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Scouting: Josh Laurent

Reading's pursuit of Josh Laurent seems like it may finally be coming to an end, with a medical expected to take place today. His headline figures (2g, 2a this season) aren't necessarily much to write home about, but given that The Shrews were the second-lowest scorers in League One maybe there's little to be read into them.

Laurent looks most comfortable when mainly focussing on going forward. He has a burst of pace that can be useful in transition, and likes to run into open space. He often looks especially potent on the counter with players able to fill in behind him. That said he can play the deeper role too and has a decent range of passing that feels more functional than defence-splitting on the whole.

Defensively Shrewsbury often leave him without the responsibility required of others but he's decent positionally, and can track runners but likes to stay in shape rather than rushing out to meet threats - which should see him fit in well.

Laurent doesn't see as much of the ball as our midfielders, so instead of using p90 metrics, I've decided to show how frequently he performs certain actions based on touches. So the lower the bar, the more frequently he attempts the action (or has the action performed upon him, in terms of fouls awarded).

The key takeaway is that he's not dissimilar, at least in some metrics, to our current crop of CMs. He's willing to dribble, plays key passes roughly as much much as Ejaria, but is far more willing to shoot. Interestingly though, he's not fouled nearly as much as the others - possibly indicating a lack of the skill shown by Ovie or Olise while conducting those dribbles, or the nous of Rinomhota in more general situations. When he does win set-pieces they can be crucial - his direct running, with and without the ball, winning penalties during famous FA Cup nights against Stoke and Liverpool in the last couple of seasons.

One of the reasons he's not playing as many key passes as Swift, despite being a crucial part of the Shrewsbury attack, is that his role is to play out to wide positions. So Laurent gets the ball, shifts it wide, and gets himself into the box. Did someone say, 'Swift in December'? He even tends to shift the ball right, and I can already see the onrushing Yiadom taking full advantage given Blackett in a Reading shirt is no more.

He attacks the six-yard box in a way we don't currently have from midfield. When Joao plays that's his run, with the CAM looking for the pullback, but that really is a small change to make. Getting players from midfield into the box when attacking can only be a good thing, and create more space for the forwards.

I think most have assumed Laurent and Rinomhota in midfield is what Bowen was hinting at with his 'energetic' midfield. To me, you've effectively got two box-to-box midfielders (in fact, Laurent tends even more offensively), and with nobody behind them, you have a recipe for Bowen's usual 4-4-2 deficiencies (or whatever system we're actually going to see). Shrewsbury play three at the back, and often have five in midfield alongside that - with Oliver Norburn in there to do the defensive dirty work - which gives the platform for no. 28 to get forward.

We have seen Bowen use Rino in some strange ways since the restart, most notably having him make off the ball runs attempting to break through the defensive line against Huddersfield, which is probably a better use for Laurent rather than having our academy grad do the work of two players.

The only real caveat I see for signing Laurent is he seems to slot most naturally into the role that also fits  Olise play; As the furthest forward midfielder running with the ball. I can see him playing a more disciplined role, but is that really the best use of his talents?

Either way, it's hard to argue with this signing. On a free from a lower League One team, with enough versatility to do a job in any of those CM roles, it's the exact kind of transfer that our finances are going to dictate.


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