Yasin Ayari (172cm/5’8”, 69kg/152lbs) is an 18-year-old central midfielder, plying his trade for one of Sweden’s most successful football clubs, AIK.
After making his way through the club’s youth ranks, having initially joined AIK’s youth academy in 2012, Ayari made his first team debut for the Solna-based club in 2020, when he played 60 minutes in midfield versus Elfsborg, just turned 17 years of age.
Two seasons on from that, just beyond the midway point of the 2022 campaign, the teenage talent has become a first-team regular for Gnaget and impressed in those first-team appearances.
This tactical analysis and scout report aims to highlight the key strengths and weaknesses within the young Swedish midfielder’s game to show exactly why he’s stood out for us as one to watch in the Allsvenskan this term via analysis of the player’s skills, abilities and typical role within his team’s tactics.
All stats and data used in this tactical analysis piece have come from Wyscout.
We’ll kick off this scout report with a look at the Sweden youth international’s data profile (see figure 1). Before getting into the analysis, though, we will briefly explain what is being shown by some of the more ambiguously labelled metrics on the visual. We must stress that these weren’t created as a result of some intense fine tuning or a highly intelligent process, just a basic combination of some raw metrics to create a potentially helpful metric for use in this analysis.
‘Possession involvement’ is a combination of passes per 90 and passes received per 90, which we combined to try and get a measure of, as the name indicates, how involved, overall, the player is in his team’s possession phases in relation to other players in the data set labelled in figure 1.
‘Positive passing’ is a combination of forward passes per 90, progressive passes (A forward pass that attempts to advance a team significantly closer to the opponent’s goal) per 90 and passes to the final third per 90. These were combined as a means of looking into how aggressive/forward thinking the player is with the ball in relation to his peers, particularly designed to highlight his effectiveness in the ball progression phase of play.
‘Penetrative passing’, meanwhile, is a combination of through passes per 90, passes to the penalty area per 90 and smart passes per 90, designed to look at the player’s defensive line-breaking nature, particularly with a view to looking at the player’s effectiveness in chance creation.
‘Creative passing’, then, is a combination of xA per 90, shot assists per 90 and key passes per 90. This one is designed to show how effective the player is at directly creating goalscoring opportunities for his teammates.
We appreciate the labelling here could be clearer but hope that with these explanations, the metrics make sense and it’s clear why we’ve put these particular bits of raw data together to create what we feel is a slightly more interesting measurement for the sake of this analysis.
With all of that in mind, looking at figure 1, we can see that Ayari is heavily involved in his side’s attempts to penetrate the opposition’s defensive line — more so than he’s involved in progressing the team into the final third, though he also ranks fairly healthily in that area. We can deduct this from the fact his percentile rank in penetrative passing far exceeds his rank in positive passing.
Defensively, Ayari is active and useful for his team, as the visual above indicates with the midfielder ranking highly in some key defensive metrics. We’ll look more thoroughly at the defensive side of his game later in this analysis, as while what Ayari offers on the ball in terms of breaking down the opposition’s last line of defence or penetrating a deep block are probably the most impressive areas of his game, we love what he offers without the ball just as much.
In attack, Ayari isn’t much of a ball carrier, and from watching his performances, his dribbling technique does let him down at times. However, he does offer plenty in terms of being a direct goal threat. There are ways he can improve this part of his game which we’ll also discuss in greater detail later on in this piece but the teenager definitely fancies his ability in front of goal and approaches that part of the game with confidence.
We don’t want to put the midfieder’s game into a box too much but from what he’s shown so far in his career, he could perhaps accurately be described as a midfielder who loves operating higher up the pitch — not necessarily in his side’s furthest forward attacking line but just behind that line in space to feed those runners ahead of him through into the box and in on the opposition’s goal.
It’s not super common to see the 18-year-old receiving the ball deep, from the centre-backs or goalkeeper, for instance, before being tasked with progressing through midfield into the final third, but rather he tends to perform the role of the one to receive the ball from that deep midfield ball progressor further upfield in the advanced half of the middle third or even just on the edge of the final third.
He’s more of a passer than he is a dribbler, loves to take on goalscoring opportunities and offers a lot in terms of defensive output as well.
Receiving the ball
One of our favourite things to watch Ayari do is receive the ball because of his typically excellent first touch and natural, positive body movement as the reception occurs. Ayari is great at using his first touch and body movement to create the best possible passing angle for the 18-year-old to link up with the runners ahead of him and play them through on goal.
