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Wednesday 29th May 2024

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Pawlett Analysis by Terrace podcast

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Using .GIF images to illustrate our points, we break down key aspects of play from games in the Scottish Premiership. Mentioned in this week's Great Minds blog, Derek McInnes and Aberdeen have found success experimenting with former winger Peter Pawlett playing in central midfield. We shall demonstrate how his skills have enabled him to take to the new role seamlessly.

The current campaign looked all set to be the end of the line for Peter Pawlett and his career in Aberdeen. The winger initially broke through the ranks at Pittodrie back in 2009 and his undoubted potential was there for all to see: lightning quick and a bag of tricks, exactly what you want in a winger. Unfortunately, the next four years brought no obvious sign of development and he was usurped by Ryan Fraser as the club's most exciting wide prospect. Even when Fraser departed early, Pawlett still failed to hold down a regular place in the first team and, with his contract entering its final year, the summer addition of Gregg Wylde appeared to signal the beginning of the end.


It's still only November so it's a bit early to start crying "saviour", but there is no doubt that the most improved player in Aberdeen's ranks is Pawlett. And he's done it all from the middle of the park. On the surface it was a peculiar move from Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes. Pawlett hardly has the build of a centre midfielder and there are not many playing the position at the high levels of world football who have either pace or acceleration as their biggest strength. However, Pawlett has been able to adapt those attributes to the new role, which has also highlighted some other skills previously undiscovered out wide.



This clip highlights the ridiculousness of his acceleration. He's like a car. Already having left one opponent for dead, he shifts gears and flies past the advancing Stephen McManus. This is the obvious upside to having a central midfielder with pace; it gives Aberdeen the ability to turn routine attacks into threatening ones in the blink of an eye. What is crucial here is not just his running ability, but the initial touch he takes which sets it all up. Pawlett kills the ball dead while maneuvering his body in position to block off the retreating midfielder. If he doesn't have that ball control and quick feet to shift it then his pace is worthless because there would be too many obstacles in front of him. It highlights a heightened awareness of his surroundings that wasn't appreciated out on the wing. This next clip is a better example.




Pawlett makes this goal. As soon as Wilo Flood picks the ball up from deep, Pawlett runs into the open space to continue the attack. One he receives the ball he's got so much room in front of him to drive the move forward, eventually releasing Niall McGinn on the left who crosses for Calvin Zola to score. Whether this is a young player learning, a built in ability or just his enthusiasm to stay involved, it is exactly this type of play that has made him an invaluable piece of Aberdeen's attack this season. Shown in the next clip is another example.




Compare and contrast the two Zola goals and it shows just how much license to roam Pawlett has in the Aberdeen attack. It demonstrates the confidence his manager has in his ability to use his instincts and detect the space in which to attack. Also note the ability to kill the ball with one touch, on the run, and the quality of the cross into the six yard box.




While his pace can only be used in instances where the game his stretch, his general quickness always makes him a threat, even in crowded areas. This clip also underlines a skill prevalent in two of the other examples: his ambidexterity. Pawlett has scored two goals this season and both have been with his left foot, which he attempts the shot with here. However, as evidenced by clip number two, his right foot is clearly his preferred side. It's such a weapon just to have confidence in either foot as so many players have their careers held back by being too limited. If he were exclusively right footed then he would have been forced to allow the ball to drift a little before shooting, using up valuable time that could have enabled Ross Draper the chance to break up the play. He lacks shot accuracy right now but that is definitely something he can work on, and with his energy and movement he could easily turn himself into a double digit goalscorer one day.





As stated in the introduction, he doesn't have the body for playing in the centre of the park. He's short, fairly slight and doesn't fit the typical 'mix-it-up' prototype apparently needed to play in the 'engine room'. What he has, illustrated by the clip, is a real tenacity that he uses to get in the faces of opponents through his tireless energy. This is where he fits in perfectly to the current Aberdeen set-up. Ryan Jack, Wilo Flood, Johnny Hayes: these are all undersized midfield players, but they all have incredible work rate and the ability to hunt down the ball in packs. Pawlett is another member of that swarming group. That why, had this positional switch occurred at another time or at another point in his career, it might not have worked out for him. That's why it's in the best interests of both player and club to get a new deal hammered out, so he can continue his develop underneath the management that discovered his hidden talents.



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