Talking Tactics

Why Bailey is one of Premier League's most underrated players

By Adrian Clarke 28 Feb 2024
Bailey V2

Adrian Clarke says Jamaican's unpredictability will keep Luton guessing on Saturday

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Player analysis - Leon Bailey (Aston Villa)

He does not get as many plaudits as he should, but in open play this season there has not been a more dangerous Premier League performer than Villa's Bailey.

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All 15 of the Jamaica international's goal involvements (eight goals, seven assists) have come outside of penalties and set-pieces.

He is the only player in the division to average at least 0.5 goals and 0.5 assists per 90 minutes.

His average for minutes per goal involvement (GI) in open play also tops the ranking.

Top goal-involvement frequency 23/24*
Player GI per 90 Mins/GI
Leon Bailey  1.07 84
Diogo Jota 1.03 88
Mohamed Salah 1.00 89
Darwin Nunez 0.98 92
Erling Haaland 0.98 92
Michael Olise 0.96 94
Ollie Watkins 0.94 96
Chris Wood 0.93 96
Richarlison 0.87 104
Son Heung-min 0.85 107

*Min 500 minutes played

New element to his game

Luton Town's Alfie Doughty will know he must bring his A-game at Kenilworth Road on Saturday to contain Bailey’s multi-faceted threat.

Bailey can hurt opponents in a variety of ways down Villa's right side.

At Bayer Leverkusen, he made his name as an inverted right-winger who cuts inside onto his left foot to score goals, and this remains his great strength.

We saw this when he curled a beauty into the top corner in a recent 5-0 success at Sheffield United.

Bailey's goal v Sheff Utd

He also delivered a delightful left-foot inswinging cross onto Alex Moreno’s head away to Brentford in another trademark move.

The issue defenders now have with Bailey is that he has become increasingly unpredictable.

Despite being known for his terrific left foot, the 26-year-old has also shown a penchant this season for driving past full-backs on the outside to deliver right-footed crosses.

Previously, they may have been able to show him down the line with confidence, but Bailey has delivered assists that now create doubts in their mind.

This example where he set up Ollie Watkins against Newcastle United outlines how threatening he is when going on the outside.

Bailey assist v Newcastle

He also supplied similar assists against Arsenal and Nottingham Forest when powering down the right before squaring for John McGinn and Watkins respectively.

Bailey assist v Arsenal

Bailey’s relationship with Watkins from fast breaks is certainly an area Luton will be worried about.

The pair have created three goals each for one another this season, from a total of just 12 combined key-pass interactions.

That 50 per cent strike-rate shows how efficient they have become as a double act.

Brilliant ball-carrying

A total of 17 Premier League stars, including team-mate McGinn, have completed more dribbles than Bailey's 35 this season, but when he carries the ball at speed he has a habit of producing big moments.

No Premier League player has scored more goals at the end of a carry than Bailey, who is also joint-top of the rankings for all goal involvements following a run with the ball.

Most goal-ending ball carries 23/24
Goal-ending ball carries Goal & assist-ending ball carries
Leon Bailey 5 Leon Bailey 8
Bukayo Saka 4 Anthony Gordon 8
Erling Haaland 4 Mohamed Salah 7
Anthony Gordon 4 Jeremy Doku 5

Sometimes he does not even need to carry the ball to hurt the opposition, using his acceleration to get in beyond the last man instead.

Last time out at home to Forest, he displayed that trait when running onto a terrific pass in behind the full-back, before going past Murillo and nutmegging Felipe to tee up Watkins.

Bailey's nutmeg v Forest

Bailey’s general play can still be a little erratic and his end product is not always consistent, but this season we have seen him take a major step forward with the end product he delivers.

Posting incredible numbers and making a huge difference, Bailey should be considered one of the Premier League’s most underrated players.

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