Taylor Moore is beginning to establish himself as a key part of Bristol City’s promotion challenge, so Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) casts his eye over the defender’s progress.
Player in Focus: Taylor Moore
Only a few months ago, there were major question marks over whether Moore could make the grade at Bristol City.
He had had a mixed loan spell in 2017-18 at Cheltenham Town where, having been only used to youth football, he struggled to adjust to the physicality of League Two.
The following season, Moore had a difficult stint at Southend United, being part of a Shrimpers side that conceded 68 League One goals and only stayed up on the last day.
He toiled as a left-sided centre-back in the opening day 3-1 home loss to Leeds United, before being dropped from the match-day squad for the 1-1 draw at Birmingham the following week.
The young defender was struggling to prove that he can hold his own at Championship level, let alone thrive in a team with lofty ambitions.
Moving to the right
Moore started on the right of a back-three for the 2-0 victory over QPR and since that game, it has become clear that he is strongest in that position.
On the left, he appeared to position himself more timidly because it may have been harder for him to tackle or intercept with his weaker foot; opposing players were therefore able to make more headway as a result.
On the right, though, he is more confident and aggressive, so we are seeing better all-round performances.
And yet, last time he played on the left of the defence – the 1-0 win at Reading last time out – he was much improved from the time against Leeds, which shows he is developing.
Early question marks over Moore’s possible lack of physicality have been quashed, with the defender bulking up following his two loan spells.
Moore is still not great at winning headers against a target man - a responsibility that fellow centre-back Ashley Williams often takes on - but he is now a lot more comfortable with the physical side of the game.
Although Moore still makes the odd mistake, like every young centre-back, he continues to develop each week.
It does Moore no harm to learn the game next to Ashley Williams.
The Welshman has not only won promotion from this level with Swansea but also played in the Premier League for seven years running, including two at Everton, managing 86 international caps too, scoring against Belgium at Euro 2016.
Williams is a natural leader and, it seems, those qualities are being acquired by Moore, who now has the confidence to organise and instruct players with far more senior experience.
Because the Robins have fostered a culture in which leadership in different individuals is encouraged, they maintain a solidity in almost all their games, which enables them to pick up points when perhaps not at their best in possession.
Wide range of qualities
There are probably better centre-backs in the Championship than him on individual categories: Dominic Iorfa might be quicker, Sean Morrison is stronger in the air, Alfie Mawson looks more accomplished in possession.
What appeals most about Moore, perhaps, is that he is competent in a lot of different aspects of the game; he brings the ball out well, he has pace, he has completed as many as 29 interceptions this season – Ben White is the only one to have completed more.
Whereas a lot of centre-backs specialise in one or two main areas of their game, Moore is a jack-of-all-trades.
In terms of Bristol City, Tomas Kalas is set to return from a knock to add to Lee Johnson’s options after the international break.
Whether or not Moore’s place comes under threat through the increased options will be a marker of how far he has come, but now, it looks more likely that Williams would drop out to incorporate Kalas, in order to manage the veteran’s minutes.
Thinking longer-term, there is no reason why Moore cannot go onto play in the Premier League, as Adam Webster is now doing off the back of his excellent centre-back performances at Ashton Gate.
He may even get an England cap, having represented his country at four different age groups.
Each of the Three Lions’ current centre-back options – Harry Maguire, John Stones, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, James Tarkowski, Fikayo Tomori and Lewis Dunk – have all played in the EFL.
The future looks bright.