Prior scanning, tactical intelligence and technical quality are all important traits for Ayari to possess in order for the Swede to pull off the impressive and effective first touch that he does as often as he does.
We saw all of those traits on display in the passage of play displayed in figures 2-3. Here in figure 2, we see Ayari receiving the ball to feet while facing forward, slightly towards the left wing.
Having scanned before this pass was played — thus improving his decision-making ability when the pass arrives as he’s got a better vision of how the pitch is laid out ahead of him, as well as a better idea of the amount of space around him at this moment — he approached the ball as it arrived and changed his body angle for the next pass, while also injecting some energy and a rise in tempo into the attack.
As we see in figure 3, as Ayari received the ball, he opened up his body towards the space to his right, which was also opening it up towards the largest possible playing area in front of him.
This gave him lots of options for his next move, between several passing options and the option of carrying the ball forward into the space, thus perhaps attracting pressure onto himself and creating more space for teammates elsewhere in the process. The second option, carrying the ball into space and attracting pressure, is something that Ayari could improve upon and add to his game as an additional threat, as he’s not much of a ball carrier at present and doesn’t really offer this threat much.
Additionally, Ayari sped up the game a little bit with his first touch here. Whereas before this touch, the play was moving quite slowly, Ayari’s touch injected some life and energy into the attack. We often see Ayari try to do this when receiving the ball. Of course, at times it’s helpful to slow the play down and there are some instances of Ayari doing this, though admittedly this is an area in which he can also develop more.
However, there’s often an air of excitement and energy when the midfielder receives the ball thanks to his determined and firm first touch into space ahead of him, the angle at which this leaves him to the ball and the next pass also gives him a better chance of making something happen for his side.
We see another example of Ayari opening up his body on receiving the ball, thus improving his angle of attack in figures 4-5. In figure 4, we see the ball being played to Ayari in a more advanced position just inside the final third, coming under far more pressure than we saw him experiencing in the previous passage of play.
As the ball is played to him, we see that Ayari’s facing towards the left wing and the passer, closed to the options ahead of him running into the box except for the passer who played the ball to him in the first place.
However, thanks to his excellent spatial awareness (helped by his scanning before receiving the ball), tactical intelligence and technical quality, we see that Ayari quickly changed the situation all the while evading the incoming pressure from the opposition’s pressing man approaching from behind.
As opposed to a first touch changing the angle on this occasion, it was the lack thereof which made the difference. As the ball approached Ayari, he simply allowed it to move across his body. Meanwhile, opened his body up to face the inside as opposed to the outside, which he was facing before.
On taking his first touch, then, now set in a better position to attack the box and opened to more options, the player again raises the tempo a bit. His subsequent touch is heavy enough to knock the ball past the defender ahead of him but also light enough to keep it under his control. This sets up a great passing opportunity for Ayari just behind the forward line.
This move exhibits an excellent mental game from Ayari. His tactical intelligence and spatial awareness were key to the success of this attack and beating the opposition defender pressing him from behind on this occasion.
Lastly, the technical quality displayed via his first touch when it did eventually come put the icing on the cake and allowed the midfielder to enter a great penetrative passing position as play moves on from figure 5.
The ability to receive the ball effectively is consistently on display from Ayari and it’s undoubtedly one of the most impressive parts of the young midfielder’s game, for us.
Next up, we’ll take a look at Ayari’s passing game. We already discussed what types of passes the midfielder most likes to play and where he likes to play them from — this section of analysis explores some in-game examples of the 18-year-old’s passing game to provide more specific details on his penetrative passing.
Figure 6 takes us through one instance of Ayari receiving the ball in central midfield, opening up his body towards his intended target with his first touch, beating the opposition player applying pressure from behind at the same time and then drilling the subsequent through ball into the path of the runner ahead of him.
Again, of course, scanning before receiving the ball here was key to help the 18-year-old’s decision-making on his first touch and subsequent through ball, both in terms of picking out his intended target and beating the pressure coming from behind.
While the technical quality on display is excellent here, Ayari doesn’t have the chance to make it happen without scanning beforehand to ensure he’s got a good picture of the pitch in his mind — the mental ability comes first and Ayari frequently comes across as someone who’s very good at much of the mental side of football.
