Allan Campbell 2019/20 – scout report
The 2019/20 season has been a very successful campaign for Motherwell who finished as the best of the rest in third qualifying spot for a Europa League place. This is in stark contrast to last season where they had a very underwhelming campaign, finishing eighth in the league. Robinson’s overhaul of his team’s personnel and tactics this season has seen them improve drastically; going from a conservative defensive style to a more robust attacking possession-based team in one season is truly remarkable. This is a testament to Robinson and his staff implementing this positive style and recruiting players that fit in with this style of play.
One of the few players that have remained a constant figure since last season is the 21-year-old Allan Campbell. Campbell is a product of the Motherwell academy, joining the club when he was eleven and coming up through the ranks. His promising displays earned him his debut for the Wells first-team when he was 18 and just a year after his debut, he was called up to the Scotland U21 squad where he has excelled since.
The 21-year-old has been integral to Motherwell’s success this season playing in the heart of midfield. He has adapted very well to the contrasting styles of play in one season where he puts in high-level consistent performances each game, which is remarkable considering how young he is. In this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report, we will examine how Allan Campbell has become such an influential player for Motherwell. The report will also outline key attributes that make the 21-year-old an effective player and an important cog to Motherwell ’s attacking play this season.
This season Motherwell have favoured a 4-3-3 formation under Robinson with Campbell normally lining up as the right-sided centre midfielder a midfield three. The Scotsman is very versatile and can line up in any one of three positions in midfield as he injects his highly energetic style into the heart of the Wells midfield. This sees him cover lots of space for his team as can be clearly seen below in his heatmap this season.
The midfielder is competent playing as the single pivot, however, he flourishes more playing as an ‘8’ in a more attack-minded role. Campbell likes to operate in more advanced areas of the pitch mainly taking up positions in either one of the half-spaces and pushing right up to the edge opposition’s defensive line.
His positioning in these areas and his willingness to look for the ball behind stretches the opposition vertically, increasing the space in front of the defensive line and also opening up passing options for his teammates.
This is evident in the above move as Liam Donnelly is on the ball and is put under pressure with no passing options ahead of him he can really access. Campbell (highlighted with a red circle) is positioned in the left half-space and is gesturing for the ball in behind, drawing both the left centre-back and left-back to his run. His positioning and potential run push the defensive line back, opening up space and passing lane out to the Motherwell winger so Donnelly can progress the ball out to him into a more advanced position.
The 21-year-old’s advanced positioning also aids and supports the fluid movement of the Motherwell forwards. Since they like to drift deep or out to wings, Campbell at times then occupies the central forward position in their absence to maintain the team’s positional structure. This is illustrated in the move against Livingston below. Motherwell is on the attack, and their forward Chris Long vacates his central position and drifts out to the wing.
In response to this action, Campbell pushes up and positions himself into the Long’s vacated position, occupying the opposition defender. This ensures the defender does not go wide to mark Long on the wing and tracks Campbell’s run inward. This drags the defender with him and opens even more space for his teammate. The 21-year-old’s quick reaction and positioning overwhelmed the opposition defensive line, creating an overload that resulted in Motherwell ending the move with a goal.
Off the ball movement
Along with Campbell’s great positional sense, his movement off the ball is also an area he excels in. He has great awareness and identification of space and coupled with good timing and disguise of his forward runs, it makes him a real threat. Robinsons’ tactics and style of play are based around first getting the ball into the final third and then, from this position, look to penetrate the opposition’s defensive unit.
The 21-year-old’s third-man forward runs are an essential part of Robinson’s style of play in penetrating the opposition’s defensive unit. Campbell provides a good balance in midfield as he is the instigator of moves to open up opposition defences through his off the ball movement in behind. Polworth on the other side is the supplier with his incisive passes and together with their link-up play, they cause the opposition problems.
One without the other does not work as effectively but through Campbell’s awareness, identification of space and the intelligent timing of his forward runs, it creates chances when initially dangerous opportunities do not seem like they will manifest themselves. We see this in full effect against St. Johnstone in the move below. The 21-year-old receives the ball in midfield and plays the ball into Long – who has dropped in deep to receive – and two defenders follow him into this position.
Campbell identifies the disorganisation in the defensive line that has resulted from this pass and the space in behind to exploit. The Motherwell midfielder (highlighted with the red circle) cleverly curves his run out and slows down so it lacks any urgency and then he can ghost in behind unnoticed, which he does to great effect. Campbell does well to time his run and increases his speed when Long lays the ball back to Polworth who sees him in space and plays it in behind, successfully penetrating the backline.
The Motherwell midfielder’s off the ball forward runs from deep are very effective as he has great awareness to identify space ahead of him to drive into but against a possession-based team like Motherwell, there are times the opposition will look to drop and defend deep to negate the space in behind. When analysing Campbell’s performances, he is also able to thrive in these situations as he is very clever at finding small pockets in between and around a deep defensive line through clever subtle movements.
His effective intelligent movement is evident in the move below against Kilmarnock who set up in a low defensive block. Motherwell has possession just inside Kilmarnock’s half, looking to penetrate through their defensive unit. The Wells have circulated the ball back to centre-back Declan Gallagher who is looking for options ahead to probe and try to open up the low block.
