By Bradley Lovell (@Analytics_SS)
The 21-year-old midfielder, who grow up in Bridgwater just over 40 miles away from Exeter signed his first professional contract with Exeter City in July 2017. Collins would then go on-loan to Weston Super-Mare and Dorchester Town making a total of 24 appearances in the 2017/18 season.
This set him up in good stead for the 2018/19 season making 33 apps in all competition during his breakthrough season and would go onto make a total of 128 appearances in all competitions to date; including being named captain for Exeter's FA Cup match against Cambridge in 2019.
A mainstay in the Exeter midfield this term making 46 starts with Exeter finishing in 9th just outside the play-off places on 70 points and had to settle for another season in the fourth tier of English football.
The exact details of his contract are clouded with the club announcing a 'long-term' contract in January 2019. But also noting that they had high hopes for the youngster to follow other successful youngsters from the clubs academy such as Tom Nichols, Matt Grimes, Ethan Ampadu, Jordan Storey, Matt Jay, Christy Pym, Jordan Moore-Taylor, Jamie Reid, James Hamon and Ollie Watkins.
Where does he fit?
Exeter have primarily used a 4-2-3-1 formation with Archie Collins usually filling the LCM position in a double-pivot that covers some of his defensive deficiencies. But have been known to switch largely between a 4-2-3-1 (38% usage) and a 3-4-1-2/3-5-2 (13% usage) throughout the season.
The heatmap above indicates how busy Collins can be as he is able to both orchestrate play from the deeper two-man midfield, but also capable of advancing further forward in a 3-5-2. Most of Collins' passing is focused on supplying the wingers such as Randell Williams who in-turn looks to supply the frontman (often Ryan Bowman).
Archie is a versatile midfielder who during his time with the senior team has mainly operated in central-midfield. However, during his time with academy he was capable of playing in central-midfield as well as wide and behind the striker.
What does the data say?
Below is a Pizza graph that indicates the percentile rank of Archie Collins in different metrics compared to other SkyBet League Two CM's with a minimum of 1000 minutes played this season.
Initially, the 'In Possession' section of the graph stands out as an area of expertise for Archie with the only metric that falls below .89 is Pass Accuracy which has a percentile rank of .59 whilst the Metric Amount stands at 80.59% throughout the course of the season.
Elsewhere in the 'In Possession' section it highlights a number of strengths in how he probes and helps Exeter attack with great metrics for Progressive Passing, Passes to the final 1/3, and Passes to the Penalty Area. It is no surprise then that in the Metrics for Passes(P90) and Passes Received (p90) Collins boasts percentile ranks of .90 and .71 respectively as Exeter look to utilise his technical prowess in possession and unlock the opposition.
Archie also has several impressive metrics in the 'Attacking' section with Non-Penalty Goals- Non-Penalty Expected Goals (NPG-NPxG) 0f 1.75 over the season. NPxG per shot shows us that when he does shoot at goal, they are more often than not from low xG value zones throughout the season.
Interestingly, Collins makes 1.08 Progressive runs (P90) which ranks at .74 as a percentile rank compared. This means that he does not also help his team progress forwards using proactive passing but can also carry the ball and progress this way instead.
I'm a Scatt-er man... below are two basic scatter graphs looking at xAssists (P90) and NPxG (P90) on the first scatter graph while Successful Attacking Actions (P90) is highlighted by the colour scale. On the second scatter graph it illustrates Successful Defensive Actions (P90) and Defensive Duels Won (%), while Defensive Duels (P90) are marked on the colour scale. I did this to create a basic overview of attacking a defensive output.
Here we can see exactly how Archie Collins lines up in specific metrics compared to others in the pool. Second assists and xA perhaps slightly underwhelming compared to others but this is due to the deeper role that Collins has played for much of the season. However, he is still being creative and progressive in his passing, and he is often further back in attacking moves, being used to kickstart attacks and maintain possession.
It is important to match the data with actually seeing Collins play. I watched three matches:
Exeter 3 - 2 Grimsby
Bolton 1 - 2 Exeter
Exeter 1 - 1 Barrow
Below are brief match reports where I combine my thoughts on his play in that game, as well as using data to track is whereabouts through the game as formations changed.
Furthermore, I have included Pass-Maps as well as a grading sheet for my visual scouting that will go into a database of all players I have scouted.
Firstly, Grimsby (H) -
Archie Collins featured as a LCM for the first 60 minutes of the game and was allowed to advance higher due to the cover of a single pivot behind him. This meant that he could combine with Robbie Willmott on the left side and did so comfortably with one and two-touch play looking relatively comfortable under pressure. However even with the pivot behind Collins did drop deep to collect the ball and start moves from there.
From the 60th minute onwards Exeter shifted to a 3-5-2 with Collins lining up in CM. In the heatmap breakdown below you can see how this effected his positioning as he had more defensive responsibility but still managed to cover the width of the pitch which allowed him to distribute the ball to the wide men.
Pass Accuracy was at 91.49% which backs up just how well he kept the ball this game, often receiving under pressure but due to remarkable composure and agility is often able to find himself a yard and comfortably shift the ball to his teammates.
Defensively, Collins was proactive in the press, which his mobility underpins. However, this did not always mean success in his pressure. Collins was often overly eager to engage and had little success when engaging a tackle, often coming out without the ball.
Furthermore, at set pieces although Collins is aware and quick to react to his marker on the first phase of a defensive set piece. After the first contact was made, he often lost concentration and his marker in the second phase.
Secondly, Bolton (A) -
Featuring as a LCM in a 4-2-3-1 formation alongside Jake Taylor at the base of midfield. The passing was not as accurate at 73.53% however there were more risky and progressive passes attempted particularly through the middle of the pitch.
From the 60th minute in the heatmap breakdown you can see Collins was moved into a RCM role in a 3-4-1-2 and was heavily involved close to the byline in combination play.
When Randell Williams (LW) dropped deeper to receive the ball in a deep position from the CB, Collins pushed high into the left channel and would sometimes receive long balls for him to contest with, this did not play to his strengths, but nonetheless battled in aerial duels.
Collins used a range of passing a dribbling to progress the ball in this game, his close control, balance, and agility when dribbling under pressure was impressive. However, in the defensive third when he has dropped in deep are areas of the pitch where it will become much more dangerous to dribble the ball if he plays against better opposition.
Defensively, Collins put in great work rate and covered lots of ground but again showed problems in tackle.
Finally, Barrow (H) -
Lining up once more in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Collins was the LCM of a two-man base midfield. His passing this game was centred around finding the wide men with passes predominantly in the middle-third, leaving them with space to run into.
This was a game where Exeter tinkered with the shape and personnel a lot. Collins seemed to comfortably understand and slip into the new role.
Stand out moments of the game were some lovely close control from Collins whilst the ball was bouncing, and able to pass accurately to his teammate as well as adapting to the awkward bounce and pass back. Then proceeding to get his head up and retain possession in a deep position.
Defensive fragility was noticeable in duels. But overall a very calm composed performance helping the midfield to keep ticking over.
Visual Scouting Grade Sheet
Below is a grading sheet with criteria gathered over time and through networking. This sheet is a Midfielder template and breaks down the aspects of a midfielder's game that may be valuable for different roles.