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Analysis: Revitalised Robbie Brady making case for return to Irish team

Brady has impressed in the opening weeks of the season for Preston North End.

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This analysis by Gavin Cooney is available in full exclusively to The42 Members.

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“I REALLY ADMIRE Robbie Brady”, Stephen Kenny said earlier this year, a regular refrain throughout his time as Ireland manager. Sadly, Kenny has praised him more often than he has picked him. That’s almost entirely been down to circumstance: Brady’s significant achilles injury came in the friendly game away to Qatar, and it was the moment his career stalled.

His contract wound down at Burnley, and the Championship season was well underway when it was announced he signed for Bournemouth. He made little impact there, however, and wasn’t retained for their tilt at the Premier League. Brady has now popped up among the Irish contingent at Preston North End, where the reward of a one-year contract after a trial wasn’t exactly an enormous vote of confidence. 

But Brady is making the most of his chance. He has impressed across the opening three games of the Championship season, and if he remains fit for another few weeks, might be close to forcing his way back into the Irish squad. 

Brady has been playing at left wing-back for Preston, though Kenny has thus far seen him t0 date as a forward player. Brady’s form, quality and the way he has been playing the position so far, however, might give Kenny a reason to see him as a wing-back too. 

He has added real invention and creativity to Preston. WyScout define a ‘progressive pass’ as one that travels at least 30 metres closer to the opponent’s goal: Brady has completed more of them than any other player in the opening three rounds of the league. 

He got his first assist at the weekend against Luton – more about that shortly – but he should have had at least one more already: he is second in the Expected Assists chart in the Championship. 

Playing at left wing-back has afforded him some time and space to get crosses into the penalty area, and the quality of crossing has been very good. Here’s the assist for the winning goal against Luton at the weekend. In fairness to Brad Potts, he did the better part of the work…

That kind of crossing quality from Brady is predictable. What is possibly more interesting to Kenny is some of Brady’s off-the-ball movement. 

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After Kenny finally got his contract extension, he brought a group of journalists into the FAI’s video analysis bunker to run through some of his tactical ideas. The video montage he showed was what the old RTÉ panel would call Good Irish Play. 

One of the ideas Kenny spelled out was how he wanted his wing-backs to come in-field. 

Let’s show a couple of examples from last year…

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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