By Bradley Lovell - 29/05/2020
Scott Fraser follows a stream of Scottish-born players coming through the ranks in their home country, before making the switch to the EFL. Having played in the youth teams of Dee Club, and Longforgan BC he then made the successful move to Dundee United’s youth system and made his first-team debut in the 2013/14 season albeit for just seven minutes of action. Fraser was then loaned out to Aidrieonians; making 30 appearances for them in league and cup.
After his first established stint in first-team football with Aidrie, Fraser went on to make 105 appearances in all competitions with Dundee United before his switch to Burton on a free transfer in 2018.
Fraser has been one of the first names on the team sheet this season and hit a real purple patch between 19th November 2019 – 14th January 2020 where Burton’s form also coincided picking up 8 wins from 14 in all competitions. However, since then Burton have won just 1 from 10 with Frasers starting appearances dwindling alongside the departure of Liam Boyce.
Although there have been some question marks at the back for Burton Albion this season, Nigel Clough in the last 5 years has instilled an attractive and expansive brand of football at the Pirelli Stadium. Lucas Akins, Jamie Murphy, and Liam Boyce contributing 32 goals in all competitions. Even with Liam Boyce’s departure to Hearts in January.
A large part of these goal contributions has been due to creativity from behind them. The main source being Scott Fraser. In this report, I am going to focus on his weight of pass, smart passing, dribbling, acceleration, composure, and defensive output.
Role at Burton
Burton primarily set up in a 4-3-3 formation with Fraser operating on the left side of the midfield three. He is the prime playmaker contributing 9 goals and 11 assists from central midfield in all competitions this season, an immense attacking output, and one of the star performers in Sky Bet League 1.
Scott Fraser will often pull into the half-spaces on the left side of the pitch to find angles to release overlapping fullbacks, on-rushing wingers and exercising the wide-angle he finds to deliver whipped out swinging crosses for the centre-forward. Whom for much of the season was Liam Boyce. Below you can see a heatmap illustrating his average positioning this season showing his tendency to operate in wide spaces but also advance from deep.
Burton have the 7th highest possession average in the league at 52% and when coming up against some of the more direct sides it is a common occurrence that teams will set up with a deep defensive block. As such Fraser is particularly important as his short, smart passing at times this season was a master-key for defences. However, that does not mean he is ineffective in a more open game or against better opponents as he acts as the pivot on the attack when Burton counter, using his dribbling, acceleration, and incisive passing ability.
Individual Creative Output
The graph below compares League 1 creative midfielders with a minimum of 15 appearances.
Pass Accuracy % x Key Passes per game. Dribble success % and assists per game illustrated by the size and colour scales of the individual plots.
As you can see Fraser ranks as one of the highest in all parameters and based on individual output one of the best creative midfielders in the division. 2.4 key passes per game, 0.4 assists per game, 71.43% dribble success, and 80.8% pass accuracy. When watching Fraser, it is evident how eager he is to spring a key pass to unlock the opposition defence being 3rd for key passes per game.
Weight of Pass and Smart Passing
Weight of Pass
When analysing Fraser’s passing ability, the weight of his pass is a particularly important attribute in sliding forwards and fullbacks behind the opposition. Not only does he find his teammates, but the ball is regularly the perfect weight, and this gives the attacker a much better chance of rolling a first time ball across the box or scoring within one or two touches.
Fraser often sets up on the left of the midfield three this season, sliding passes for the fullbacks and wingers between the opposition centre back and fullback. His emphasis down the left is highlighted in the graph above and below where a large majority of his actions take place in the left channel of the pitch. This is a key role that he plays in the team.
Below is a short clip of analysis of these key positions he finds himself in, the ground pass directly between the fullback and centre back, but also evidence of the weight of pass he has perfected that can unlock a defence.
This is an attractive skill for playmakers in the modern game. So often we now see marauding wingbacks/fullbacks all across the world, so for a playmaker to unleash them, or high pressing wingers behind the defensive line at the right weight is a sought-after skill.