This passage of play shows yet another example of the midfielder’s excellent first touch as discussed in the previous section. On this occasion, it takes him around the pressing player on his back and into his desired passing position where he can find the runner to his right with a well-weighted through ball.
This pass puts his team in a great attacking position, with the receiver enjoying the chance to take the defender ahead of him on 1v1 or link up with the teammate running through alongside him to his left.
All of this is made possible thanks to Ayari’s work in midfield beforehand. AIK’s teen talent loves to play the role of flicking that switch in midfield, raising the tempo in the attack and setting his side through into the danger zone, as we see in this example.
We’ll see another Ayari penetrative pass in the passage of play starting in figure 7. In the first image here, we see Ayari’s further forward teammate playing a pass back into the 18-year-old’s feet. Just before this image, Ayari had received the ball deeper, carried it forward a few steps and then sent the ball into the feet of the passer in figure 7.
The purpose of this quick one-two in midfield was to create space. By sending the ball forward to the passer in figure 7, Ayari relieved himself of some of the pressure being applied by the opposition. When the 18-year-old sent the ball to the player ahead of him, all the opposition players’ attention turned to the further forward AIK man.
This allowed Ayari to settle into more space and prepare to receive again with plenty of time to make his next move, which he’ll have decided after getting his head up off the ball in the space he’s created for himself to occupy in figure 7.
After receiving the ball back again, figure 8 demonstrates Ayari’s excellent vision to pick out the run of his teammate going from left to right across the opposition’s backline and into the space that’s been vacated by the defender who jumped out of the backline to close down the player Ayari had originally passed to just before figure 7.
This pass had to move in the perfect direction and at a good weight, given the limited space that the passer has to work with to get the ball through and into the runner’s path. However, he pulled it off well and created a great opportunity for his side to go beyond the opposition’s backline.
This move was heavily orchestrated by Ayari, as his initial, seemingly somewhat innocuous pass to the dropping teammate’s feet just before figure 7 led to the space that this runner exploited in figure 8, again thanks to Ayari’s passing quality via the through ball.
Again, while the technical quality on display is highly impressive, it’s Ayari’s mental capacity to think a few steps ahead and manipulate the opposition like this that really stands out.
Figure 9 shows another example of the Swede’s impressive vision to split the opposition’s backline open and send a teammate through in behind.
Just before this image, the player received while moving out towards the right wing from a slightly more central position. He exhibits excellent vision by immediately, with one touch, splitting the defence open with a well-placed, well-weighted through pass into the channel between the opposition’s left-back and left centre-back.
This gives his runner on the right wing who had been positioned right on the left-back’s shoulder on the outside something to chase in behind. As the opposition defenders need to turn but AIK’s runner is facing forward, this pass favours the 18-year-old’s teammate and again demonstrates great technical and mental quality from the teen talent as a playmaker.
So, from this section, we hope it’s clear why we’re so excited about Ayari’s playmaking ability to penetrate the opposition’s backline. As much as his technical quality is important for him in this area, his mental attributes are just as, if not more important — as these in-game examples have shown.
If we can redirect your attention to figure 1 momentarily, you’ll see that no player within the labelled data set has made more shots per 90 than Ayari this term, while he’s also got a relatively hefty xG per 90. This section of analysis will dive deeper into that area of the midfielder’s game, by looking at his shooting.
Figure 10 shows Ayari’s shot map for the 2022 Allsvenskan campaign. It doesn’t come as a massive surprise to us that there are plenty of shots from distance, as the AIK academy product takes a very liberal approach to shooting, which the data would obviously suggest as well.
Ayari’s shooting could become more controlled and honed. His decision-making when it comes to shots is often questionable, as the young midfielder does snatch at shooting opportunities at times, when it’s not always the best option available to him.
This results in a shot accuracy rate that’s nothing to write home about, as shown in figure 1, and ultimately, some wastefulness. I enjoy a long shot and think that if a player has the ability, confidence and opportunity to take one on, then they should but ‘opportunity’ is a key word there and if obviously better options are available at the given moment, then they should be prioritised. Efficiency in attack and good decision-making must take priority and perhaps this is an area in which Ayari can develop as his game matures.
Figures 11-12 show an excellently-worked move that Ayari orchestrated to progress from deep into a far better shooting position. Firstly, in figure 11, we see the 18-year-old receiving the ball on the outer edge of the final third — the position he most likes to occupy just behind his side’s forward line.
