Ryan Fraser has finally completed his long drawn out move to join Steve Bruce’s Mags.
Although he made the club wait, this needs to be considered an excellent signing by the club and his arrival does improve the attacking options within the squad.
Below, we detail what to expect from our third summer signing:
For Bournemouth, Fraser emerged as a player that could thrive on both sides of the attack in the Premier League.
As shown above, the majority of his minutes came on the left wing last season.
Fraser is a right-footed player, who likes to cut inside and pose a direct threat. However, he did start four matches on the right-hand side. Due to Allan Saint-Maxmin’s preference for the left-wing, it will be interesting to see if Bruce plans to play his new signing.
Under Rafa Benitez, this was a central part of recruitment with the Spaniard looking to sign the right sort of personalities. This resulted in one of the most hard-working squads that we have had in a long time. However, there seems to have been a switch back to a talent-led approach.
Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton would have unlikely been approved by the former manager, while Danny Rose and Nabil Bentaleb both arrived with big questions about their motivation. Fraser fits this description as he left Bournemouth under a cloud. Despite being a part of their surge up the leagues, he refused to sign a short-term extension to play in the post lockdown period. This soured his relationship with Eddie Howe and the supporters. He won’t receive a good reception on his next visit to the Vitality Stadium.
Prior to Bournemouth, he also left Aberdeen on bad terms. There seems to be a recurring theme of ‘betrayal’ in Fraser’s career to date. In the last 12 months, he has been linked with Arsenal and Tottenham, therefore these concerns may have played a part in the winger ending up at St James’ Park. Let’s hope that he arrives with a point to prove and a desire to reach his performance level of two years ago
As alluded to above, Fraser prefers to start on the left-wing. In this role, he often drifts centrally into the left half-space to influence the game. There are plenty of occasions in which he cuts back onto his stronger foot 30-35 yards from goal and delivers crosses behind the defence. This can be dangerous when he has players with pace running in behind the opposition defence. Miguel Almiron could benefit from this creative move.
On the left, he is also able to pose a direct goal threat himself. During the 2018/19 season, he contributed seven goals and 14 assists.
The above graphic is taken from Smarterscout, a website that rates players using a ranking system similar to FIFA (video game). This shows us that Fraser has consistently been a very good attacking player by Premier League standards. However, the low ‘defending quantity’ rating tells us that he isn’t a player that gets back to support his defence often. This could be a concern if he does start regularly for us.
For this section, we will focus on his stats from last season, albeit there was a serious regression from the previous campaign. Fraser will attribute this to a mixture of injuries and off-field distractions. He knew that his long term future was elsewhere and this clearly impacted on his performances.
That said, even from his numbers above, he would add something to the Newcastle squad. Last season, only Allan Saint-Maximin (0.21) and Jonjo Shelvey (0.17) managed to average a higher xA (expected assists) per ninety minutes. A look back at his previous campaign, Fraser was one of the most creative players in the league with 14 assists and an average of 0.46 xA per ninety minutes. Steve Bruce will be hoping to get the Scottish international back to this type of form.
As seen above, Saint-Maximin had a more impactful and consistent season, but Fraser wasn’t far off him and this was in a poor campaign for him. It is more likely that the former Bournemouth man will be more creative with his passing. Last season, he averaged 1.93 key passes per ninety minutes, while Saint-Maximin averaged 1.57. We can be too predictive in attack, with a reliance on the Frenchman to run past opponents and produce a moment of magic to create a chance. The addition of Fraser should add another dimension to our attack.
It was always going to be a difficult summer and the aim was to add quality on the cheap without too much planning. Bare in mind, some of the recruitment staff remain on furlough, so this was never going to be a revolutionary summer. That is before we even mention the takeover falling through.
Fraser is a solid Premier League player. If he performs like he did last season, it would be a good squad addition. If he performs to the level he did during 2018/19, it could be one of the signings of the summer. I expect we will get something in the middle of the two and that will add much needed creativity to our attack. Bruce may need to change his personnel in attack to fit him in. He is best on the left wing and that is Saint-Maximin’s favoured position. I would expect that the two will interchange from right to left with Almiron in a central role.