes overlooked.

When receiving, his technical security was a significant asset to Bristol City. He would initially face the ball squarely, but could swiftly adjust to open up his body, with his surprisingly solid frame offering a layer of protection. Furthermore, Scott’s first touch on both feet was consistently assured, regardless of the pass having an unorthodox weighting or flight. This, in conjunction with a keen ability to anticipate challenges from oncoming defenders – and perceptively angle his body to protect the ball – made the Englishman particularly reliable.

These factors also contributed to Scott’s inclination to manoeuvre out of opposition pressure. Anticipating a challenge, he would spread his weight evenly and often wait for the defender to commit. Scott’s adaptability was important here – he is comfortable turning in either direction, and his stellar first touch maintained his access to several angles. Consequently, he was good at pivoting into the space vacated by defenders, who, due to his effective body shape, were forced to approach from awkward positions.

Upon being found in larger bodies of space, Scott’s receptions weren’t always as constructive. Where he was economical under pressure, there was a tendency to take unnecessary touches, rather than receiving with the intention of immediately getting the ball out of his feet. This is partly due to Scott’s intentions as a ball-carrier; rather than carrying into space, he slowed play, seeking to draw opponents in. Whilst his objective – to create space for teammates – was often accomplished, his recognition of when it is preferential to carry into open areas could be improved. 

That being said, his dribbling in congested zones was excellent. Scott always appeared at ease with the ball, enticing defenders forward before slipping away, utilising well-timed exit touches and a low centre of gravity. This was amplified by clever body positioning. After creating an initial separation, he looked to get his body across the defender, with the intention of protecting the ball or winning a foul. Additionally, despite being a predominantly right footed dribbler, clean touches with his left foot provided balance and allowed him to shield possession with both sides of his body.  

Scott also demonstrated encouraging short and medium range passing. Most eye-catching were his mid-range through balls, played from within the half-spaces. These were typically low, vertical passes that entered the final third via the channels. Extremely well-weighted and shrewdly disguised, Scott’s through balls often gave Bristol City a foothold in threatening locations. 

Over shorter distances, Scott’s passing was controlled. Precise and carefully weighted, his passes rarely unsettled the team’s momentum, and regularly added value to the construction of attacks. The 19 year old could also execute under pressure, displaying improvisational capabilities as he found smart exit solutions from tight spaces several times.    

Whilst defensive actions were approached with intensity, this was sometimes detrimental to his positioning. In advanced areas, he periodically overcommitted to second balls and misread their flight, granting opponents the chance to counter-attack. Misjudgements higher up the pitch stressed the significance of Scott’s role: as part of a midfield pairing, defensive lapses threatened to expose dangerous spaces behind the midfield.

This extended into his defensive contributions in a deeper, more settled defensive structure. Where, despite a few demonstrations of productive scanning, he was too often distracted by defensive duties that were not in his remit, a shortcoming that ultimately opened space in the central zones he was responsible for. 

Scott’s intensity carried over into his tackling technique. His best moments were approaches from behind, anticipating his opponent’s touch before going shoulder to shoulder and making a firm challenge. Perhaps naturally, elements of this aggression need to become more managed, after all, this is a player who only turned 19 in August – he has plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles. 

Rating – A1

Scott will doubtlessly be on the radar of many Premier League clubs. Due to his technical level, he’d present an intriguing development prospect for possession-oriented clubs near the top of the division. Regardless, he should be pushing to play top flight football next season – a third season in the Championship wouldn’t be particularly beneficial to his progression. 

When he does make the next step, there should be a keen focus on improving his positional awareness, especially if he plays in a midfield pairing. At this point in time, Scott’s skill set would realistically be better suited to playing as a ‘linking’ 8 in a midfield three. If this transition into the top flight is managed correctly, there is definitely scope to evolve some of the limitations in his game – which marks Scott as an exciting talent, potentially capable of playing on a continental stage. 

Tommy Conway

  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 06/08/2002  
  • Current club: Bristol City
  • Career: Bristol City (Y)
  • Position: Striker
  • Preferred foot: Right

Tommy Conway enjoyed a productive afternoon, converting the fixture’s opening goal, before being substituted at around the hour mark. Despite six starts, the Scotsman is yet to complete a full match in the Championship this season, which, in part, speaks to Bristol City’s depth and his own intensive work rate, but also of a player perhaps not quite physically acclimatised to the level.

Against Blackburn Rovers, Conway’s relatively slight build limited aspects of his back-to-goal play. Efforts to win aerial duels, as well as attempts to pin and turn away from opponents, were hampered by an inability to physically compete. Standing at 183cm, the 20 year old looks to be still growing into his frame, and has the potential to improve this part of his skillset, especially as his body positioning was competent.

Whilst he is not particularly explosive, Conway accelerates and decelerates smoothly. Witnessed in his goal, which came from a counter-attack, the ability to steadily change through the gears created the space required to nod in a stooped header at the back post.

In other passages of the game, his box movement was less productive. Conway focused on attacking the six yard box, but was too fixed after targeting a specific space, and struggled to adjust his timing when circumstances changed. For example, when his marker covered the space he wanted to attack, Conway’s attempts to peel off the defender frequently came too late. Consequently, Conway managed only one shot in this fixture, preventing a clear view of his shot selection and finishing quality. 

In build up, he was a reasonably helpful, offering himself as both a progressive option between the lines. When found, Conway’s secure receptions on either foot allowed him to be positive, generally making simple but effective decisions with the ball. It is worth noting, however, that defenders were rarely tight to him in these positions, and, when under pressure, inconsistent scanning tendencies may undermine the quality of this decision making.

Though able to carry into space, Conway struggled with take-ons. He appeared stiff, and weighted his touches too heavily. Struggling to assert any control in these moments, he was ushered into much less threatening positions. 

Defensively, Conway’s application should not be understated. He consistently approached his responsibilities with both intelligence and industry. Attentive to pressing triggers, and curving his runs carefully, he approached his targets with intent. This kind of application will be vital to Conway as he works towards becoming a well established Championship player. 

Rating – B2

As the EFL Young Player of the Month for August, Conway is a player currently brimming with confidence. However, he should continue to work hard on improving the core aspects of his centre forward play as he physically develops. He’s unlikely to create chances for himself, so ensuring that he consistently takes up good positions in the box will be essential for his progression.  At this moment, Conway is inexperienced at Championship level, and his sights should be set on becoming a consistent performer within the division.

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