This piece from Josh Knowles (@JKnowlesSport) has had some input from Oli (@gorn__). Josh has written the piece and the majority of it is Josh’s, Oli has just added a few of the tactical bits. Now, onto Jayson Molumby.
Jayson Molumby was a highly anticipated signing when he was announced as Preston North End’s first signing of the window on a loan deal from Brighton & Hove Albion.
The Irish international, who is seen as a bit of a coup, had spent the previous campaign on loan to fellow Championship club Millwall, where he featured in nearly 40 games during the 19/20 season. Molumby was a hit in East London, as the ‘Wall fans were disappointed to miss out on the signing of the midfielder this window, having seen a bid rejected before he made the temporary move to Deepdale.
Since he’s made the move up North, he has impressed the North End faithful who, alongside manager Alex Neil, would love to see the Irishman make a permanent move to Lancashire. How likely that may be, remains to be seen, but what is clear is the reason why the Premier League side were reluctant to sell him at this stage – he is clearly very talented.
Molumby is an intense midfielder, capable of playing in multiple areas, due to his range of physical assets as well as his tactical understanding and his underrated technical ability.
I would firstly like to point out Molumby’s aggressive pressing ability.
This is something that North End have always tried to implement, and have been known for. Even fellow Championship managers have credited the work Neil has done with the constraints of such a small budget. North End’s current PPDA (passes per defensive action), a barometer of how much a team presses, is 9.3, which is the 3rd lowest in the League. Only Barnsley and Rotherham press more.
Molumby implements the pressing responsibility in the ‘number 10’ role brilliantly due to his stamina and intensity, and he does it probably the most impressively I’ve seen since Alex Neil took charge.
Pictured below is one of the best examples of how intense and aggressive Molumby’s pressing really is. His ability to shuttle forward and backwards in straight lines sounds simple, but it takes great intelligence and also really good stamina. He changes the out-of-possession shape from Alex Neil’s go to 4-2-3-1, into a standard flat 4-4-2 with Molumby acting as a second striker.
This works to great effect and also impacts various other key areas.
Firstly, it takes away some of the wasteful running the striker has to do, in this case, Emil Riis. Having 2 players in the highest pressing line allows much easier pressing coverage than just the 1 striker, who is easily overloaded. This allows North End to maintain high pressure and can force the opposition into long balls.
It also means, should we take back possession in the final third, that the striker won’t be waiting for his team-mates to get up in support and therefore can be even more effective than Preston already are in their counter-attacking movements. With 2 players in the highest line, if the ball is recovered, there is the possibility of an attacking 2v2, and these situations are very hard to defend.
I also found this image interesting as it shows a slightly different approach to the standard two striker press. When playing with two forwards, the likelihood of the strikers’ positioning is between the centre half and the respective full-back.
However, Molumby is very effective at sticking to the centre half, leaving the full-back free which is key to Alex Neil’s attacks as he regularly outlines the importance of full-backs during attacking phases. Sticking to the opposition’s centre half regularly forces the ball wide into the full-back areas which then triggers Preston’s full-backs to press and counter-attack in numbers when possession has been won.
The second trait I would like to point out is the stamina Molumby has shown and the intensity he uses in all facets of is game.
Alex Neil likes to go with 3 different roles within his midfield trio which provides an ideal balance. He goes with a number 6 (deep midfielder), a number 8 (box to box) and a number 10 (attacking midfielder). This combination has been used for some time by Neil but I don’t believe I have seen a better balance between any of the three partners as of recent games.
As it can be seen here, the combination is balanced and works as the players are able to interchange and are all intelligent enough to cover for one another. In this image, Molumby, who is featuring in the number 10 role, is in fact the deepest player out of the 3, covering in the right-back role.
This proves the engine in which Molumby carries and shows he has the defensive instincts to play a number of roles within that midfield. In fact, Molumby ranks highly amongst his fellow Championship midfielders for defensive duel volume, so he is more than capable in these deeper positions.
