There are a lot of good players that can be found north of the border. A number of EFL clubs recognise this and thoroughly scout this region of Great Britain. From there, they can bring in players at a cheap price who later emerge into proven Football League stars and catch the eye of other teams in the English pyramid. Some even go on to feature for EPL clubs like Everton or West Ham United. Current League One side Burton Albion is one of those teams. The likes of Calum Butcher, Jackson Irvine, Liam Boyce and David Templeton have all arrived in East Staffordshire over the last four seasons and have caught the eye. The player in focus for this specific piece however, is 25-year-old Scott Fraser.
This scout report provides a tactical analysis of the midfielder who is now available as a free agent. It will look into how he fitted into Burton Albion’s tactics and the analysis will also show his best qualities both in and out of possession.
Dundee United product Scott Fraser is an advanced midfielder. A left-footed player, Fraser usually likes to operate more towards the left side of central midfield. The image above shows Fraser’s heatmap. The darker the colour, the more often he features there.
The heatmap shows that Fraser most often takes up positions inside the opposition half. As part of Burton’s 4-3-3 formation, the 25-year-old operated in the half-space between the left-winger and lone centre forward.
Fraser was also sometimes deployed as a left-winger, where he could provide crosses on his much stronger left foot. His best position though is easily more central, and an analysis of him in action shows why.
Playing On The Front Foot
As a player who operates primarily in the half-space, Fraser makes great use of receiving the ball on the half-turn. He receives the ball on his back foot, from where he is in a position to carry the ball forward. The example below is from a game at Sunderland.
Scott Fraser receives a progressive pass from Kieran Wallace. His receiving position is side-on, facing out towards the left touchline. Because of this, Fraser will receive the ball on his right foot. His first progressive touch, therefore, will be with his stronger left foot. This touch turns his body towards goal and he can lead with his stronger foot when dribbling from there.
Initially facing away from goal, Fraser receives the pass on his stronger left foot. Opposing midfielder Luke Murphy comes to close him down. Fraser though has enough time to swivel on the ball using his left foot. He is now facing towards both Luke Murphy and the opposition goal. From here, he can see a clear picture in front of him and play either progressive passes or carry the ball past the advancing Murphy.
What both examples show however is one of Scott Fraser’s main weaknesses. He has a very strong tendency to use just one foot. Whilst his left foot showcases all of the 25-year-old’s technical ability, the use of his right foot is an honest rarity. At times, Fraser has been known to try and get the ball onto his left foot in situations where using his right foot is more appropriate. The midfielder has the technical ability on his right foot, but it is disproportionate to his stronger left foot.
This is one of the main reasons why Fraser operates on the left side of midfield. Opposing defenders are generally based to the right of him, and so he can get past or away from them whilst leading with his left foot. His close passing options are also generally on a side that allows him to use his left foot more than his right. If he makes it into a crossing position, Fraser can deliver the ball early is on he is already on his comfortable foot. If Fraser was based on the right side of midfield, where he would be expected to lead with his right foot on most occasions, his performances would not be as effective.
Scott Fraser’s base numbers include 11 assists in League One. Eight of these came from central midfield. That assist tally ranks second across the whole division for the 2019/20 season. Only Blackpool’s Liam Feeney managed to record more.
An analysis of some of Fraser’s assists shows a strong link back to the previous section of this article. By playing on the front foot, the 25-year-old gets into attacking positions and quickly affects the game in the final third.
In the example above, Scott Fraser initially receives the ball on the half-turn near the half-way line. Leading on his stronger left foot, the 25-year-old recognises the open space ahead of him and carries the ball into it. As left-winger Lucas Akins makes a run infield, Fraser brings the ball into the now unoccupied space. He soon reaches the edge of the penalty area, where he is in a position to cross as he is already on his much stronger left foot. The ball he delivers is low and across the box, arriving almost perfectly at the feet of Liam Boyce.
Another example of this left-sided cross from the edge of the penalty area is shown above. Fraser once again aims his cross towards the far side of the Bolton Wanderers backline. Several players in this situation would provide an aerial ball over the defence from here, but Fraser thinks differently. He knows that Burton striker Lucas Akins is operating on the deepest man, and so a lower cross to goes behind the backline should reach him. The 25-year-old has the vision and technique to bend the ball between two nearby Bolton players and the cross reaches Akins, who is able to slide the ball into the net.
Across the 2019/20 league season, Fraser averaged 2.57 deep completions every 90 minutes. That average ranks him second amongst all the central midfielders in league one. His positioning plays a big part in this.