As he receives the ball, he immediately plays to the feet of the player further forward to his left with one touch, splitting the opposition’s deep midfield line open.
After playing that pass, the AIK man went on to make a surging run into the box, setting himself up to get on the receiving end of the one-two return pass from the player he’d just passed to. After getting on the end of that return pass, Ayari finds himself in a great shooting position inside the box with a solid chance of scoring and a great chance of at least testing the goalkeeper, which is what happens here.
Ayari will often find himself in space on the outskirts of the box and while the odd long shot may be welcome and can end positively, overdoing it verges on wastefulness and there are often better options available, such as the possibility of working it into the box and setting up a better shooting opportunity — either for himself or another teammate — from there.
Seeing Ayari settle down the shooting a bit and become more disciplined in his approach around the box could improve his goalscoring game and his playmaking game.
Our final section of analysis in this scout report will look at Ayari’s defensive game. It’s clear from figure 1 that the midfielder has a decent defensive output and this section of analysis will look deeper into the 18-year-old’s defensive attributes.
Firstly, with regard to his defensive game, Ayari demonstrates an excellent attitude and a real hunger to win the ball back for his team, which is evident from how he reacts in figures 13-14. While contesting the 50/50 duel on the edge of the opposition’s box in figure 13, Ayari is outmuscled and essentially shoved to the side by the opposition player who collects the ball and then begins moving upfield to start his side’s counterattack.
It’s common for players to take this as a defeat, say that they’ve done all they can now and lost the duel or even just throw their arms in the air out of frustration in situations like this, we’ve all seen it. However, Ayari doesn’t take that approach at all, as figure 14 shows.
The 18-year-old immediately turned back around and went in for round two with the opposition player, sprinting his way back into a position to tackle the ball carrier and force possession away from him. This bit of counterpressing successfully creates a goalscoring opportunity for AIK, demonstrating the value of an attitude like this high up the pitch in the defensive phases.
Many modern coaches swear by the idea that winning the ball close to the opposition’s goal is the best playmaker and Ayari, as an advanced midfielder, represents an excellent option off the ball for coaches with that mentality, as he’s got the attitude, technical defensive ability and physical attributes that align with this philosophy.
Ayari doesn’t just offer plenty when pressing high up the pitch, his work rate is an excellent asset when required to track back and defend deeper areas of the pitch as well. This can be seen in the example displayed in figures 15-17.
Firstly, in figure 15, we see an opposition midfielder receiving the ball just beyond AIK’s midfield line to the left. Ayari immediately sees the danger and necessity to track back and cover this player, and thus does so. This allows his team’s back four to stay intact, which is key in preventing space from opening up for the opposition to exploit in AIK’s last line of defence.
The opposition receiver took the ball and turned but was forced outward as a result of Ayari’s movement. Additionally, the ball carrier failed to build up much pace or power by the time the 18-year-old arrived next to him. With momentum on Ayari’s side, the teenager threw a fair shoulder into the ball carrier, unbalancing him and giving the AIK academy product a good chance of ending this opposition attack and regaining possession for his side.
As play moves on into figure 17, we see that this is exactly what happened. Ayari’s defensive work rate to get back and shoulder challenge to unbalance the ball carrier created the opening he needed to get a foot on the ball, knock it away from the opposition man, turn and start driving upfield himself, kickstarting a counterattack for AIK.
So, from the mentality of getting back and assisting the backline — making life easier for them — to the physical qualities it took to recover and dispossess the ball carrier along with the technical qualities required to execute the challenge as well as he did, this passage of play demonstrates much of what makes Ayari such a good player for the team to have without the ball, making this part of his game one of the most significant.
To conclude this tactical analysis and scout report, we hope that our analysis has clarified some of the key strengths and weaknesses within Ayari’s game and shown why we view him as a significant player of interest within Sweden’s top flight.
Ayari is a young malleable player with the quality to potentially fit several roles within a team’s tactics as his career progresses. He could very well continue playing as an ‘8’, which he has primarily played as this season, or he could play as a ‘10’, which his skill set is equally well suited for. Perhaps there is even a future for Ayari playing in a wide playmaker position — more likely to be on the left wing than on the right.
Ultimately, a role that allows Ayari enough freedom to find and exploit space, get his head up and create via his impressive passing range, as well as capitalise on his excellent defensive work rate should see the Sweden youth international perform well by accentuating his positives.