Ryan Yates should be playing in a more advanced role for Nottingham Forest

A collaborative piece — Henshaw Analysis x Forest Analytics

Ryan Yates, Nottingham Forest’s defensive midfielder has scored two league goals this season. You might think it’s strange why we think he should be playing in a more advanced role. Well we’re going to be taking a look why we think he could be perfectly suited to playing as a CAM in a 4–2–3–1.

Yates’ Current Performance

Yates typically plays as most defensive minded midfielder, in a 4–2–3–1 alongside Manchester United loanee James Garner. This being said Yates is a real threat when he gets the opportunity to go forward, despite only scoring two goals this season.

Ryan Yates’ 2020/21 Championship Statistics

Outside of Forest’s strikers Yates averages 0.17 non-penalty xG (NPxG), more than any other player. He’s also had 40 shots, the fourth most of any Forest player. 64% of these efforts have come inside the opposition box — and a huge 39% of those shots have been headers.

Yates currently sits 5th for the most touches inside the opposition box per 90 out of the 69 defensive and central midfielders playing more than 1000 minutes in the league this season. Three of the four above him in George Saville, Lukas Rupp and Luke Berry have played in a more advanced midfield role at times this season, Yates has not. This does prove that when he can get forward he can make himself a pain for defenders and get on the end of things consistently well.

While Yates’ passing is improving you wouldn’t class him as a pass master. The numbers certainly would back this up. Below is a comparison of Ryan Yates’ passing compared to all other CMs and DMs that have played over 1000 minutes in the League this season.

Ryan Yates’ Passing Data

Ryan looks after the ball fairly well, passing accuracy % above average but as you can see a large percentage of his passes are lateral or backwards, playing sideways and backwards a lot more than other players in his position in the league.

In fairness to Ryan, every central midfielder at Forest this season is playing backwards and laterally more than they are forwards and progressively. It’s something that needs to be worked on or addressed in the summer.

While it’s difficult to make a direct comparison between Yates and Cafu, with Cafu playing quite a few minutes in the number 10 role this season, Cafu still does have a higher pass accuracy overall and 6% higher for forward passes.

Would It Suit Our Current Style?

Forest have been amongst the top 4 crosses in the league all season. Crossing 16.41 times a game. It’s fair to say it really hasn’t been the most efficient way for us to try and attack the opposition’s goal, especially when a large % of the crosses have been aerial.

Nearly 22% of Forest’s shots have been from crosses, yet only 13% of their crosses have led to shots. This leaves them on the verge of being over-reliant on crossing, but inefficient.

How reliant and efficient are Championship clubs at crossing?

Of the 41 goals Lewis Grabban has bagged in the last three seasons, just six have come via his head, 14.6%, a target man he is not. Comparing that with Kieffer Moore’s nine headed goals from his 29 goals in the last 3 seasons, 31%. That’s a man that would thrive off of 16.41 crosses per game.

Similar to Grabban Forest’s other strikers Lyle Taylor and Glenn Murray aren’t exactly prolific with their head either. Murray’s 14 goals in the last three seasons just 2 have come via his head, along with Taylor who has only scored 2 headed goals from his total over 15 over the past two years.

Forest’s Use Of The Ten

A classic number ten or a Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM), is someone who typically plays between the lines, finds pockets of spaces and unlocks the opposition’s defence, well not in Forest’s system. Filip Krovinović signed on loan in January and has played almost every game since, yet among the CAM’s who have played >1000 minutes this season he ranks among the lowest for expected assists, smart passes, deep completions, and more key passing metrics.

However when we look at the defensive work Krovinović does, he ranks among successful defensive actions and defensive duels won. This links into how Chris Hughton likes to use his CAM, almost as an advanced number eight who is better out of possession, and understands their role within the shape of the team.

We wouldn’t recommend this for every game, especially for those against sides which sit deep, as Yates doesn’t have that probing ability to unlock a defence.

But when we look at the way Forest utilise their number ten, their current shape and style of play. Coupled with Ryan Yates’ ability to get into the box, and the chances he’s been on the end of this season — he could well be suited to be playing in a more advanced role.

Please let us know what you thought of this piece, drop us both a follow on twitter @HenshawAnalysis and @AnalyticsForest and keep your eyes peeled for more collaborative work from us both in the future.

Henshaw Analysis — Analysing NFFC, EFL and EPL