The above images show Fraser’s final third dribbles. The vast majority are of course on the left side of the pitch. The 25-year-old understandably finishes his dribbles with shots when around the middle of the penalty area. When finishing his dribble around the left side of the penalty area however, he tends to avoid taking the shot. He is usually on his stronger left foot in this situation and crosses or pass from here instead. The two previous examples in this section show this.
Goal Scoring Contribution
Alongside his 11 league assists, Scott Fraser provided five league goals in 2019/20, and eight in the last 12 months. This included a hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Oxford United in August. Much like with his assists and general progressive play though, Fraser has a strong tendency to use his left foot when shooting. The graph below best shows this.
85% of Fraser’s 62 shots across the last 12 months came from his stronger left foot. The location of these shots came predominantly from the left side of the penalty area.
As a very left-footed player that shoots mostly from the left-side of goal, Fraser has to aim most of his shots for the far corner if he wants to beat the goalkeeper. This is a big reason why he has a total accuracy rating of just 22.6% from these shots. He is having to shoot the ball across goal, where it is likely to be blocked, saved, or miss the target.
The location of his shots links back to his heatmap from earlier in the article. He is a player who mostly operates in left-sided positions. It is understandable therefore that most of his shots will come from the end of dribbles and progressive runs on this side as well.
Fraser has attempted 26 shots from outside the penalty area in the last 12 months. Only six of these shots have been on target, but four of these have resulted in goals. As the below example shows, Fraser’s long-range shots are at their best when accuracy is chosen over power.
Fraser receives a short pass from Liam Boyce. He finds himself one-vs-one with Oxford’s Rob Dickie. Leading with his stronger left foot, Fraser pushes the ball to the left and is in a position to shoot. From here, the 25-year-old curls a low shot into the bottom corner of the goal. The preference for accuracy over power makes it difficult for the goalkeeper to prevent the shot from going in.
Scott Fraser is not the kind of midfielder who will hit powerful, speculative efforts at goal from 25-30 yards out. He is a player who likes to affect the game well inside the final third. If he does have a long-range shot, it is usually close to the edge of the penalty area. This is a suitable distance for him to curl accurate shots with the side of his foot whilst still having enough power to beat the goalkeeper.
General Areas Of Improvement
Of course, there are areas of Scott Fraser’s game that are certainly not perfect and still need to show improvement.
One of the most pressing has already been mentioned, his disproportionate use of his left foot over his right. No one should expect Scott Fraser to become a two-footed player. They are a real rarity in the modern game. There are times in matches however where Fraser would certainly benefit more from using his right foot to control or pass the ball as opposed to his left.
Increased use of his right foot would also benefit Fraser when playing more central. As a player who normally operates on the left side of the pitch, being comfortable with the ball on his right side would make his movement less one-dimensional. In turn, this would increase his passing and shooting opportunities as he would not need to first transfer the ball onto his left foot.
The above graph shows Fraser’s ball recoveries over the last 12 months. The 25-year-old averages 5.72 recoveries every 90 minutes. This ranks him at the lower end of the table against other League One midfielders. The graph also shows how most of these recoveries are around the left side of the central third and final third. This links back to the heatmap from earlier in the article.
The graph above shows Fraser’s ball recoveries in the final third. Here, his average of 2.02 per 90 minutes ranks him up towards the top of the list alongside other League One midfielders. His recoveries inside Zone 14, the area between the centre circle and the D of the penalty area, are particularly impressive.
There can be few complaints about Fraser’s defensive commitment around the final third and penalty area. His defensive commitments in the middle and own third, however, is where he can improve. As part of Burton Albion’s 4-3-3 system, the 25-year-old benefitted from a defensive-minded midfielder like Stephen Quinn to do the ball-winning work in deeper midfield. At another club, however, Fraser may not be a purely attack-minded player. He will need to provide more defensive actions further down the pitch if is to prove useful in these systems.
During two seasons as Burton Albion, Scott Fraser has shown himself to be one of League One’s best midfielders. The former Dundee United player is an excellent playmaker; one that operates best on the left side of a midfield three. His time in East Staffordshire has come to an end, and he is seeking a new club. Given the offensive numbers that the 25-year-old provided in 2019/20, there will certainly be interest in him.
Fraser fitted very well into Burton’s 4-3-3 system. At a different club with a different style of play however, there are areas of his game that will need improvement if he is to work effectively there. The most noticeable criticism of Fraser is his strong tendency to use his left foot over his right. This is a big part of why he operated on the left-hand side of midfield for Burton Albion. The 25-year-old will also need to increase his successful defensive actions in the middle and first thirds as his new club’s tactics may demand that of him.
Still at a relatively young age, however, Fraser is an extremely talented player and one that plenty of EFL clubs should look to sign. He is shown in 24 months at Burton that he is a top League One midfielder. The next step is to show that he can shine at a level higher up the English pyramid.