The England football fans are living in their most beautiful days knowing their national team has one of the strongest squad in the world after finishing both the World Cup and Nations League in the top four. Gareth Southgate is not only having high-quality players who are at their peak at the present, but he also has a potential next-generation: Callum Hudson-Odoi, Jadon Sancho or Phil Foden. However, it will be a huge mistake if we forget to mention Rhian Brewster on the list. 

Earning the FIFA U-17 World Cup trophy at the age of 17, claiming the Golden Boot in the same tournament and becoming the European Champion just two years after; things that Brewster has done are exactly what every young player desires. But in order to reach the world-class level such as Kylian Mbappe or Trent Alexander-Arnold – who became star player at a very young age –  Brewster has many things to do. Unlike Foden or Hudson-Odoi, the young striker chose to join Swansea on loan with only one purpose: to prove his ability to Jürgen Klopp and find a chance to play for Liverpool in the Premier League. Moving to Swansea and playing under Steve Cooper’s direction seems like the right choice of the British youngster to develop himself. In this tactical analysis piece, we will examine Brewster’s remarkable traits and also his main role in Swansea’s squad.

Overview

Brewster is the striker with versatility and is able to play in both the centre zone and the wings or half-spaces and he usually puts pressure on the opponent’s players, especially wingers. Despite being the centre striker in Cooper’s starting line-up, Brewster often swaps his position with André Ayew, operating in the wings and half-space to find spaces and create scoring chances.

Swansea’s tactics are to build their play from both wings, thus there is no surprise when we usually see the position exchange between the English striker and the Ghanaian international player. This exchange can make their opponent’s defenders confused and unconsciously open spaces for them to exploit. On the other hand, Brewster is also a player who is very sensitive in utilising the space inside the box, which is useful for a striker. 

Below is the heat map of Brewster at Swansea. We can see that the green area in the flanks and half-spaces are swarthier than the area inside the box.

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report tactical analysis tactics
Brewster’s heatmap at Swansea

Flanks and half-spaces operation 

As we mentioned previously, Cooper gives his strikers permission to operate wide and constantly swap their position. This also allows the 20-year-old player to have chances to find other ways to score instead of waiting in the box.

Combining with his agility, delicacy, and exemption in defending duty, Brewster becomes a real hazard for defenders who face his pace when it comes to a counter-attack. 

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
The 2019 UEFA Champions League winner is very dangerous with his speed and dribbling ability and he often eliminates his opponents easily with his pace.

When operating in the flanks and half-spaces, Brewster always knows how to detach himself from the defender who is marking him. Conor Gallagher and Ayew usually do their job well in attracting opponents and therefore, the rest is up to Brewster.

He just needs to drag back with one step, and then space for him to shoot appears. The Champions League winner has a noticeable speed but he does not abuse it. By contrast, his short, simple moves are the ones that make him a smart striker.

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Brewster easily got rid of his opponents and received the ball due to his short and simple moves.
Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Conor Gallagher did a very good job by narrowing down Blackburn’s defensive block. Brewster needed only one step back and he immediately opened a wider angle to finish the ball that Gallagher gave him.
Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
This time, Ayew was the man who attracted the defenders’ attention to open up space for Brewster in the half-space.

Hide in plain sight

In the overview, we said that Brewster is a sensitive striker when it comes to finding a scoring chance inside the box. Although finishing seems like a big problem with the former Chelsea attacker, we can’t deny his talent in space awareness; and with a player who still has many years to train and improve himself like Brewster, this is a positive signal.

What makes the FIFA U-17 World Cup Golden Boot so special is the ability to vanish from defenders’ sight by moving to the spaces behind them or running into their blind spot and suddenly accelerate in a blink of an eye to touch the ball.

When doing this, it’s very difficult for defenders to know where Brewster is until he surprisingly appears in front of their faces; and it will be the moment before he put the ball into goalkeeper’s net.

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Brewster was trying to run into three defensive players’ blind spots and then he surprisingly received the ball from Ayew.
Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
The young striker outran Adarabioyo before receiving the cutback. Unfortunately, he missed the final touch.

The player who joined Swansea on loan from Liverpool has his own methods to impact the game by exploiting the gap between the side centre-back and the defensive winger. He always waits for his teammates to send him a through ball and then he can sneak behind defenders and open up his chance. Brewster does not abuse his pace but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need it; when he does, he can reach a high speed in just a moment.

Brewster does not only use those moves to exploit the gap himself, but also brings his teammates space and time to receive the ball, so they can distribute it to him later. In a straight way or an indirect one, Brewster always receives benefit from his moves and finishes the attack.

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Brewster dragged along a Hull’s player, allowing Gallagher to have more space and he created a pass that helped Brewster score after he got into position.
Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
His acceleration in a short distance is becoming his trademark.

On the other hand, another way for the number 19 to get rid of his opponent is by moving to the far post when the ball is processing in the opposite flank. Defensive players’ attention often stays with strikers or the midfielder who is rushing into the box or waiting for a cross; as a result, they usually forget about the guy who is standing behind them in a comfortable position, ready to receive the second ball.

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Brewster was trying to move to the far post before receiving the ball from Kalulu’s cross.

Problems

One of many young talents’ weakness is decision-making; particularly the shoot-or-not decision with the strikers. There are many factors that have impacts on a striker when he is preparing to make a decision to shoot or to pass the ball but the main two factors are the shortage of experience or his overconfidence. Brewster is not an exception.

Like we said in the above part, Brewster is especially brilliant in his movement but finishing is the issue that holds him back. In spite of creating many chances for himself, the British young boy only has four goals after 11 games for the Black Swans this season which means that he missed many. According to Wyscout, Brewster has 39 shots this season and 1.86 shots per game; but 44.4% of them were off target.

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Brewster attracted the attraction from four players but he chose to shoot instead of passing the ball to Gallagher.
Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
In this case, he had an opportunity to send a through ball to his teammate Ayew, or he could’ve held the ball and waited for his teammates; but he didn’t.

Like many young players who are in the early stages of their careers, Brewster has a physical weakness. Apparently, he is not going to be a target man who creates the effect by using body strength; but improving physical strength can give him some advantages. Brewster may be a dangerous player when he is proactive in speed dribbles or one-touch passes, but when it comes to protecting the ball under defenders’ pressure, it will be very hard for him to pass or shoot with accuracy.

A typical instance of how strength can help players who have great speed is Mohamed Salah – Brewster’s teammate at Liverpool – the one who has a perfect fusion between pace and a six-pack body and has an ability to play in both centre zone and wings.  

Rhian Brewster 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Brewster missed his kick after Adarabioyo put him into pressure from behind.

Conclusion

In this scout report, we can see that Brewster is witnessing his first season in the Championship with many changes and improvements. Although having problems with shooting accuracy and physical weakness, Brewster’s space awareness also proved that claiming the U-17 World Cup Golden Boot was not a coincidence.

By using the chances that Steve Cooper gives him to prove himself, the British youngster is trying his best to reach a higher level. From this analysis, football fans can count on him to become a star striker of the future. Klopp and Liverpudlians are certainly always following him and waiting for the day when their boy returns home.

Minh Quan Lai
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