Campbell is being marked but his game intelligence and awareness of space are fantastic as he subtlety moves two steps to the left, creating separation with his marker before he, nearly in the same movement, moves into the space behind him. The 21-year-old’s subtle but clever movement results in him being in around five yards of space between the lines, creating a passing option for Gallagher in a dangerous position. He receives the ball in the left-half space, creating a 3v2 situation and the move ends in a goal for Motherwell.
Goal scoring threat
As shown in this analysis, Campbell is a real threat to opposing teams with his great positional sense and third-man forward runs as this leads to him getting more chances on goal. The midfielder has scored five goals in the league this season, his best goal-scoring return thus far in his career. The 21-year-old has scored just under half his total goals in his career this campaign where he also ranks sixth in the league in goals scored from the central midfield position.
Robinson has given Campbell a role in which he can attack more freely but in essence, he has the intelligence and awareness to find a good position to score. The midfielder is very good at knowing when to be involved in the play and positioning himself accordingly to receive the ball at the end of the move, giving him the best chance of getting a shot away.
This is illustrated in the move against Ross County below. Campbell positions himself in an advanced position in the right half-space and drops off the opposition defensive line to receive the ball to feet. He lays it back to Devante Cole running off his shoulder and continues his run inward toward the goal.
Campbell, while not involved in the play as such, drifts in towards a central position where he anticipates the ball being played into Long. He cleverly stalls his run, times it right and arrives perfectly as an option for the forward to play the ball into him.
When Long receives the ball, Campbell is an option for him, and the 21-year-old frees himself up further as he injects some pace into his run to get away from his marker. Long lays the ball laterally to the midfielder to run onto and finish first time past the Ross County keeper.
As mentioned above, some teams like to sit back against Motherwell and they will play in a very narrow deep block so naturally space becomes available for them in the wide areas. Robinson emphasises play from the wings and with that, there need to be options for his team for balls being played into the box.
Campbell is a willing participant in this area and looks to find pockets of space in the penalty area. With his increased presence inside the box, it has attributed to him scoring 4/5 goals this season inside the area. His effectiveness to attack space and offer himself as an option in the penalty area is evident below as Motherwell have an attacking throw-in where the ball is thrown to Long just inside the box.
Campbell who is positioned at the edge of the box (highlighted in red) has the awareness to identify the large spacing between the two centre-backs and looks to attack this zone. The 21-year-old anticipates Long will beat his man but Campbell is being marked. However, he cleverly waits for his marker to scan to look for the ball and as he does so, the midfielder makes a blindside run attacking the space. The ball is played into this zone which is highlighted and Campbell is able to convert from close range.
The Motherwell midfielder has improved his scoring in part due to his more attack-minded role under Robinson this season but a big reason for his increase in goals is his great movement, positioning and his eagerness to have an added end product to his game. This has seen him come on leaps and bounds in this area.
Areas of concern
One area that causes concern in Campbell’s game is that at times he receives the ball very flat with his hips facing towards his own goal. This is certainly not ideal, especially when he drops deep to receive the ball close to his own goal. On occasion, he has lost possession in this dangerous area of the pitch. By receiving the ball with his body in this position, he is not necessarily aware of where the pressure his coming from.
Campbell’s poor body positioning when receiving the ball close to his goal is seen below against Aberdeen. The midfielder drops deep to aid Motherwell’s build-up and receives the ball from his keeper with hips very square and his back towards the opposition players.
The 21-year-old is not aware of the pressure coming from his outside shoulder and his body position is also not protecting the ball effectively so it’s easy for the Aberdeen player to press him and win the ball off him. Campbell’s late reaction to the pressure means he can not correct his body position in time to protect the ball and Aberdeen win the ball in a very dangerous area.
Next, we have something similar to the above point concerning losing the ball close to his own goal due to not being aware of the pressure from the opposition. This time it is not due to his body position when receiving the ball but him not scanning effectively for opposing players before receiving the ball. This is illustrated in the move below where Campbell receives the ball with a good body orientation but is not aware of the pressure behind because he has not scanned sufficiently.
Also, another concern is that he has not scanned for supporting teammates (has a passing option on his right side) and his lack of scanning causes him to take unnecessary additional touches. This gives the opposing player a bigger chance to win the ball back, which he does and this results in Motherwell conceding a cheap goal. This is an area of Campbell’s game that needs to be ironed out for his game to progress further in his career.
There is no doubting Allan Campbell’s impact in Motherwell’s successful season this campaign. The Motherwell midfielder has been a key player and integral part of Steve Robinson’s side with his great positional sense, dangerous third-man runs forward, the intelligent movement to find pockets of space and added threat as an option inside the box.
Campbell has stepped up in the absence of David Turnball and has consistently displayed impressive performances. If he irons out the concerns highlighted in this analysis, he has the ability to progress to a higher level in the future whether that be to Celtic, Rangers or potentially, like so many Scottish players, up to the Premier League. But for the moment, he should stay and develop his game at Fir Park.