Apparently watching and recording everything Josh McEachran does when he takes the field for Swansea is a thing I do now. Let's roll with it.
This week Swansea City lost 2-0 to Stoke City at the Britannia, and McEachran a) didn't start and b) didn't come off the bench until after both goals had been scored, meaning that it's completely impossible to scapegoat him for the dropped points. Of note: The Britannia is really really tiny and small grounds tend to make a possession game more difficult.
70': The board goes up with McEachran's number, and Josh, looking miniature as ever in Swansea's orange away kit, appears on the sideline. He'll replace former Chelsea man Scott Sinclair, meaning he's the left shuttler in a 4-4-2 diamond.
71': It takes a full minute to complete the substitution. I'm serious.
72': McEachran gets his first touch following Asmir Begovic's long goal kick. He doesn't even think about challenging Peter Crouch for the first ball, because he's not totally insane, but Ashley Williams gets on the end of the big striker's flick and immediately passes to McEachran. Josh controls and pushes the ball back to Neil Taylor, who is under zero pressure before making a complete mess of things. Swansea lose the ball.
73': Swansea have possession back and although Josh isn't immediately involved, he gets himself into some excellent positions to support the rest of his team, finding new space in order offer himself up for a pass whenever the ball moves. Eventually, Angel Rangel picks him out, and Josh continues the switch of play by giving Williams a pass on the left. Williams pushes up with the ball and McEachran goes with him, receiving possession from Taylor before playing it back to Williams. Nothing too exciting here, Swansea eventually lose out after Luke Moore and Gylfi Sigurdsson attempt a one-two.
74': McEachran is beaten by Peter Crouch in the air. Shocking, that. I'd compliment him being in the right place but failing to know where Peter Crouch is at all times as a football would be an capital offence, so whatever. After Swansea get the ball back, Leon Britton passes to him in the centre, Josh drives up the left and gives the ball to Taylor, who doesn't do much with it.
75:' Receives a Luke Moore pass in the centre before exchanging passes with Taylor again. Passes backwards to Britton. Nothing interesting or incisive.
76': Swansea again build from the back, Josh again demonstrates decent awareness of space with his off-ball movement. He wants the ball, Britton obliges him, and this time McEachran plays a forward pass to Danny Graham. Graham's pinned in by Andy Wilkinson, however, and is forced to pass wide to Taylor. Swansea win a throw, McEachran receives the first pass and opens up play by centering for Joe Allen, whose attempted through ball is cut out.
77': Josh stays deep on a Sigurdsson free kick, and is there to mop up as the ball comes out to him. He immediately passes to Allen for another cross, which ends up in Begovic's hands via Luke Moore's head.
78': Stoke have had virtually none of the ball on the ground so far, so Josh's defensive flaws are being mitigated somewhat. He's on hand again for Britton as Swansea look to build up play from deep and after receiving the pass, he attempts a through ball to Graham that doesn't quite make it. To be honest, it's difficult to see what happens here, because Jon Walters is hurt and the camera decides that a view of his bottom is more appropriate than seeing what McEachran is up to.
Dean Whitehead ends up with the ball and Josh immediately closes him down, which is good to see, but he doesn't press Andy Wilkinson when he gets the ball. That's probably a good thing, considering how deep Wilkinson was - McEachran risked being yanked way out of position for no reason there - but he'd have been better off running back to his proper position rather than attempting to apply half-assed pressure from 15 or so yards away.
79': Like against Norwich, Josh is not allowed near the area on an opposition corner. He takes up a position outside the box on the near side, but the ball is cleared far side so he's uninvolved as Swansea fail to break out. Eventually the ball comes, as it always does, to Britton in the centre, and Josh (broken record time) offers himself up for and receives a pass. He passes to Taylor and shapes to run inside the fullback, but he doesn't get the return ball.
80': McEachran's a little deeper than usual here, picking up a pass from Rangel and then immediately laying the ball off to Britton. The play ends with a Moore shot straight at Begovic for the Stoke goalkeeper's first save of the match. When the long punt comes down the field, Josh gets in good position to receive a header from Taylor had the left back been feeling ambitious, but no such luck there.
81': Josh receives a Steven Caulker pass, pushes forward and looks for an opening. He doesn't find one, so back to Britton it goes. Allen then gets the ball, and he feeds Josh. McEachran, however, is under heavy pressure by Wilkinson, who wins the ball cleanly and launches a Stoke attack. That's mostly Josh's fault - he should have known that Wilkinson was on top of him, but didn't and therefore never put his body in the way. He'd have won a free kick in good position with proper awareness and shielding, and instead gave the ball away by turning right into the tackle:
Anyway, the Stoke attack comes to nothing, and Swansea go forward again, with McEachran receiving a pass from Taylor before giving the ball to Joe Allen.
