Callum Brittain 2019/20 – Scout Report
In the second instalment of a look around EFL League one’s under 23 starlets, this week focuses on MK Dons full-back Callum Brittain. With 31 appearances this season, Brittain has been an important part of a side that has seen a managerial change halfway through the season, putting in consistent performances to catch the eye of onlookers. Brittain has especially benefitted from Russel Martins change to a 4-1-2-1-2 system deployed at Mk Dons with the young defender being given the licence to get involved more in an attacking capacity.
With Brittain’s contract up at the end of the current season, and yet to sign a new deal, there is likely to be interest from higher within the football pyramid. Brittain will at some stage look to follow in the footsteps of other Mk Dons academy graduates such as Dele Alli and Brandon Galloway with moves to the EPL with Tottenham Hotspur and Everton respectively. However, under Martin, there is renewed hope that his young side can look to progress from consolidation in EFL League One towards an outside playoff position, which may encourage Brittain to sign on.
Martin has used a 4-1-2-1-2 since taking over in November 2019, moving away from the five at the back system operated under Paul Tisdale. Brittain operates at the right full-back position, with the licence to get forward and provide width, operating on a different line to the right side of the central midfield two, operated on a number of occasions by Louis Thompson.
In possession, as mentioned Brittain will look to provide the width, high up the pitch to stretch the opponent’s backline. If the right-sided central midfielder does look to drift into the wide channel, this can open the half-space to penetrate either with a pass into the final third. Or, through dribbling to provide crosses for the central two strikers, which is a concept we will come on to later. Brittain’s passing stats are certainly impressive, a concept we will go into more depth later. However, with 33.45 short/medium passes per 90 with a success of 86.9%, shows Brittain is certainly buying into the style Martin is looking to implement.
Out of possession, Brittain’s role within his sides press encourages him to press high. With the athleticism and pace to recover, Brittain will look to press the opposition full-back if either, the outside central midfielder has pushed on to the centre-back. Or as shown in the example below, the central midfielder has gone narrow to cover part of a two-man pivot, allowing Brittain to step on. Although Brittain has shown impressive attacking statistics, his defensive duels are on average at the same level to those in his position. With 7.35 duels per 90 at a success of 57.9%, Brittain certainly doesn’t let his side down in a 1v1 situation. Given his role, this allows Brittain to engage in less aerial duels, with 2.32 per 90 below average for his position to cover a possible weakness in his game.
Height and width
An important aspect of Brittain’s game is his ability to get forward to pick up high and wide positions. Brittain looks to provide an option either on the outside as an overlapping full-back or looks to fill spaces in between to play on the opposite line to the midfielder directly in front.
Brittain has clearly looked to get involved in attacks as much as possible, with the highest number of touches in the opposition box per 90 of any full-back in EFL League one under the age of 23 (1.81). By operating in these high areas, this has certainly impacted on Brittain’s statistics, showing 8.9 offensive duels per 90, with a success of 45.99%, putting him 9th overall for all full-backs in the division.
The first example below showcases the position that Brittain picks up, and the impact it has on his teammates positioning. With Brittain in the wide channel higher, the outside midfielder starts to drop behind to give an angle. Ahead of the ball, the two forwards operate the central channel, with Carlton Morris, the closest forward showing a diagonal option.
With the positioning of the two forwards starting narrow, the opposition back four narrows up to support and prevent a 2v2. This encourages Brittain to attack the outside channel, while also forcing a recovery run from the opposition wide player, providing less threat on the counterattack. However, not only does Brittain’s position affect the opponent, but the timing of his movement is key as we will look in the next example.
With Joe Mason in possession, making a movement along the defensive line, he drags the left-sided full-back out of position. By then dropping down, Brittain times an opposite movement in the wide channel to overlap and deliver in behind the recovering backline. Brittain also recognises the opposition’s wide player switches off, allowing the full-back to make a blindside movement in behind.
The key trigger here for Brittain is to recognise the full-back narrowing inside to create space on the outside. With Dean Lewington staying deep and narrow to create a back three for MK, providing cover and balance, allowing for Brittain to make this overlap. As well as arriving late to provide width, Brittain also showcases examples of holding the height for his side, in the next example.
As shown below, Brittain operates a high and wide position, on the oppositions defensive line. By dropping deep to then exaggerate his run outside of the opposition’s full-back, creating a larger passing lane to penetrate in behind. With a diagonal run from out to in, Brittain moves in behind, timing his movement with the back lift of the holding midfielder, on this occasion Conor McGrandles. By holding a high line, Brittain forces the opponent to stretch their defensive line, requiring a holding midfielder to drop into the gaps, creating more space in front for midfielders or forwards to occupy.
This space created in front of the defensive line is an area recognised from the forward Morris, dropping down onto space in between. With this movement, the opposition midfielder who has dropped in, moves to his right in preparation to step out, widening the passing lane more to find Brittain’s run. Brittain is able to then receive the ball in behind, with a well-timed run, to play a low driven cross behind the defence for the two teammates who have positioned themselves at the far post to finish.
