Neil Critchley’s experience and connections at the Premier League U-23 level continue to pay-off; securing the services of Arsenal’s Tyreece John-Jules for a season long-loan. The 20-year-old, who spent last season with Doncaster Rovers in League One, has also had a loan spell with Lincoln City. It was with Lincoln where he scored his first ever senior, competitive goal – against Blackpool!
So what can we expect from this exciting young prospect?
We’re getting a highly creative, technical player who specialises in partnering with other attackers – making him ideal for a two-striker formation with Jerry Yates. He also has a strong work ethic; pressing the opposition and making a strong defensive contribution.
John-Jules isn’t the most prolific scorer (compared to Yates or Simms), which could be down to poor shot selection. He will need to step up this aspect of his game, while also adapting to the additional rigours of Championship football. His injury record is also a cause for concern, with the frequent niggles associated with growing young players often keeping him out of the Doncaster squad.
A Creative Progressive Player
Dan Critchlow, senior writer for The Daily Cannon and an authority on Arsenal youth-teams, told UTMP that creativity is key to John-Jule’s game.
I’ve heard and occasionally seen that Blackpool play two up front, and I think TJJ is well suited to that. He’s good at playing off teammates and bringing others into the game. At youth level that was his key strength, that his game was mature enough that whether or not he was scoring he’d always have a positive impact.
This ability to link up with other attacking players could become vital to Blackpool’s attacking play. As the comparison below shows, both him and Yates excel in their movement in the final third and creating chances for others. Both John-Jules and Yates are above-average at progressive runs (runs that move the ball more than 10m to opposition goal), progressive passes (passes that travel forward more than 10m) and in their expected assists.
Is flair holding him back?
Another item that Critchlow highlighted to UTMP is John Jule’s incredible confidence in front of goal – although he did raise some concerns about output.
He has an excellent range of finishes in his locker. I saw him score a backheel volley once. But he needs to score more consistently to take his game to the next level.
A source at Arsenal’s academy made similiar comments about the 20 year old strikers goal output, despite John-Jule’s apparent confidence.
” He has a signature move where he steps across the ball, dummies it and then rounds the keeper. He’s a confident striker, he likes to do those things and he has that flair about him. The one thing he has to work on is that clinical nature in front of goal.
While clearly confident in his finishing ability, the 20 year old was on track for a rather average 13 goal season in League One last year before injuries. While similarly creative, John-Jules doesn’t come near Yates’ goal-scoring ability.
A large part of this may be due to the type of shots that John-Jules takes. Backheel volleys, like the one below, are fantastic when they are scored – but are only scored very rarely. These shots from positions where the probability of scoring is low could be limiting John-Jules’ game. The young striker is in the Top 10% for the number of shots he takes, but almost in the bottom 25% for Expected Goals (xG) per shot. This suggests that that rather than shooting from poor positions so much, he would be better placed using his creative strengths to work the ball into a better position.
If Critchley can coach better decision-making, John-Jules may see an explosion in his numbers. Yates may also be able to mentor the young striker here, given the veteran was in the top 5% of strikers for xG per shot last season.
Other Observations: Defensive Contributions and Injuries
The final two things to highlight are his defensive efforts, and his injury history.
John-Jules’ all-round defensive work, as shown by the grey segments in the chart above, is the most consistent of our strikers. He isn’t as talented at winning the ball in the air than Gary Madine (few are!), but his smart positioning means he often makes regular interceptions. Neil Critchley is known for his emphasis on defensive organisation, and alluded to John-Jules’ defensive work in his public comments – suggesting “he will fit in with the work ethic we have here in the squad”
The only other concern is injuries, with the 20 year-old’s 2019-2020 season being ended prematurely due to an injury after 8 appearances for Lincoln. Smaller injuries regularly sidelined him from the Doncaster Rovers squad last season. This can happen with growing players in the late teenage years and I fully expect John-Jules to grow out of it. However, it is still a niggling concern that the young professional will want to put to bed.
Conclusion – How does John-Jules fit into the Blackpool Squad?
It would be wrong to expect him to be like Ellis Simms. As the below chart shows, the Everton man was a goal scoring phenom – and while our new striker likely won’t match his pure goal output, he has the creative tools (progressive runs, passing etc) to contribute in other ways.
By focusing on improving decision-making and shot-selection, Neil Critchley can hopefully help John-Jules improve his goal output and become the complete forward that both teams believe he can be.
As Sean McGinlay highlights in his excellent profile of the same player, this signing likely heralds the return to a 3-5-2 (or 4-4-2) that Critchley favours. A forward line of Yates and John-Jules means lots of intelligent movement, technical ability and – with the right coaching – a lot of goals.
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