As the Scottish Premiership Football League comes to an official end, we’ll use tactical analysis to evaluate the performances of last year’s PFA Scotland Young Player of the year, Ryan Kent.

Having left Liverpool on the 4th September, Kent travelled north to Glasgow in the hope of establishing himself in regular first-team football for Rangers. His debut came against Livingston FC on the 14th September. But after 41 minutes, Kent suffered a hamstring injury, missing seven fixtures.

Initially, Kent’s minutes were limited as he recovered. His season began on the 24th November against Hamilton Academical. He marked the occasion with two goals as they went on to win the match three-one.

This scout report will better inform the reader of Kent’s strengths and weaknesses. It will provide and make use of his statistics from this season. By doing so, we can develop an objective foundation that will allow for an accurate evaluation of his ability.

Positioning

Kent is an athlete capable of playing across the front three. He is primarily deployed on the left-wing at Rangers. However, Kent has also played as a supporting striker and a right-winger for the side.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

As a left-winger, Kent’s responsibilities include; hugging the touchline to stretch the opposition, being an outlet for defenders and midfielders, progressing the ball into the final third, supplying the forward with goal-scoring opportunities and defending against the opposition’s right-back.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

During defensive corners, Kent marks the space at the front post. If the delivery is played short he will pick up the man. His quick acceleration gives him a chance of intercepting and failing that, he applies pressure instantly. Due to this risk, teams tend to negate this option.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

At attacking corners, Kent occupies a space on the edge of the box. If Rangers lose possession, Kent’s quickness enables him to keep up with and break down opposing counter-attacks. If Rangers recover possession outside of the box, Kent’s crossing and long-range shooting ability threaten the opposition’s defence.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

During defensive free kicks, Kent stands in the wall. As the ball is played, he moves forward to provide an opportunity to counter-attack. His speed and dribbling capability make him a threat to the opposition.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

At attacking free kicks, Kent occupies a similar role as he does for attacking corners. His intense pressing style and his crossing and long-range shooting ability threaten the opposition’s defence.

Build-up

Kent is part of Rangers’ build-up play. As a rule of thumb, he hugs the touchline, providing width and an outlet for his teammates. In doing so, the opposition must decide whether to mark him or maintain a narrow shape. Let’s discuss his movements in this phase relating to the ball positions.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

If it’s central, Kent will continue to hug the sideline as shown above. He positions himself in line with the opposing defenders. Consequently, his positioning frees up space for the left-back, Borna Barisic, to receive a pass and attack the line. As this happens, Kent will move one of two ways.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

The first movement is to lead short. Because of Hibernian’s man-to-man marking, Kent draws the opposition’s full-back in, creating space in behind. He plays a one-two with the left-sided midfielder, Joe Aribo. From here, Kent attacks the exposed Hibernian centre-back. His second movement is to move into the middle. This movement happens against defences that remain narrow. Barisic then exploits the free wide spaces, penetrating teams with his crosses or combinations with Aribo. We’ll show an example of this later.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

When Rangers’ build-up is down the right flank, Kent remains a threat. The picture above shows how he runs in behind against teams with a high defensive line and narrow shape. Versus teams with a deeper line, Rangers favour a less direct possession-based approach.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Above are the league’s best progressive runners. Note how Rangers dominate the chart. This clearly shows the tactics employed by Gerrard. In the build-up phase, Kent and the other wingers act as a pressure valve for their defenders and midfielders. When the wingers receive the ball from the other units, they must gain yards.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Ok. So you might- be wondering why Kent starts for Rangers given how he ranked fourth in the previous table. Well, Kent’s ability to retain possession consistently is remarkably higher. Moreover, he’s one of the best in the league as the graphs above show. Ultimately, the ideal player in this position should carry the ball forward, as well as maintain possession under pressure when the situation presents itself. Kent manages to do this better than the other wingers at the club.

