by Bradley Lovell 11/03/2021
Name: Elliot Watt
Club: Bradford City
Style: Technical Midfielder
Growing up in Fulwood just a stones-throw from Preston, Elliot Watt has a variety of youth experience under his belt, including Liverpool, and Blackburn. But in 2016 Watt was offered a move to his local club Preston North End. However, it was Wolves where Watt's career began to enter a new chapter as he fast became one of the most exciting prospects in their academy. Furthermore, in 2017 Elliot was capped for Scotland U17's and has gone on to make 23 appearances for various Scottish youth teams up to the U21's.
Watt signed his first professional contract in 2018 with Wolves making his senior debut in a 2-0 victory at Hillsborough in the FA Cup Second Round. As many young pro's these days struggle to gain valuable first team minutes the only way to gain this experience is a loan move. Elliot was no different and joined League Two outfit Carlisle United making 14 appearances.
Whilst on loan Elliot impressed scouts and fans alike with a clutch of performances which underlined an impressive technical ability to spray long driven passes, as well as a composure ahead of his years to deal with opponents who attempt pressure and mark his playmaking abilities from deep midfield.
Considering how highly regarded he was at Wolves, Watt made somewhat a surprise move to Bradford in the summer of 2020. Although, given the progression on and off the field in the Premier League at Molineux the challenge to break into a midfield such as theirs may have proved difficult. Watt signed on the dotted line for Bradford who beat off several other EFL suitors and has enjoyed a successful season so far particularly since Mark Trueman, and Connor Sellars stepped in for Stuart McCall in December.
In the 2020/21 season Bradford have used a 4-2-3-1 formation 23% of the time which is their most popular formation of choice with Watt comfortably playing as a double pivot at the base of midfield. Second most popular at 19% is the 4-1-4-1 where Elliot Watt plays as the sole pivot who operates just in front of the back four using his long-range passing abilities to progress Bradford up field using clipped switches of play to bring the wingers and fullbacks into play.
Below I have illustrated 2 typical set-ups in the games scouted and it displays how Elliot Watt can be utilised in different set-ups as a double or single pivot which reinstates his authority in a deep-lying midfield position by showing versatility in his role.
Watt is often at arm's length for defenders when possession has been won and will look to offer simple passes out from the back by creating angles for a pass with an open body always gladly accepting possession. Once he receives the ball, he looks predominantly for the wide areas whether that be for overlapping fullbacks as wingers move infield to the half space, or for high and wide wingers. This is illustrated below where I reconstructed one of the moves orchestrated by Elliot Watt in a 2-1 victory vs Walsall. A great but simple move kicked-off by Watt (18) where if Crankshaw showed some more composure could have been finished or crossed instead of lashed wide.
In this graphic you can see as mentioned previously how Watt tends to get close to his central defenders, give an easy outlet for possession and dictate tempo by demanding the ball back from the defender, which shifts the Walsall defence slightly narrower before a clipped pass out to O'Connor to stretch play and open up room for Crankshaw in the half space. Watt often prefers lofted passes over long distances rather than trying to penetrate with short snappy ground passes.
Below are pass-maps of three games I scouted with Morecambe (H) being the obvious highlight where he completed 73 passes at 83% accuracy and managed several trademark switches to stretch the opposition's shape. However, Bradford setup in a 4-2-3-1 with Watt on the left of a 2-man defensive midfield so did have a partner in that area of the pitch to ease defensive burden so there was a difference to his role compared to the other two maps here.
It is evident there are a number of forward passes. This is important for a player of Watt's ilk as progressing the ball forward into more dangerous areas with piercing passes, allows forwards and advanced midfielders to flourish closer to goal and provide a more realistic goal threat.
A good way of measuring this is progressive passes, which allows us to analyse forward passes in a more relevant way. *A pass is considered progressive if the distance between the starting point and the next touch is:
at least 30 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are within a team’s own half
at least 15 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in different halves
at least 10 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in the opponent’s half
*as defined by Wyscout
These two bee swarms indicate both progressive passes per 90 and progressive pass accuracy (%) compared with other central midfielders in SkyBet League Two with more than 1000 minutes played. Elliot outperforms the average in both and attempts the most progressive passes per 90 in his position in the league whilst maintaining an above average accuracy of 73.06% so he is regularly able to move his team forward and gain territory with this incisive passing ability.
Out of Possession
Watt is a busy player out of possession who will aggressively press the ball with aggression and tenacity. This shows with 2.4 tackles per90 which is the 2nd highest in the squad this season. Conversely, he has given away 1.2 fouls per90 which comes at the expense of aggressive tackling. Even with such intent in his press and tackle, Watt is not blessed with natural fast pace and physical stature. So therefore, is not entirely impressive aerially or shoulder to shoulder with some of the more physical League Two players. Below I have illustrated in a dashboard, several graphs that highlight his defensive attributes further:
Ball Recovery Map
Defensive Statistics Percentile Ranking compared to L2 CM/DM's
Defensive Outlook Scatter
Defensive duels won (%) and Aerial duels won (%) both on the scatter graph and the percentile bar chart indicate deficiencies in that area that correlates with the visual scouting. However, he does still stand well defensively in other aspects such as PAdj Interceptions (possession adjusted) where his tenacity and intelligence on the press gives him good numbers.
From his recovery map it is noticeable majority of these are in the middle-third which shows the sort of area where he does his work, he does not often break lines into the final third and will often sit in front of that back four, whether that be in possession, so he is available for a pass, or out of possession as he looks to smother counterattacks and maintain long spells of pressure against the opposition.
Below are two different examples of where his aggressive press can benefit the team from games scouted. In the first instance the ball is comes into number 22 who is looking to receive the ball on the half-turn before driving at the heart of the defence. However, Watt is intelligent in his initial position and sets a trap for 22 to take his first touch and nips in to pinch possession before offloading possession safely. Secondly, he notices a potential overload on the RB and again traps the attacker with intelligent positioning and then darts across for a 50/50 that he comes out with before again showing great composure to his play as he calmly lays it off for possessions sake.
Other noticeable qualities
Watt takes majority of set pieces from both sides and excels in his ability to swing curling balls with height often towards the marked area at back post below. In this occasion from a deep and wide right free-kick Watt is still able to curl with great speed and accuracy towards the 'second six-yard box' where it can cause indecision between the opposition goalkeeper and his defence.
Elliot Watt is a deep-lying playmaker who is very comfortable on the ball but equally adept without the ball using positional nous and intelligent pressing. More comfortable in a deeper role so that he can dictate the tempo of a game and begin to create opportunities for the wide players. A very determined professional who will stop at nothing to further himself and play regular football. In addition to this, has a great set piece delivery which adds great dead-ball threat.
Physicality is not a natural strength and the aggressive nature of his pressing tendencies comes at the expense of cheap free kicks. His ability as a goal scorer is somewhat untested in his role and seems inconsistent when presented with a chance.
However, Watt uses his intelligence, technical attributes, and tenacity to really impact a game in Sky Bet League Two which can be a tough physical slog at times.
Would be a top signing for any League One club with future ambitions of the Championship.
Thanks for reading.... references below
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