Why Yaser Kasim is the solution to Swindon’s creative midfield problems
New TheWashbag.com columnist Chris Linnell – Town fan and editor at The Boot Room – outlines why Yaser Kasim is the solution to Swindon Town’s creative midfield problems.
Having changed from the 3-5-2 system that served the club so well last season, Swindon Town chief Mark Cooper has favoured a 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 set-up throughout the new League One campaign; but thus far the club’s performances have appeared flat and lacking creativity.
Town’s lack of attacking options are already well documented by now, but far less has been said about the absence of a regular creative stalwart in the midfield. It is unlikely that the club will enter the transfer market for said player- and rightly so, because this is simply not necessary.
If Mark Cooper requires a player capable of fulfilling the number ‘10’ play-making role in his side, Yaser Kasim is the man. The former Tottenham youth product boasts all the attributes required to be a creative force for Swindon – and ultimately a slight positional tweak could prove the differential this season.
The traditional number ‘10’ role requires a player capable of scoring as well as creating chances for his team-mates. Kasim has displayed the ability to offer both aspects, particularly since he has been required to step up and take a more senior role in the Swindon side.
Since his arrival as a free agent from Brighton, his time spent with Swindon has only seen his game improve. As he continues to thrive in the system that supports his playing-style to a T, his career trajectory is only set to spiral in an upwards direction.
His involvement at Gigg Lane last Saturday typified his ability in the final third. This was particularly evident during the latter stages as the Robins – somehow – wrestled their way back into the match, claiming a valuable away point and ensuring an unbeaten start to the 2015/16 campaign.
Released from the shackles of his typical holding-midfield role, the 24-year-old was seen pushing forward and creating chances for his side, with his efforts culminating in an assist for Fabien Robert’s first goal of the season.
We saw less of Kasim in an attacking sense versus Port Vale, as Anton Rodgers stole the plaudits in this regard. But if we rewind back to the pre-season period, his solo goals against West Brom and QPR will remain fresh in the memory.
Both attempts were identical, in theory and implementation. Receiving the ball on the edge of the 18-yard-box, the 24-year-old calmly fired a low driven strike into the corner of the opposition’s net.
He has the ability to pull off this kind of effort at goal, but the opportunity rarely falls to him while fulfilling his holding-midfield obligations. Tasked with sitting deep to breakdown his opponents attacking exploits, his forays into enemy territory are often restricted.
He possesses a rare knack for reading the game that stretches far and beyond that of his current peers. Some may even suggest he has the footballing IQ of a top flight pro, while his composure when on the ball remains unrivalled by any other player at the County Ground.
Kasim is a midfielder operates with such composure that he makes the game look easy – even those who have played at the most basic level of amateur football will appreciate that, in reality, it is the complete opposite.
The ‘Iraqi Pirlo’, he is a player of elegance and authority, always one step ahead of play. Nine times out of ten, his first touch sees him move into the space, turning away or dribbling past an onrushing opponent, before playing a simple short pass to a nearby team-mate.
We have, of course, seen him dispossessed in compromising positions – a regularly aired gripe among the club’s more cynical supporters. However, in a more advanced role, this impact of such mistakes would prove far less costly for Cooper’s side.
At just 24 years of age, he will become more intelligent in high-pressure situations, especially as he makes his way up the football pyramid. Swindon’s risky playing style certainly does him no favours – but it is one he thrives in, more often than not.
A tough-tackling midfielder, perhaps, but would the Iraqi international be more suited to a more advanced role in Cooper’s system – a position in which he can dictate play and pull the creative strings from the space between the opposition midfield and defence?
With summer signing Drissa Traore – whose penchant for a physical exchange is surely well documented by now – and Liverpool loanee Jordan Williams fulfilling the holding midfield duties, Kasim would be free to command proceedings in the final third.
Bury manager, David Flitcroft’s tactical decision to double-mark the Iraqi throughout Swindon’s trip to Gigg Lane is further proof – as if any is required – of the creative threat Kasim offers. Even in a more restricted role he is already being flagged as Town’s most threatening asset.
Kasim’s Swindon future
A level-headed pro, it is impressive to think that Kasim initially turned down the opportunity to represent his home nation at international level, in order to concentrate on fully establishing himself as a first-team regular at the County Ground.
Eighty-eight domestic appearances later and he has now featured for his country on 10 occasions, during which time he has found himself on the score-sheet twice. He has proven to be a valuable servant for the Town, with whom he has established himself as one of the division’s most technically able players.
With last season’s play-off final side dismantled around him, Kasim was quick to admit that he was ready for a new challenge ahead of the current campaign. However, luckily for Town fans, he looks set to stay until at least the New Year and his influence – wherever he may play – is likely to prove vital.
It is testament to Kasim’s ability that he has been courted by a number of Championship sides during the current window – the likes of Wolves and Birmingham – all of whom evidently recognise the player’s ability to succeed at a higher level.
In terms of the Iraqi’s future at the County Ground, the following season could prove decisive. Achieve promotion to the Championship, and he could sit tight for another season. Remain in the third tier, and he will undoubtedly follow in the footsteps of Massimo Luongo and Ben Gladwin.