Attacking the final third

Kent’s two footed-ness and speed allows him to exploit a wide range of techniques to break through opposing lines.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

Highlighted above is his decision to cut inside onto his preferred right foot. In this position, Kent can shoot from range, play an in-swinging cross to the back post, draw out a centre-back by continuing his run and link up with the players in front of him.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

The picture above shows another advantage of a two-footed player out wide. Thinking of which foot to pass with, Kent decelerates. He passes inside with his right foot. Alternatively, he could have passed with his left foot around the defender if the Celtic player had been tighter to Alfredo Morelos.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

In the SPFL, Kent has a reputation for winning his one on one duels. His quick change of direction and ability to attack either side of the defender means that they’re never sure which way to show him. Consequently, Kent is an immediate threat for defenders who jump into challenges. As a result, he will break lines and create more chances than the average one-footed winger.

Final third

In the final third, Kent continued to improve from last year, scoring eight goals this season.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

This year we saw Kent enter the opposition’s box more often. Therefore, Barisic and Aribo had to cover the space out wide at times. Above, Kent’s passionate work rate enables him to keep up with attacks and pop up in the dangerous positions of the box. His movement to lead high and then peel off has proven effective for a couple of the goals he’s scored this season.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

Above is an example of the second move Kent makes when the ball travels down the left against sides that defend narrowly. In the second half, Hibernian drop their winger back to nullify Kent’s movements to come short. As a result, Kent moves inside, filling Aribo’s space. Aribo joins the forward line. Consequently, Barisic exploited the open area out left. Subsequently driving into it, he passes into Aribo. Kent makes a late run into the box as Barisic plays a pass. From this position, Kent can receive a through ball prompting a left-footed strike or a set pass that would favour his right foot.

The analysis above shows a calculated understanding of how to open up deep defensive lines. Such a skill is crucial when you perform for a team that controls possession against the majority of clubs in the league.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Against teams that sit deep, thus preventing him from dribbling and crossing into spaces, Kent will resort to long-distance shooting. Having scored four goals from outside of the box, this is an effective method he can rely on in these situations.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

In the final third, Kent creates opportunities via three methods; crossing, passing and dribbling. The graphs above show how Kent’s passes into the penalty area compare to his fellow professionals. The map shows that the majority of Kent’s play stems from the left side, dribbling through the half-space and crossing from deep.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Analysing his final third dribbling further, we discover he is highly successful at dribbling and will attempt this often. Moreover, the table displays the shots that come from his successful dribbles. There is room for improvement in regards to his shot conversion. However, his capability to beat a man more times than not is key to having a successful career as a winger.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

When the opposition prevents Kent from coming inside, he will resort to crossing the ball. Therefore, he needs to possess skill in this department. Shown above, Kent has three assists from 24 accurate crosses this season. His xA of 1.29 suggests the goal scorers are doing better than expected. Therefore, Kent’s ability to provide goal-scoring opportunities from crosses exists but could be improved.

Defending from the front

His position as a winger means that his defensive responsibilities are limited.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

If he loses the ball in the opponents half, he quickly presses them in an attempt to regain possession. He has had some success in this department with 47 recoveries in the opponents half, 13th in the league.

Ryan Kent at Rangers 19/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics
Image source: SPFL YouTube channel

If the ball bypasses his team’s immediate press, they will regroup and get men back behind the ball. Kent’s job is to track back and prevent the opposing full-back from crossing the ball. He positions himself inside of the full-back. As a result, he makes it harder for the opposition to play through the middle.

Conclusion

Kent’s starting position is hotly contested for at Rangers. Therefore, he must address and overcome his reoccurring hamstring problem before all else. With that in mind, he must continue to support the build-up phase, progress the ball forward and create chances for Morelos. The analysis shows that Kent ticks these boxes. However, quantity isn’t the issue for the technical no. 14. Alternatively, he needs to improve the quality of his actions should he wish to maintain his starting position at the Club.

Rory Scott
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