If the average football fan had to guess who led the Premier League in big chances created this season, it is likely that only the statistically-inclined among them would guess Bournemouth wide midfielder, Ryan Fraser. The diminutive Scotsman had a prolific 2018/19, helping Bournemouth to a mid-table finish and to what will be the club’s fifth season in the Premier League. This tactical analysis report will take a look at the success of Fraser this past season.
Who is Ryan Fraser?
Ryan Fraser grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland. Joining the youth academy of his local club, Fraser rose through the ranks and made his first-team debut at the early age of 16. The right-footed left winger joined Bournemouth three years later when the club was competing in League One. After a few inconsistent seasons including a loan spell at Ipswich Town, Fraser has begun to make his mark as an ideal attacker in manager Eddie Howe‘s system.
This past Premier League campaign was somewhat of a breakout season for the 163cm tall Fraser. The midfielder recorded an impressive 93 key passes, good for third in the entire league, as well as 14 assists, second only to Eden Hazard. As stated, he led the Premier League in big chances created (created chances that should have ended in a goal) with 28, a whole 10 more than the next creator, Hazard. Add seven goals including a brace against Leicester and these statistics have the makings of a very strong season.
Positioning and attack
Howe, while not without his critics, has effectively kept Bournemouth from any real relegation threat since the club’s Premier League debut season in 2015/16. His mid-block system is considered brash by some as it has the disadvantage of leaving the space behind the backline open for opponents. This is evidenced by Bournemouth conceding the third-most goals in the Premier League this season, only ahead of Huddersfield and Fulham; 20th and 19th in the league table respectively. The advantage in this system, however, is in the positioning of the attacking players.
Howe utilizes a 4-4-2 out of possession with a counter-press and a 4-2-3-1 in possession involving quick ball rotation in attack. It is this attacking style that has suited Fraser well throughout the season.
Fraser often plays in the central, left half-space, and left areas of the pitch. This level of freedom on the pitch, combined with his spatial awareness and the quick attacking concepts, have given him the licence to penetrate the defence in a number of different ways.
This unpredictability paired with Fraser’s pace has been a major part of his recent success.
In addition to his fruitful production statistics, his advanced numbers tell a similar story. He recorded the highest xA90 in the league of players who played 20 or more matches at 0.46, with Leroy Sane coming in second with 0.39. While set pieces do have influence in his assists, there’s contrary proof in the more advanced metrics. His xA on the season was 16.18; 2.18 higher than his actual assists. Not only does this mean there was actually a level of underperforming in his chance creation, but a large portion of that difference – 1.56 to be exact – was in open play.
Fraser was excellent on set pieces, but a vast majority of his chance creation came in open play. It was his ability to find and exploit space using his bursts of speed that has made him so beneficial to Bournemouth‘s attack.
Fraser also furthered his career through Scotland’s youth ranks and has been in and out of the Scotland national team ever since. In addition to improving with his club, he also showed his ability for his country this season, including scoring his first ever goal for Scotland.
Despite the national team’s recent struggles, Fraser has been one of the more effective call-ups as of late and should see more time with the team in the near future.
“Eddie is a terrific manager, a future manager of England, and he has been a big influence on me, especially in terms of developing my game.” – Ryan Fraser on Eddie Howe
Ryan Fraser had a very prosperous Premier League season. So much so that a number of other English clubs have been rumoured to be interested in the midfielder this summer, including top-six side Arsenal. Eddie Howe and Fraser clearly have a strong mutual respect for each other, and the way the Scottish midfielder fits so well in his manager’s system will surely be a factor in the decision making over the next few months.
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