Brittain has shown his qualities in possession while in the attacking third, with his high number of dribbles. As shown in the graphic below, Brittain provides a high number of dribbles close to the opposition’s box, with 5.37 per 90 at a success of 59.4%, 9th best for all full-backs in the division. Brittain looks to be positive with his dribbles with 2.18 progressive dribbles per 90, ranking 6th best for all fullbacks under 23. Let’s take a look at some examples of these dribbles.
As the graphic above shows, the areas Brittain looks to attack the opponent through dribbles is in the wide channel. This area especially allows him to go on the outside, to attack the by-line and deliver for the two forwards. As shown in the example below, Brittain will begin his dribbles around the edge of the area, receiving the ball at an angle, giving support from behind. Brittain looks to drive diagonally at his opponent, before shifting the ball quickly onto his stronger right foot, to attack the outside channel.
Brittain intelligently uses the momentum of his opponent to his advantage. As the ball is played back to him, his opponent begins to narrow up and shifts his momentum inside, allowing Brittain’s explosive change of pace on the outside to catch him unbalanced. Ahead of him, the movement from the forward, moving inside, attracts the attention of the full-back, creating a 1v1, for Brittain to attack. He takes a minimal number of touches to deliver quickly, reducing the time for the opponents back four to stabilise and position in preparation.
This next example shows Brittain driving at the space in-between when a teammate has looked to occupy the outside channel. On this occasion, the forward has drifted wide, catching the attention of the opposition’s left full-back, creating a channel in the half-space to drive a, once again attacking the by-line. Brittain change of pace catches his opponent out in the 1v1 situation, as well as his forward momentum, beating the covering defender who is caught flat-footed, to deliver a low driven cross.
The final aspect of Brittain’s role is his ability to play forwards in advanced areas to help unlock defences. The graphic below highlights Brittain’s impact in possession, with a high number of progressive passes finding the final third. Brittain completes 9.4% progressive passes per 90 with a success of 78.21%, the 3rd highest accurate passes in the division. Brittain also completes 1.58 deep completions per 90, the 4th highest in the division, showcasing his ability to find teammates in and around the opponents 18-yard-box.
The importance of this graphic, highlights the number of passes made diagonally towards Zone 14, the central area in front of the box. Operating from a slightly narrower line to wider teammate has allowed Brittain to find diagonal passes into advanced midfielders or the feet of forwards dropping in between lines. Let’s take a look at some of Brittain’s final third passes in action.
In the example below a forward run from deep, has created a passing option for Brittain. Receiving at an angle rather than square allows Brittain to be central to find a pass into the inside channel of the area. Brittain’s position encourages a midfielder to break his shape to press, opening up the passing lane to find the forward runner. With the wide midfielder for MK pinning the opposition’s left-back, the passing lane widens allowing Brittain to play one of his on average 3.46 passes into the penalty area at a success of 52.4%.
With the angle Brittain is at, he can play in behind the recovering midfielder, timing his pass as his teammate makes a movement across the face of the centre back. He showcases his intelligent vision to recognise the midfielder looking to block the passing lane also steps away to his right, opening this area into the channel to take more opponents out of the game.
The pass from Brittain finds its intended target, with two opponent reacting to the receiver. This allows for the two teammates who didn’t receive possession to drift to the far post, creating a 2v2 for any possible cutback opportunity. Brittain certainly has an impact in the final third, with 6.38 final third passes at a success percentage of 68.9%, it ranks Brittain as 5th highest in the division.
Brittain isn’t only comfortable in the final third, but also when looking to play out from deep, through pressure. Being able to look forward to break lines under pressure is a key characteristic of Martin’s style as shown in the example below is an area Brittain has excelled at. With pressure from the defender forcing Brittain onto his weaker left foot, the full-back is forced to play around the corner to break a line, finding the central midfielder McGrandles in a higher pocket of space.
Brittain recognises the opponent has committed, with the second presser wider than required, creating the perfect passing lane to play a first-time penetrative pass. With Martin requiring his side also to receive deeper and closer to their own goal, this encourages the opponent to set traps and press. Brittain shows the calmness and quality to play through the opponent, a concept he has highly developed as part of his game.
With the uncertainty around Brittain’s contract situation, Martin is sure to want to tie up his young full-back quickly. The licence to get forward has certainly allowed the academy graduate to show his impact in the attacking third this season, with the change in system relying on Brittain to provide the width as high as possible, stretching the opponent.
Questions will be pointed towards his defensive side of the game, but with the high-risk press that Martin has instructed on his side, Brittain’s part will take effect much higher up the pitch. As well his superb athleticism will benefit him greatly in 1v1’s especially against higher level wingers if he was to make the step up.
Certainly, Brittain has been a shining light in an up and down season for the Dons. The hope is some smart recruitment, with a long term strategy can see Martin looking at the right end of the table.