In this scout report, I will analyse Reading FC’s player, John Swift, who started his early career at Chelsea FC. In this tactical analysis, we will see that Swift is a player who can stand out in different roles in the field, such as a box-to-box midfielder or a holding midfielder. In this article, I will analyse how he helps Reading’s tactics on the field, and how he is trying to support the team efficiently, both offensively and defensively.
John Swift without the ball
Starting his analysis from the moments that he has the ball; we notice that Swift is a player with good technique. He can pass the ball in different ways, which gives him an advantage of “unlocking” himself from difficult scenarios and situations. For example, he can pass the ball while in the air, or with his heel. Those are things that make him unpredictable, which is very important for a midfielder, as he can help his team in many different ways.
Moreover, Swift is a player with good vision; he can break lines with his passes, which is very important for a player who is playing in the midfield area, and behind the centre forward. Passes like these could push the striker into a forward position. Everyone can agree with the fact that a midfielder should have the ability to pass through the opposition’s lines. This is an ability that has to do not only with the striker but also with the rest of the team. For example, breaking the lines could be helpful when a team is pressed up high by the opposition.
Furthermore, Swift is not only a player that can contribute offensively in the game. He knows his abilities, and he understands when he has to protect the ball with his body and play safe. That is very important for a football player. Swift recognises when there is an opportunity to go for a pass that will break the opponent’s lines, and when he has to play a safe square or backwards pass. That gives the team a chance to re-organise and retain control of the ball. By doing so, the whole team has a better chance of trying to approach the opponent’s half or box with better conditions.
Additionally, Swift is a player that contributes in every part of the field. We can see him going deep to receive the ball. The movements in front of the defensive line give more flexibility to the defenders when they try to play out of the back. He is becoming an extra player, which is very important and means he can contribute in many different ways in the team. This could be by his forward passes, or his skills in protecting the ball and playing safe, or by trying to help in the team’s possession game, giving an extra option to the defenders to play the ball forward.
Moreover, Swift is a player that knows how to read the game. This is something that we can notice from what we mentioned earlier, but an extra hint for this is his ability to dribble the ball into the free space. This is very important for two reasons: firstly, the player can take advantage of the free space, and win some metres on the field. Secondly, he will enter areas without being asked to; for example, he will enter the final third of the field, which will create a possible overload in an area. The result of this is that he will drag opponents towards him, which will lead to free space that the striker or the winger could take advantage of. The image below is showing Swift driving the ball into the free space. In this way, he created some space for his teammates, who could then pass either into the wide areas, or close to the box.
Another thing that Swift would add to any team is his exceptional set-piece kicks. He has an excellent technique in delivering the ball into the box. In modern football, teams are well-prepared for set-pieces. Managers are analysing how the opponent takes the set-pieces offensively and defensively, and they try to prepare their team to have the right answers for the kinds of problems that the opponent is going to set-up. Swift’s kicks from set-pieces are in the right area, with the right speed and technique, which gives an advantage for his team when they face an opponent that knows how to defend and keep the ball away from the box.
John Swift without the ball
When Swift’s team did not have control of the ball, we can see that he is a player who contributes defensively; he is pressing up high and tries to regain the ball. He is positioned behind the striker and tries to block the opponent’s will to play out of the back. In that way, he is manipulating the opponent into playing a long ball, which means that the chances for his team to win control of the ball are increased. The image below is demonstrating how Swift gets into a higher position to press the receiver of the ball.
Stepping a bit deeper up the field, we can see Swift taking such positions to disallow passes in the half spaces. Protecting those areas is important, as those are the areas that the opposition’s players are targeting to break the lines. Swift was trying to keep the defensive line compact. For a midfielder, the defensive duties are very important, as they have to be performed in a twofold scenario: they not only have to be able to carry the ball and contribute to the offensive part of the ball, but also have the ability to demonstrate their defensive skills and support the defence efficiently.
