Michael O’Neill and his Potters’ brigade have found a scintillating start to this season’ EFL Championship as they aim back for promotion to the top flight. They are currently on 4th in a promotion playoff spot and are most likely to be there if they continue their present merry form.
Stoke City have scored 15 goals and boast one of the best attacks in the division with the likes of Nick Powell and Thomas Smith really toying with other defences. But they do have the third-best defence in the league and that’s most certainly the focal point behind a successful campaign.
Their captain, 22-year-old Harry Souttar, deserves loads of accolades for this feat. After joining Stoke back in 2016, he spent seven different loan spells at other clubs before cementing his place in the squad last season and there has been no looking back. Amidst such a successful season, Souttar has been rumouredly linked away from Stoke and a move to the Premier League looks to be on the cards with Everton keenly interested in signing the Australian.
We look at his stats and analyze if he suits Rafa Benitez’ squad at Goodison Park.
Harry Souttar plays in the centre of the back three in the Potters 3-4-3 arrangement so is already accustomed to playing in the same system that Rafa Benitez uses at Everton. In the above image, we can see he has spent most of his time in the central part of the defensive third -the red and orange zones. He sometimes likes to venture forward carrying the ball to the centre but mostly likes to stay back to mitigate any chances of counters from the other end. However, he does cover a lot of ground in the defensive third and his movement is exactly what Benitez expects from his defenders.
He is extremely comfortable on the ball and carries the ball out of defence very eloquently. He has played the most number of passes in the defensive midfield but we can see he has attempted a lot of progressive forward passes. Souttar always tries to find teammates in dangerous offensive areas to build attacks and time and again has tried to free up the wing-backs on the flanks pushing forward. The Australian is a very efficient passer as well completing 705 passes in the Championship this season with 84% accuracy, not someone who loses possession cheaply.
He averages 85 touches per game with 72 passes per 90. Another attribute of his playing style is the ability to play long over the top passes directly to find the forwards, which very well compliments Everton’s fast counter-attacking style of play. He often plays defence-splitting balls and has completed 34 accurate passes into the final third out of 64 attempts.
Standing at 6’7″, he is the tallest player in the division and it’s extremely hard for strikers to win aerial balls in his presence. Out of 65 aerial duels he has engaged in, he has lost just 10 of them with a success rate of 81%. A strong aerial presence is a must for a centre-back to succeed in the Premier League and Souttar ticks that box as well. His height gives him an extra advantage over others while defending long balls and crosses in the box.
Other than that, Souttar has won most of his duels in the defensive third of the pitch for Stoke. He might not be the strongest centre-back but his slender stature makes him very agile and he can keep up with the pacey strikers pretty well. He uses his height extremely well in the opposition penalty box and is a constant threat from set-pieces. Harry Souttar has scored once for Stoke and six times for his country already this season. Alongside that strong aerial presence, he has had 60 clearances in the box as well as blocked six shots.
A huge plus-point of his gameplay is that he is not a reckless tackler of the ball. Of 18 tackles attempted he has won 83% of them which shows composure and patience to challenge for the ball at the perfect time. Most of his interceptions inside the box have been while other players were on the ball, he has not thrown away any silly penalties. In 11 games, Souttar has only committed five fouls in total while getting booked only once, which is certainly a big achievement for a centre-back.
He leads most of the league median of the metrics by miles being arguably the best defender in the division. He ranks 95th percentile in successful defensive actions while 89th percentile in successful defensive duels. Without any surprise, he ranks 96th percentile in the league for aerial duels won.
Another thing that comes with Harry Souttar is leadership. He is a leader at the back, adept at organizing defences and at only 22 years old captains O’Neill’s side while there are other experienced players in the ranks which speaks volumes about his character on the pitch.
A good aerial presence, great distributor, intelligent tackler and leadership at the back is what Harry Souttar brings with him. At just 22, he has got a lot of time and scope to improve and make his game even better and a platform like the Premier League is the best you can imagine. If Yerry Mina leaves the blue part of Merseyside this coming summer and Stoke City fails to achieve promotion, Everton should definitely get their hands on this Australian gold without wasting much time. He would definitely bring a lot of gravity in their backline alongside Keane and Godfrey.