Let’s forget about the Barclays Premier League for a second. If you’re an avid Sky Bet Championship follower, you will discover that it is home to some of the UK’s most gifted and prestigious young footballing talents right now. During this current 2022/23 campaign, there is hardly any youthful talent turning many heads in the division than Bristol City’s 20-year-old midfield sensation Alex Scott.
The Guernsey-born wonderkid is attracting a whole host of interest from the English top-flight, with Tottenham Hotspur, Wolves, Leeds United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United all rumoured to have taken a look at his stunning qualities over the past few months.
While it may seem lofty for a player of his youth and inexperience to be linked with Premier League clubs, excelling in the Championship at a consistent level can be the perfect barometer to determining whether such a talent can cut it at the top level, and in this piece, we’ll hopefully come to a conclusion.
So who is Alex Scott?
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Born in Guernsey, an Island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy, Scott started out his youth career at his local outfit Guernsey at the age of 16, having previously trained with the youth teams of Southampton and AFC Bournemouth at some point in his early years.
He made his debut for the Green Lions against Phoenix Sports in August 2019 becoming their youngest-ever Guernsey player to feature for the first team. Though, in December 2019, he got his deserved recognition, signing a pre-contract with Bristol City.
Having initially linked up with the Bristol City academy, Scott signed his first professional contract with the club in March 2021, and he hasn’t looked back since. It wasn’t until April 2021, that a 16-year-old talent made his professional debut for The Robins, given to him by former Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson in a Championship game against Luton Town.
Within months, the teenager became a first-team regular for the Robins and in June 2022, won the U19 Euros with England. As the old adage goes, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough and Scott has proven he is indeed a mercurial talent. Now deservedly one of the first names on the Bristol City teamsheet, the 19-year-old is developing rapidly and garnering the attention he will certainly thrive under.
It’s no wonder top Premier League clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are both scouting the player.
What’s his style of play?
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Weighing in at just under 70kg, Scott is a very nimble and affluent footballer, possessing a tremendously low centre of gravity despite standing at a relatively tall frame of around 5ft 10.
At just 19 years of age, there is still more room for Scott to grow in stature, maturity and in peak muscle mass. But one of the major factors of his tremendous rise in the English second division, alongside his unique qualities is his tremendous versatility and tactical intelligence.
During his run in the Robins first team, the three-time England U20 international has been utilised in a variety of positions for Pearson, making him a crucial squad player but more crucially, a swiss-army knife type player who can excel in various positions within various formational setups.
The Bristol City setup is that of a 3-4-1-2, a formation Pearson has used mostly throughout the past year, deploying the shape in just over 40% of their games in all competitions. Within this setup, Scott has excelled in a number of roles, most notably at right-wing back.
While he possesses the stature, tactical nous and positional sense of central midfielder, Scott filling in at wing-back certainly isn’t uncommon for players his age, with managers shoehorning them into wider positions to more importantly, refine their development and give them a wider perspective of the game in front of them. This role has proven quite a masterstroke as Scott has taken in the demands of a wing-back like a duck to water.
Looking at his heatmap from last season, it shows how much he has fared and influenced from the right flank. However, we can also see that the player was also used sparingly in midfield, at times as a midfielder in a double-pivot and as a number 10 too, highlighting his positional knowledge and of course, unique versatility. Wherever Pearson asks him to play, Scott is more than capable of excelling in the role, however foreign it may be to him.
This season though, the trust and faith in him have indeed increased, and now he’s excelling in the middle of the park, either as a double pivot midfielder or at no.10 again, but on a more consistent basis.
As shown in the above heatmap, Scott is picking the ball up all over the pitch, especially in central areas which are expected to be tight, congested and riskier, but that is no obstacle to the 19-year-old. He is a pivotal cog in the Robins machine in and out of possession.
What’s been so impressive about Scott, as stated previously, is the way he’s taken on so much tactical responsibility, despite his tender age. Managers do tend to place youngsters in positions on the pitch which do not entail much responsibility, but credit must go to both Pearson and Scott.