Fraser’s passing attributes do not stop there with an interesting prong of his attack coming in the form of ‘smart passing’. This is a term that has been popularised in the game with the surge in data analysis. It is a term described by Wyscout as ‘a creative and penetrative pass that attempts to break the oppositions defensive lines to gain a significant advantage in attack’. This will usually be a short or medium length pass rather than a long pass.
It is an area of the game that became more important as a foreign influence on the British game became more evident with tiki-taka and possession-based tactics. It is important in these tactics as it can be especially hard to break through a deep block (often used to defend against possession-based tactics) and creative smart passes are useful to find chances behind the deep block.
Fraser can use and manipulate every part of his boot to scoop, toe-poke, and side-foot the ball behind the opposition backline. This is Frasers biggest strength and is a large factor behind such a high creative output touched on earlier in his assists per game. Below is an example of the sort of situation Fraser uses smart passes to unlock defences in high-pressure circumstances where many would shift the ball sideways or buckle under pressure.
These skills that Fraser boasts in tight areas, against compact defences indicates an ability to play at a higher level in a possession-based system as the playmaker.
Dribbling, Acceleration and Composure
These three attributes merge in what is a majestic side to Fraser’s game. In the earlier graph on Fraser’s creative output he had a dribble success of 71.43% which is 14.33% above the average in that pool, showing his exceptional dribbling ability.
Receiving the ball in restricted areas, with a marker close, Fraser uses brilliant close control and dribbling to dance past the opponent in a couple of touches with both feet. The final touch will push the ball into the open space and give himself the chance to then accelerate with a small burst of pace into dangerous areas.
Many midfielders have this ability but the addition of composure and penetrative passing to Scott’s game mean that in high-pressure dribbling situations, he can manipulate the ball exceedingly well and have an end product.
In the clips below there are several examples of Fraser in areas where the game looks at a comfortable, low-tempo but will use these three attributes to dictate the tempo and become the heartbeat of the Burton side, driving them forward with clinical precision.
Tackles Won Per Game x Interceptions Per Game with the colour and circumference of the individual plots relations to Tackle Success % and Total Blocks Made Per Game respectively.
Scott’s performances on the attack are a joy to watch. However, his defensive output is slightly less impressive as shown in the graph below which shows his defensive output is significantly below the average for other central midfielders.
An interesting point is that his defensive output ranks among midfielders who are considered 'attacking midfielders'. However, Fraser operating for much of the season on the left side of a midfield three where he would be expected to have more defensive knowhow and tactical responsibility in the defensive phase. Interestingly, Fraser did operate in an attacking midfield position 4 times for Burton this season where he scored 1 and assisted 2.
A future manager may look to deploy Fraser in a more advanced role to help with the defensive phase and get a more consistent attacking threat out of Fraser, if the defensive shackles are lifted by a tweak in position.
In conclusion, Scott Fraser is an extremely exciting playmaker, who will get fans on their feet and create a bag-full of opportunities for his teammates. Many of his attacks will focus down the left side as he pulls into those half spaces looking for room to dictate the game. A trademark for him is a ground pass cutting between the opposition centre back and fullback. Whilst some of his defensive attributes remain a question mark, the recently appointed Burton manager Jake Buxton could look utilise him in a more advanced position, release the defensive shackles and maximise attacking influence.
Strengths come in releasing an overlapping wide player in behind, but also his smart passing in tight areas which is enough to cause problems for some of the best defences in the EFL.
Scott has impressive physical, technical, and psychological attributes that have been ever so impressive this season despite a couple of dips in form. With the next transfer window looking to be a restricted one, Scott Fraser could be a catalyst in a play-off charge for Burton.
(Data from Whoscored and Wyscout)
(Pitch graphs from Wyscout)
(Scatter Graphs and Radars property of Stats Smart Analytics)
(Videos credit from Wyscout)
By Bradley Lovell