Blackpool currently sits 12th in the League 1 table. An average season would be an apt description of the Seasiders’ fortunes thus far, with the club unlikely to face relegation or reach the play-offs. It can be difficult to find any standouts in such a mid-table side, but one player who has performed exceptionally well is Liam Feeney.
The 34-year-old midfielder has an astonishing 14 assists to his name, putting him top of the assists charts. He has also proven himself to be a versatile asset, covering a variety of midfield roles. Coming to the end of his career, he shows no sign of slowing down. Whilst he may not play in the Championship again, he can certainly excel for a few more years in Leagues 1 and 2 respectively.
This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report will look in-depth at the role played by Feeney at Blackpool. It will use analysis to show the tactics deployed by Blackpool to utilise Feeney. The tactical analysis will also cover Feeney’s strengths, such as crossing and positioning. The scout report will also use analysis to highlight any weaknesses, such as finishing.
As this scout report previously mentioned, Feeney has been a versatile player for Blackpool. He has played a number of positions on many occasions. However, he more often than not tends to play on the right side of midfield, whether it’s as an out-and-out winger or as a more defensive-minded right midfielder.
The most used formation for Blackpool has been the 3-5-2, with Feeney operating as a right-wing back. These tactics give him license to push forward but also burdens him with defensive responsibility. As the analysis will show, however, the tactics allow Feeney to keep the width at all times, which is key in his successful season.
The tactical analysis will now use analysis to consider Feeney’s strengths, and how Blackpool have utilised him in the best way possible. The scout report will use analysis to look at his crossing ability and link-up play as a result of the tactics used.
A large portion of Liam Feeney’s assists this season have come from crosses. The tactics and formation deployed by Blackpool mean Feeney can either stay extremely wide or push inside into the half-gap between centre-back and full-back, depending on where there is more space. The 3-5-2 naturally allows for cover in the centre of the pitch and ensures they are not overrun in a key area. As a result, Feeney has the freedom to stay wide rather than provide support centrally, both in and out of possession.
From these wide positions, Feeney has excellent crossing ability. He is able to quickly get the ball out of his feet and swing a dangerous ball into the box, often finding his target. Feeney averages 7.9 crosses per game, the highest in the league. This shows that it is a tactic that Blackpool look to use in-game. Their formation allows Feeney to stay wide and once in this position, he crosses to great effect.
As the image above shows, Feeney has stayed in a wide position and delivered a cross. In this instance, he was able to drill the ball low and hard. However, what makes Feeney great in the tactics used by Blackpool is his variety of crossing, making him unpredictable to defend against.
He is equally capable of floating a ball towards the back post as he is delivering a whipped cross. Therefore, this tactical analysis has shown that Blackpool actively looks to create crossing situations for Feeney. Whilst a lot of credit goes to the tactics for creating these situations, Feeney is the key to its success.
We will now consider Feeney’s link-up play. The scout report previously highlighted that Feeney is often given freedom in terms of whether he wishes to stay wide or tuck inside. When he does push inwards, he will look to link up with the strikers and midfielders.
Feeney will often drive inside with the ball and look to link-up play with his teammates. This is an effective method of play that allows Blackpool to get in behind the opposing defenders. Feeney will look to play a quick 1-2 and this draws the opposing players to the initial pass and creates space in behind to be exploited. Once they’re in space, Feeney can drive forward with his good dribbling skills or look to play a pass.
As the image above shows, Feeney has excellent spatial awareness and is able to realise the space behind him. He plays a quick 1-2 and allows his team-mate to exploit the space. Again, this is a tactic that Blackpool will use. They will actively look to get players around Feeney. This draws opposition players and Feeney has the ability to find his teammates in space, even though he may be crowded out. This is key as all teams seek space on the pitch. When in space, Blackpool have more time and can progress further up the pitch.
The tactical analysis will now consider Feeney’s dribbling ability. It’s a key skill that nearly all wide men need, and Feeney excels in this department. He will look to square up the opposing defender and take him on in order to get into a crossing position. As previously stated, getting Feeney into a crossing position is one of the key tactics used by Blackpool.
If Blackpool is unable to directly get Feeney into space, they will look to get him one-on-one with the opposing defender as quickly as possible. They do this so Feeney is able to get into a crossing position. It also gives the opposing defender a dilemma and forces him to make a decision. Feeney’s crossing ability is good enough that he does not necessarily always have to take the defender. This means the defender standing off may not even be a good decision. He completes 2.63 deep crosses per 90 – this clearly shows that even from deep, Feeney’s crossing can cause problems.
As a result, the defender has to attempt to win the ball. This gives Feeney the opportunity to dribble and get in behind to cross the ball. He averages 6.55 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 63.39%. This indicates that he is able to beat his man and get into dangerous crossing positions. Therefore, this makes it difficult for opposing players: they are unsure whether to stand off or attempt to win the ball. As a result, Blackpool looks to get the ball outside quickly to give Feeney as many one-on-one opportunities in a match.
An area of improvement for Feeney would be his finishing. Whilst his assist return is impressive, he has only managed one league goal so far, a poor return for an attacking player. The main reason for this is he simply does not get into goal-scoring positions.
Playing as a wing-back more often than not, he might not find himself in goal-scoring positions, since Blackpool’s tactics focus on getting Feeney in wide positions one-on-one. His 14 assists show he is the creator in the side, rather than a goal scorer. Again, his lack of goal-scoring opportunities is shown by the fact he only averages 0.5 shots per game.
Further to this, he very rarely averages more than three touches in the opposing box per 90. This clearly shows the reason for his lack of goals is positional and tactical, rather than him being a poor finisher.
However, there is still room for improvement. A possible way he could look to increase his goal tally is by being on the end of crosses. If the ball is in the left-wing position, he can look to be at the back post for any overhit crosses and knockdowns. This isn’t going to propel him to a 20-goals-a-season, nor will it get him a move to the Premier League, but it will increase his goal tally by being in the right place.
In conclusion, Liam Feeney is enjoying a fantastic personal season for Blackpool. His ability on the ball and in wide areas makes him dangerous for opposing players to play against. The tactics used by Blackpool specifically look to get Feeney into situations where he can be useful, which is why he has so many assists and has created so many chances for Blackpool for this season.
As this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report showed, an area of improvement would be goals. He has only managed one this season, and whilst he may not always be in attacking positions, it is still a return he would hope to improve on next season. Even at 34, he may be hoping for one more season in the Championship. An increased goal return would help him achieve that.