The Guernsey-born midfielder is capable of playing within the team’s structure due to his superb tactical and positional awareness. In Bristol’s setup, they are tasked with pressing high up the pitch, and Scott is vital to that as he is given the responsibility to push up tight against opposition midfielders – especially ones in a single pivot – in order to disrupt their build-up structure.
Alex Scott is excellent at sticking with his man when pressing high, and even if the player managers to evade his press, he won’t stop at anything to try and halt them from progressing any further. So far this campaign, Scott has averaged 1.0 interceptions, a ridiculous 2.4 tackles per game, as well as winning 57% of his ground duels which means he is indeed excelling in his defensive game. He is recording just over 5 ball recoveries per 90 this season with just under 50% of them coming in the opposition’s half of the pitch.
Amongst Championship players. he ranks eighth for tackles in the whole division. Also, he ranks amongst at least the top 3 for most defensive metrics, 2nd for tackles + interceptions (86), 3rd for blocks (26) and 2nd for tackles in the midfield third (26) and 1st for tackles won (37), at the time of writing. Scott is exerting his tenacity, robustness and astuteness in the defensive phase.
Despite all his hard work and fighting spirit in the defence, it’d be totally wrong to have the idea of Scott as just a hard-working midfielder due to his defensive excellence. Once again, his game transcends beyond that. His abilities in possession and technical acumen are arguably the most pleasing or exciting parts of his game. He’s been referred to as ‘The Guernsey Grealish’ for a reason.
In fact, there’s a case to argue that the 19-year-old is more technically sound than the Manchester City winger. In terms of their keenness to be explosive on the ball as well as always looking to dribble at opposition defenders to enter the penalty area, the pair are rather similar.
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When he receives the ball, especially in the midst of oncoming pressure, he is intentional and meticulous with the way he controls it and shapes up his body positioning. Articulating it in a way to evade the pressure with such elegant ease. He’s a player who regularly scans his surroundings before he even receives it. Scott knows what he wants to do before he even receives a pass.
Like Grealish, the 19-year-old loves to take his man on. So far this campaign, he attempts 2.34 dribbles per 90 at a success rate of 35% which is quite decent considering his role doesn’t expect him to take on his much as a winger would. But, he is more than capable of progressing the ball up the pitch through dribbling. His low centre of gravity, tremendous flexible movement, and ball manipulation are crucial in these situations as Scott can disguise which way he is going before bursting to one side, bamboozling and flat-footing defenders.
He’s a great technician and an incredibly imaginative player with the ball, but that isn’t just shown in the way he takes his opponent on, it’s also highlighted in his creative tendencies. Scott has so far registered five assists in the Sky Bet Championship this season, which is very impressive. His underlying creative metrics make for great reading too.
In Europe’s top eight leagues, Alex Scott ranks in the 80th percentile of midfielders for assists per 90, and in the 74th percentile for expected assisted goals. This all highlights the idea that a lot of Alex Scott’s actions in the final third are expected to breed assists, and it’s amongst the best on the continent, which is all the more impressive considering he’s playing in the English second division.
In the Sky Bet Championship, he ranks ninth in the league at the time of writing for through balls (6) and ranks amongst the top players for creative metrics in the Bristol City side. At 19 years old, Scott possesses so many complete facets to his game, harnessing an assurance and confidence in his actions that means Alex Scott is well on his way to becoming a top-level footballer. Such multi-faceted players are at a premium in the Premier League, and it’s why Scott is being courted by top English top-flight clubs.
However, while it’s exciting to get on the hype train for this wonderful talent, it’s important to keep it tempered. Scott is still rough around the edges and requires a lot of room and freedom to make mistakes and grow. Maybe a move top and elite outfit is too soon for him. Another year in the Championship could do him the world of good, but don’t rule him out joining a team outside the Premier League’s top six soon, a step which may be invaluable to his development.
For now, Alex Scott is sticking out like a sore thumb in the Championship which can only mean a bright future despite excelling in such a difficult and demanding league. Long may his rapid development and high-level performances continue.