Swift was supporting the defensive part of the game when the ball was in the defensive third of the field. He was taking a position in and around the box to prevent the opponent’s shots coming in. In that way, he helped his team to not concede a goal, as he was in the right spot at the right time several times. Moreover, he was supporting the game in the flanks by helping the full-back. Demonstrating such defensive skills as a midfielder is crucial, as he shows that he can become an extra player in defence. This is important, because, in that way, the team becomes more solid and compact, which gives them a great advantage in the defensive third of the field.
In modern football, there are times that a player from the defence has to “follow” the phase of the game and get a higher position on the field. That will create a defensive gap and free space in the team. Swift managed to cover that free space by taking his position in the field, temporarily. For a professional player, it is very crucial to know how to react in every possible position that he could during the game. For example, a centre back after a corner-kick receives the ball wide at the edge of the box. That player, despite that he is not a winger, has to know how to dribble and deliver the ball into the box.
Swift’s body language during the game showed that he has good communication skills; he was showing to his teammates with his hands some moves of the opponent’s players that they did not notice. That shows that he can read the game efficiently, which is very important for a midfielder. Moreover, that demonstrates a strong personality on the field, and that he can lead. It is very important for players to be confident and to not to be afraid to guide and help their teammates when they can.
As far as Swift’s movements when Reading FC had the ball go, we can see that he was moving all over the field. He was making runs in between the lines and behind his opponents to receive the ball. That is something that gives his team the advantage, as the opposition has to adjust his formation. A move like that could lead the opponent to possibly become stretched, which is something most managers do not wish for, as the opposition team can find free spaces easier. Moreover, Swift was taking positions in the box when the ball was in the wide areas. He was becoming an extra centre forward, which makes things tougher and more unpredictable for the opposition’s defensive line.
Additionally, Swift has good awareness and ability. He is scanning the area even when the ball is far away from him. That gives him an advantage, as he knows where to pass before receiving the ball. By knowing that, he wins time, and time in football means more space to act, react and take a better position compared with your opponent. The image below shows Swift scanning the free space behind him. If he was receiving the ball, he knew where to pass it, and that would give an advantage compared to the carrier of the ball in the wide area.
Areas for improvement
John Swift has some very good characteristics as a central midfielder. He has great technical skills, vision, he stands between the two boxes and at the wide areas, which means he has good stamina too. Moreover, he supports his teammates defensively, by taking position in the box, and offensively, with his passes, runs, and his positioning in and around the box. But an area that Swift could improve is the ability to track his opponents back behind him. That is something that is difficult for everyone, as most of the players have their attention on the place where the ball is. In this way, they do not have control of what is going on behind them. For that reason, Swift has to improve that part of his game, as there were several times that an opponent made a run behind him without him realising.
Could John Swift stand out in the EPL?
Being a player that participated in 74.85% minutes of Reading’s games during the EFL Championship 2019/20 season, the past few days have produced some rumours linking him with a potential movement to EPL side Sheffield United. Going a bit deeper into his statistics, we can see that he is a player with great technique, which we can notice also from his great passing accuracy percentage. Swift passes 47.7 passes per 90 minutes, with an accuracy of 84.4%. Moreover, he completes 13.97 forward passes per 90 minutes, with 71% being accurate. Reading FC and Sheffield United at the same indicators the last season had 81.3% and 79.9% passing accuracy per 90 minutes, and 70.8% and 68.2% forward passing accuracy, respectively.
As far as his defensive duties went, this data analysis is demonstrating that this is an area that Swift can further develop and improve in. Swift took part in 5.93 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with him winning 55.7%. The numbers of his current team, and Sheffield United’s, at the same indicator, are slightly better: Reading FC as a team won 60.57% of their defensive duels per 90 minutes, while Sheffield United won only 59.78% per 90 minutes.
John Swift had a productive year, with many appearances, assists and goals. He participated in most of Reading FC’s matches, and managed to show us many of his abilities, with and without the ball. In the next weeks, we will see if a season like this is good enough for a player to move into the elite level of English football, or if the EPL teams are seeking more demands from players they are targeting.