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Lewis Bower provides a detailed scout report about Harry Wilson, Wales’ youngest ever player
As the unprecedented level of success at Euro 2016 begins to settle itself into the horizon of Welsh sporting history, The Dragons are not resting on their laurels as they look to bring through the next generation of talent. Wales, who it’s safe to say have not been a regular presence on the world stage, reached the semi-finals in their second ever major tournament. 10 years ago, this was unprecedented to even the most deluded Welshman you could find. The overhaul of set up from John Toshack meant the culling of older players and a concentration from youth. This was complimented by influential scout Brian Flynn and his eye for talent. While it has taken a whole generation of players to pass by to reap the rewards, the Welsh future is much brighter as we can see Welsh talent such as Ashley Williams, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen impress on a weekly basis. I suppose Gareth Bale isn’t doing too badly either.
Now the focus is on the next line of stars. Interestingly, we can find three of these talents at Liverpool, in Danny Ward, Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson. There are not many better clubs at the minute for Wilson to develop at, as he became the 19th debutant under Jurgen Klopp, who has always used quick wingers, a category Wilson certainly fits. It seems The Reds have a knack of bringing through wingers of late, as we have seen Raheem Sterling, Jordon Ibe, and Sheyi Ojo in the first team squad and even to a lesser extent Suso who is enjoying himself in Italy. One of the more unknown quantities though, is Wales youngest ever international, Harry Wilson.
Wilson has just passed 20-years-old, which also marked his 12th year at Liverpool, moving from his home town Wrexham at the age of just 8. Interestingly, Wilson never played for his Wrexham, the nearest professional club at the time, as Liverpool beat alleged interest from Manchester United. Wilson’s mum claimed this was primarily due to Liverpool being European Champions at the time.
Rising through the youth ranks, Wilson progressed to a level that coaches were clearly pleased with, as 2013 proved to be a massive year for the winger. Developing under a range of youth coaches, at the age of 15 Wilson was given his under 18’s debut and became a mainstay in the side. Playing at a slightly higher level with better players saw Wilson’s own game improve as he starred in the U-16 victory shield for Wales. This cleared the path for Wilson to make history; Chris Coleman was present at the tournament and made Wilson the youngest ever player to play for the Welsh senior side. Perhaps we may could look back at that moment in the 87th minute vs Belgium as an iconic passing of torches, as it was Gareth Bale who made way for Wilson who was 16 years and 247 days old.
Wilson, while quick and direct often uses guile and movement in order to beat his man. Perhaps being moulded by Liverpool coaches throughout the years is the reason Wilson plays at such a high tempo, constantly.
Which we can see displayed here, managing to close down the Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper and block off the passing lane into the midfield. Wilson gives his team the best chance of winning the ball back high up the pitch, ready to start attacks of his own. Harry can perhaps be considered an ‘untraditional’ winger as many of his attacks start with him dribbling the ball from deep in midfield through the centre of the pitch, much of the time attacking the half space in between fullback and centre back. When needed to Wilson can stay out wide and go on the outside of his fullback. Such unpredictability makes him just as much of a creator as a he is a scorer, as his unpredictability drags out defenders thus making space for team mates.
We can see above a perfect example of a Wilson based attack. As Wilson attacks the half space either the inside centre back or full back has to commit to closing him down, thus creating space for Brewster(left) or Randall(right) should he choose to burst forward. Wilson in this situation was quick enough to convert the chance himself after attacking the space. The youngster is exceptional at breaking lines from deep in midfield, almost like a powerful centre midfielder. He is certainly multifaceted.
Wilson being able to play a number of positions means he can use his pace anywhere across the frontline. A prolonged period playing centrally, a decision made by the youth coaches at Liverpool, is perhaps the reason for a massive improvement in his attacking awareness; Wilson is always finding small pockets between defence and midfield before launching towards goal.
Adding to his unpredictability factor is his comfort using both feet. It appears Wilson has many strings to his bow already, which bodes well for the future as we have seen many wingers fall on the scrapheap of mediocrity due to how one dimensional they are. Fluidity is Wilson’s biggest strength, it’s difficult to pin him down to one position at all as while he starts out on either wing, he’s almost at times a secondary striker. He also has incredible awareness of team mates, as most of his side’s attacking moves flow through Wilson, who often uses acute flicks and touches to unlock defences.
Finally one can simply look at Wilson’s end product to represent progress. While it is true he now takes penalties, his finishing has improved massively. Wilson has frequently finished in the two bottom corners this season, giving ‘keepers little chance. One could consider Wilson’s delivery to be the very best in the Premier League 2. Taking corners and cutting inside from the left to whip the ball in between two fullbacks is something that Wilson tends to look towards. The ball is always delivered with pace making it difficult to defend. 127 minutes per goal is outstanding for a winger.
Saying a young player needs to bulk up is such a cliché in the modern game, especially when based in the Premier League. But this is the case with Wilson who stands at 5ft 6inches and plays for such a physically demanding manager. He must make sure he is able to cope with the demands of the game, or he may deal with muscular injuries regularly as many do.
Wilson’s first touch can sometimes be slightly too heavy, which he can get away with at his level, but the Premier League may not be quite so forgiving.
Wilson needs to get his head down and stay out of the limelight. His versatility is great for such a multi-faceted Liverpool side. He may not be too far away after his best ever season till date.
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