Talking Tactics

Promoted clubs: Johnson and Yates offer pace and craft

By Adrian Clarke 24 Jun 2022
Brennan Johnson & Ryan Yates, Nottingham Forest

Adrian Clarke looks at the qualities the Nottingham Forest pair bring to the Premier League

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Brennan Johnson

Nottingham Forest’s most exciting talent is 21-year-old forward Johnson.

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The Welshman had made just four Championship appearances ahead of 2021/22, but he was a revelation last season, scoring 18 goals and providing 10 assists.

Quick, direct and calm in front of goal, the academy graduate has been a talisman for head coach Steve Cooper, who has got the best out of Johnson by moving him from a wide role into a front-two partnership.

Johnson goal v Sheff Utd

On their long-awaited return to the Premier League, Forest are likely to be a counter-attacking side. This was where they were at their best last term, springing fast breaks to hurt the opposition.

Johnson, who excelled on loan for Lincoln City in 2020/21 in League One, is integral to that approach.

Thanks to his speed and mobility, he produced the second-most shots from fast breaks last season.

Johnson's attacking stats 2021/22
Championship Johnson League rank
Big chance conversion* 75% 1st
Shots from fast breaks 11 2nd
Shots from inside box 77 5th
Chances created from open play 61 5th

*Minimum 10 big chances

Johnson was at his most impressive in key matches.

He scored in both legs of the Championship playoff semi-final against Sheffield United and starred in memorable FA Cup victories over Arsenal and Leicester City, netting against the Foxes.

Statistically, Johnson boasted the highest conversion rate from big chances in the second tier, scoring with 75 per cent of those opportunities.

He also offers terrific creativity, regularly showcasing his skill down the flanks to set up team-mates.

In open play, just four Championship players created more chances than he did last term.

Premier League defenders will not just be wary of Johnson’s speed but also the direct way in which he brings the ball forward.

Average ball carry comparison
Player Ave. ball carry distance Ave. ball carry progress
Johnson (NFO) 14.8m 10.5m
Bowler (QPR) 14.1m 10.4m
Kebano (FUL)  12.0m 7.4m

Last season he carried the ball 14.8 metres on average and made more progress than any other Championship player (10.5m on average).

Five of his carries resulted in assists and three ended with him scoring.

Ryan Yates

The most-improved player since Cooper took charge is Yates, a homegrown central midfielder who has developed into an all-action star.

The 24-year-old gets around the pitch superbly to break up play and is excellent at dropping into his own area to clear danger.

However, it is his unexpected goalscoring prowess last term that elevated his status.

Scoring eight times in his last 36 Championship appearances, compared with six in his previous 84, Yates delivered end product at crucial moments throughout Forest's promotion campaign.

He is very good at making late runs into the opposition box. From one such burst, he helped to force Levi Colwill’s own-goal winner against Huddersfield Town in the Championship playoff final.

Yates also boasts a real threat from corners and wide free-kicks.

No Championship player registered more goals from set-pieces in 2021/22, with seven of his eight strikes coming from dead-balls.

In a season where set-plays are likely to be of huge significance for Forest, Yates is very much their danger man.

Championship set-piece goals 21/22
Player Set-piece goals (exc. pens)
Yates (NFO) 7
Mitrovic (FUL) 6
Crooks (MID) 5
Solanke (BOU) 5
Ekpiteta (BLP) 5

Despite operating in a box-to-box role, Yates is Forest's most defensive-minded midfielder.

He will help out his three central defenders when crosses come into the box, often covering for a centre-back who has been dragged towards the wings.

For this reason, and his strength when defending set-pieces, Yates' 91 clearances were far more than anyone else who played in central midfield for the majority of last season.

He also makes a string of interceptions and wins more than his fair share of tackles and headers.

Top stats for midfielders 2021/22
Player Aerial duels won Player Clearances
Crooks (MID) 146 Yates 91
Yates (NFO) 108 Gardner 65
Gardner (BIR) 100 Smallwood (HUL)  60

Yates has offered plenty for Forest in every area, on and off the ball, during a brilliant promotion campaign.

Forest supporters will now be hoping he can take that form into the Premier League.

Also in this series

Part 1: Fulham back with exciting attack
Part 2: Wilson to deliver for Fulham again
Part 3: Parker has the tools to succeed
Part 4: Kelly and Billing key for Cherries
Part 5: Forest counters can cause problems

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