In this scout report, we will analyse Jacob Brown, who transferred from Barnsley to fellow EFL club Stoke City this summer. Brown is one of the players that arrived in this transfer period at Stoke; others signed by Michael O’Neil included John Obi Mikel arriving: a player with EPL experience, as he was a former player at Chelsea. Moreover, the manager saw Mame Diouf leaving the team: a player who had many appearances in top-level as he played for Manchester United, and for Hannover 96 for Bundesliga. In this tactical analysis, we will see how Brown plays with and without the ball, and how he contributes to the defensive part of the game, despite being a player from the attacking line.
His role in the team
Brown is a tall, dynamic, and strong-built player. As a player, he can use his body to protect the ball or to win challenges. He is a winger, but he can play as a centre forward or a second striker. His body helps him to receive the ball under pressure; he can retain control of the ball and make the link-up play with the midfielders that are coming up for support. Defensively, he presses high up the field, and is positioned in such a way that he restricts the passing game in the vertical axis of the field.
Positioning when his team has the ball
Brown is a player who likes to position himself on the shoulder of the last defender. This gives him the advantage to move in behind the defensive line in a quick manner. Moreover, he is giving his teammates the option for a pass in behind the opponents too. If Brown manages to receive the ball in that area he can become a dangerous threat for the opponent goalkeeper. In the picture below we can see Brown trying to receive a ball in behind the defensive line.
As far as Brown’s positioning in the middle third of the field goes, we can see that he prefers moving in between the channels, trying to find pockets of space. By doing so, Brown will receive the ball and will have more space to turn and face the opposing defensive line. Moreover, by moving in those areas, Brown creates several problems for the defenders: who is going to mark him? Does someone need to get out of their position and try to mark him tight? Do they have to wait for a midfielder to drop down and catch him? In the meantime, Brown is winning precious time, which leads either to him moving the ball forward, or to supporting a teammate.
Brown is taking a position in the box that gives him an advantage: he positions his body in such a way to creates an angle with the carrier of the ball and the goal. In that way, he not only can scan every moment that the ball makes, but can also receive and finish with one touch. His body position allows him to know exactly the position of the defenders, the keeper, and the goal, which will let him finish with one-touch. That gives Brown less time to finish a phase in the final third, which is an advantage, as the defenders have less time to protect their goal.
Brown is a player that can receive the ball under pressure. That gives an advantage to him and his teammates. Knowing that they can look for a player that plays in the forward line, who can receive and hold the ball under pressure, is an advantage, especially if they want to get out of the high pressure with a long ball, or if they choose to play with a direct style of play to transfer the ball through the thirds. In the picture below, we can see Brown receiving a pass between four opponents.
Brown’s physicality and build allow him to not only receive under pressure but also to link up play. Brown is a player that can play within many different positions in the attacking line. If he is playing as a striker or a second striker, he must have the ability to control the ball and do the link-up play with the players that are coming to support him. That is an important indicator for the forward players, as they create time for the midfield player to come higher up the field and support them, which will give the team more chances to create a dangerous situation around the opponent’s box. In the picture below, we can see Brown holding the ball and trying to link up the play: he gives time to his teammate to get higher, which gives him more options for passing the ball.
This analysis showed that Brown is a player who does not panic when he is under pressure and is scanning the area for the positioning of the players. It is a great advantage for a player to have awareness like this, as it gives him extra time for decision making. This ability can make a difference in the high level of football, as in less than a second an opponent can have better positioning and intercept a key pass that could lead to a dangerous situation. Brown’s awareness gives him that advantage against his opponents. Below, we can see Brown taking advantage of the goalkeeper’s bad position and decision to leave the goal: Brown scanned the area and made the shot at the right time, and that led to a goal.
Brown’s defensive contribution and offensive transition
When his team does not have the ball, Brown is the first defensive line in the field. He starts pressing high up the pitch, closing down the opponent’s goalkeeper or defenders. In that way, he doesn’t allow the keeper to build up the game from the back. Therefore, the opposing goalkeeper will play a long ball into the midfield area, which will create a challenge. Here, we can see Brown pressing high with his teammates: the centre-back is not allowed to pass forward to the midfielders due to Brown’s high pressure, and he will go into a direct style of play.
When the ball comes a bit deeper in the field, Brown is again there to help his team to defend. He is positioned in such a way that he is trying to disallow a pass in the vertical axis of the field. Therefore, Brown is a player that, while defending, can force his opponents to pass the ball in the areas that are less dangerous for his team. In that way, Brown can be a useful tool for managers, as they can use him in their tactics to put pressure on opposing defences. Here, we can see Brown moving from the black highlighted area and taking up a body position that restricts a pass in the central part of the field, and gives space for a pass to the wide areas instead.
Stepping deeper into the field, we can see Brown has the awareness to support his teammates defensively. Modern football is not like it was years ago where strikers and wingers did not defend. In modern football, wingers and strikers have to take more responsibility when their team does not have the ball and support defensively. All these depend on the manager’s tactics and orders. There are managers that they do not like having players from the attacking line defending because it is difficult for the forwards to start a counter-attack from such a deep position. Also, it might affect their stamina and they will not be so effective in the final third of the field. Brown is the type of player that supports his team while defending. In the picture below, we can see Brown taking up a position which makes him the extra player while defending; this gives his team a numerical advantage.
Lastly, Brown is a player that can read the game, which gives him an advantage when his team is regaining possession of the ball. His offensive transition is quick and he can make a quick run forward, which can cause trouble for the opponent’s defensive line. For strikers and wingers, it is very important to react quickly when their team regains possession, as most of the time they are the players that their teammates target to start a counter-attack. In the picture below, we can see Brown’s reaction and offensive transition; this is the moment when his teammate won the ball, and he is starting his run to receive a direct ball.
Brown is a player that can be used by a manager for many different roles and tactics within the field. He is a winger who can also play as a striker and as a second striker. His physical abilities allow him to receive the ball under pressure and contribute to the link-up play as well. Moreover, he is the type of player that contributes defensively, as we have seen. Lastly, his teammates can take advantage of his quick offensive transitions to start a counter-attack. Brown is a player that can give many solutions to the attacking line of a team.