Interviews

Let’s Talk: Patrick Roberts with Brendán MacFarlane

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Manchester City’s Patrick Roberts is one of English football’s most exciting young talents and was dispatched to Celtic on an 18 month loan in January. Since breaking into the first-team under Ronny Deila, the England youth international has made a huge impact. We caught up with Brendán MacFarlane to learn more about the the 19-year-old and his potential.

Patrick Roberts has made a big impression in the Scottish Premier League since his loan move to Celtic was confirmed on February 1st. Just what sort of effect has he had on Celtic’s game?

The Ronny Deila era at Celtic has been marked by the Norwegian’s determination to implement a 4-2-3-1 system, which at times has proved to be controversial. Criticism has often be leveled at the side’s apparent lack of width in important matches. However, Patrick Roberts’ inclusion in the first-team line-up has definitely served to remediate this weakness. He likes to hug the right-hand touchline before cutting in on his left-foot and using his trickery to go by players. This has been evident since his debut and as a result he has been a welcome addition to the first-team squad. He’s brought ingenuity, vision and flair and this has earned him a merited place in the first eleven.

Roberts has netted six goals in his last nine games, but which one was your personal favourite and why?

That’s a tough one! Though the finish wasn’t the cleanest, his goal against Hearts has to be up there. The atmosphere at Tynecastle, with its steep sloping terraces giving the fans proximity to the pitch, is always intimidating whenever Celtic travel there as the game has the feel of a derby, so scoring in your first match there against a decent home side is no mean feat. Having said that, the first of his goals against Aberdeen oozed class, and for that reason that would be my choice. Graeme Shinnie is probably one of the top three left-backs in Scotland and Roberts seemed to effortlessly glide by him when he cut in from the right-hand side before curling home an excellent shot on his left peg from range, leaving Shinnie in his wake!

For a 19-year-old lad, he seems to be handling the pressure of being at such a big club really well. Do you think he’s got what it takes to break into this City side in the near future and possibly become a regular in the England set up?

In my line of work, I am constantly trying to identify talented young players, so I try to approach this task with a methodological and systematical approach. I analyse the strength of players in terms of their technical, physiological and psychological capacities. The indicators so far point to Roberts becoming a very balanced and well-rounded athlete given his strength in these three areas.

So far at Celtic, he has demonstrated all the technical capacities you need to become a top winger and I’m sure that’s what he’ll turn out to be for his parent club. He has creative flair and composure in abundance and he has already demonstrated his two-footed ability when crossing from the wing. He needs little room to maneuver in when shaping to shoot or cross and his decisiveness when making decisions is also impressive for a player at his stage in his career. There is however room for improvement in certain aspects of his game, for example his ability to contribute to his side’s defensive game by tracking back to tackle more often, but this is to be expected for a winger with as little first-team experience as he has and he will no doubt return to Manchester City with improved ability in this regard.

In terms of his psychical ability, he has demonstrated on a number of occasions his pace when in possession and his quickness when making runs off the ball, and this will aid him greatly when he returns to as fast a top-flight league as the EPL. As I’m sure many fans have noticed, he isn’t the tallest or the most physically imposing winger in the world, but his loan spell in Scotland will definitely help him to develop a physical edge to his game. Wingers playing for Celtic have to cope with forceful marking as teams often have to fight to win back possession, and given his reputation, full-backs in the country will want to make a name for themselves by performing robustly against him. Given the lessons he will learn from the rough and tumble of Scottish football, and his natural physical development combined with effective strength and conditioning training, he could turn him into a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Given the fact that his parent club spent such a vast amount of money on him at an incredibly young age, Roberts will always have an extra amount of pressure to perform upon his shoulders. This reality, coupled with the fact that he’s playing for Celtic, a club that is expected to win every game they play in Scotland, can’t be easy for a nineteen-year-old to deal with. However his attitude and approach so far has been exemplary and he airs a detectable sense of maturity in the manner in which he speaks to the media and in how he conducts himself on the park. I personally felt that he dealt with the pressure of playing against Rangers in a cup semi-final extremely well, but what has impressed me most in terms of his personality has been his ability to bounce back from his open goal miss in that match to once again reach a strong and consistent level of performance. I think in this regard he has shown a remarkable level of resilience that should stand him in good stead stood in the future when performing at the highest level of club football with a club of Manchester City’s stature, and potentially even representing England at senior level.

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