82': Stoke have the ball, which means good old booming punts forward. Caulker half-clears towards Ryan Shotton, and although Josh applies some pressure he can't prevent the ball going to Whitehead. Josh hands Shotton off to Taylor and then starts to close Whitehead down, so the central midfielder plays it wide.
83': Nothing going on here.
84': Stoke have a 40-yard free kick. Swansea set up a two-man wall. Josh isn't in it. Instead, he's apparently marking Cameron Jerome just inside of the box, at the left terminator of the 'D'. This seems unwise, but the ball goes nowhere near him. Stoke then get a corner, and Josh does his outside-the-box-near-post thing, nearly getting drawn in by an early run but then retreating. Swansea break and Josh is in brilliant position to contribute, but Joe Allen holds the ball for far too long and the chance is lost.
85': McEachran attempts to get revenge for that earlier tackle by Wilkinson by stopping the right back's surging run forward. It doesn't work out that well, with Wilkinson avoiding being dispossessed pretty easily, but to Josh's credit he stays with his man and blocks the attempted cross for a corner. That's not bad defending, actually.
86': Stoke put some pressure on the left flank, which is apparently the primary area of defensive responsibility for Josh. Taylor has things more or less covered, though, so McEachran doesn't dive in, hanging around on the outskirts instead as the left back clears. I'm not sure if this is lazy or sensible from the midfielder, but I'm leaning toward sensible.
87': Josh is again outside the box on a Stoke set piece, this time a long throw by Shotton. Swansea clear easily and can break, and McEachran is fed by Moore as orange shirts start to pile forward. His path is impeded by Wilkinson, however, and he cuts the ball back for Britton. The pass is blind and backwards, ending up at Taylor's feet rather than that of its intended recipient, but that's really much of a muchness here, since it went to a Swansea player.
88': This minute gets eaten up by a pair of Stoke City substitutions. Nothing to see here, move along.
89': Rory Delap fakes a long throw, going instead to Wilson Palacios, Josh is the defender responsible and really should go in harder on the challenge - his halfhearted attempt to retrieve the ball (it wasn't really a tackle) allowed Palacios to slip the ball back to Delap, who's able to swing in a dangerous but ultimately fruitless cross. Suboptimal defensive work there.
90': This time Josh's pressure on Palacios is mildly successful, and he forces Stoke back into their own half. McEachran does good work on this possession, contributing to the eventual Stoke mistake that sees them give the ball back to Swansea.
90+1': McEachran robs Wilkinson on the left (sweet revenge!) and scampers off down the touchline, eventually swinging in a low cross that Stoke scramble clear. It's not that great a delivery, in truth, because it's behind the best target available in Luke Moore, but it's some positive play from Swansea and results in a throw in from a good position.
90+2': Swansea hit the bar with Josh not involved. Great save by Begovic.
90+3': Some very neat feet and awareness from McEachran to free up the ball from the touchline and get it to Britton. Josh, like every Swansea player, races forward into the box, but some very poor work by Taylor costs him - he was in prime position for a pullback and Taylor whiffed on the pass. Full time from Howard Webb.
If I had access to McEachran in a coachy sort of a way rather than an I-am-ur-biggest-fan-plz-RT!! way, the main question I'd have had for him after that match is "Why didn't you play more ambitious passes?" He had an attempted through ball to Graham that was cut out, but by and large he played things short and safe, which not at all what the situation called for. Swansea were down by two, and risk-taking was entirely acceptable there.
Now, it may be that the attackers weren't moving very well, or that Stoke had them covered - it's difficult to assess potential passes from the television because players are cut out of the picture - but someone with Josh's passing range should be trying to make things happen when he comes off the bench rather than letting his teammates do it all. After all, they're the ones who went 2-0 down!
Defensively, McEachran's performance wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. That's an improvement on the Norwich City game, however, and not once did Josh look like a lost little lamb in the middle of the pitch. The tackle to rob Wilkinson was particularly fun, even if the right back did basically fall over himself to give him the ball.
Overall, this was far from McEachran at his best. I wouldn't put too much stock into that - it was a fairly short runout for the 18-year-old, after all - but he could have done more to help his team get back into it, and I'd hope that as he gets older and more comfortable, he starts taking charge in those situations. Holding the ball is great when you're winning, but when you're losing, you have to actually try to break down the opposition, and we didn't see that here.
Next up is some time (hopefully!) with the England under-21s against Belgium.