I have previously mentioned Molumby’s aggression. This is visible not only within his tackling and pressing, but also his weight of passing and directness of running with attacking intent – everything he does is with intensity, and you can’t teach this, you’ve either got it or you’ve not.
The Irishman played a crucial part in the goal that saw Preston take all 3 points at St Andrew’s as pictured here.e duel volume, so he is more than capable in these deeper positions.
The red arrow represents the ball’s movement and the yellow arrows show the player’s movements.
The goal came from a very intelligent pass from Ben Whiteman who chose to not take an ‘easy pass option’, which goes straight into Scott Sinclair’s feet. Molumby takes a look over his left shoulder to analyse the distance between himself and the Birmingham player towards the bottom of the triangle, receives the ball from a clever flick from Sinclair and then progresses with a direct run into the final third.
The quick check is something so simple yet so effective which top players do effortlessly and prevents them from being dispossessed easily in the middle of the park.
He then goes on to run towards the edge of the box before setting up Scott Sinclair with a perfectly weighted pass that the former Celtic man finished into the bottom corner of Neil Etheridge’s goal and won the game for the Lilywhites.
Another example which highlights the attacking intent that Molumby has is how he avoids the pass North End fans are so used to seeing.
The red arrow in the image below highlights the usual pass that a North End player with his back to goal would look to play (safe pass), however, Molumby chose to dribble into the area that the yellow arrow is highlighting as he showed a turn of pace to beat his man and get a cross which found Brad Potts.
Molumby has good fluidity in wider areas as we’ve seen on a few occasions. He’s comfortable running with the ball, carrying over short and long distances, and his quality of pass is good. We also saw this with the chance he created for Ben Whiteman at Sheffield Wednesday.
Finally, Molumby’s positioning for me is something that has gone highly underrated in his appearances so far.
The way the loanee can create angles in order to receive the ball in a position to allow him to create an attacking situation is something not many players can in this North End squad have the ability to do. He possesses good intelligence in terms of manipulating his body position when receiving the ball to give him the best chance of moving forward with the ball.
The image below is probably my favourite of Jayson Molumby so far.
Circled in this image, this is the position Molumby has taken after taking a simple two-yard step back. This effortless movement changes the complete aspect of our attack as it opens up so many options. Should he not move, he is likely going to be forced to turn back as there won‘t be a nailed on pass available.
The alteration in positioning creates a much better angle for passes to the likes of Ryan Ledson and Scott Sinclair as well as leaving space in front of him so play a more direct pass in which he does as he finds Emil Riis in the channel. These are the small details that give us the belief that he can be a Premier League player.
The movement creates two triangles around the two Birmingham players. This leaves the two Blues players overloaded and completed isolated as if they overcommit, North End are in a position to break with 2 opposition midfielders completely out of the game.
The goal in that game came from Birmingham midfielders over-committing due to Molumby’s positioning as well as Scott Sinclair’s brilliant one-touch play.
To conclude, Alex Neil has already expressed his desire to sign Jayson Molumby on a permanent deal, and I believe we are already seeing why he wants to bring the Irishman into the club.
He’s got a brilliant engine which is absolutely vital at Premier League level, he’s good with both feet, his tactical understanding allows him to be flexible within a midfield trio, he has previously played at full-back which proves his versatility and of course he has shown his intelligence on the pitch. Not to mention, the aggression shown which is something that without Ben Pearson, Preston are going to miss.
Molumby will continue to improve I am sure, especially under the tenure of Alex Neil who has massively impacted the development of the likes of Ben Davies, Alan Browne, Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson in his time at the club.
It would be interesting to see if the complete midfielder did make a permanent move up north in the summer transfer window, as he would surely thrive and become a fantastic player for us at this level under Alex Neil’s coaching.
Finally, our latest interview with adviser to the owner of Preston North End, Peter Ridsdale is available to stream now. We’re on the majority of major streaming platforms or you can press play below. We’re also on twitter here – @fromthefinney.