Club: Leeds United
Position(s): CM, AM
Preferred Foot: Right
Strengths: technical ability, passing, dribbling, athleticism, aggression
Areas for improvement: experience, physicality
Archie Gray is one of England’s most exciting prospects at the youth level and it could potentially be a breakout season for him at Leeds this season under Daniel Farke, with the 17-year-old making his first-team debut and playing 93 minutes in their 2-2 draw to Cardiff on opening day before playing the full match in their next three Championship matches, a 1-0 defeat at Birmingham City, a 1-1 draw to West Brom, and a 4-3 victory at Ipswich Town.
A technical CM who’s efficient on the ball but also has a hunger to make tackles too, Gray is a special player with a very high ceiling, boasting an immense passing ability. He’s a great ball carrier who is aggressive in physical duels and holds his own in terms of keeping his side compact out of possession, and whilst he is capable of being moulded into a 6, 8, or 10, he would perhaps be best suited to an 8, an interior midfielder. He has a stellar vision that allows him to see pockets of space to drive into or play through balls to his teammates, capable of playing pinpoint long balls, and while he doesn’t use his left foot enough, he has proven capable of making solid passes with his weak foot.
Despite having a lanky frame, Gray has quick feet which enables him to wriggle out of tight spaces, creating space to increase his passing options and progress play, maneuvering his way out of pressure and advancing possession. Whilst he hasn’t had plenty of opportunities to take a crack at goal, he has shown glimpses of good shooting technique, and if he can add more goals to his game, he could very well become one of the most complete midfielders in England’s second tier.
Another part of his game that makes him so complete is his tackling. Whilst he doesn’t turn 18 until March, he times his tackles very well and loves to be aggressive in winning the ball back and excels in slide tackles, something that could end up getting him cautioned eventually and that shows his initial positioning isn’t always the best as he’s not close enough to his opponent to make a standing tackle and is instead forced to make a high-risk sliding tackle.
One area for improvement is his physical strength. He’s got great aggression in duels and tackles as he uses his body well, and whilst he is still a raw gem, a season of consistent game-time in the Championship could be just what he needs to iron out his flaws and establish himself as a key figure in midfield at Leeds.
It has been a dreary few months for Leeds supporters, with the club suffering a player exodus following their relegation with the likes of Tyler Adams, Jack Harrison and Rodrigo departing, but they can nevertheless take solace in seeing a player who is truly one of their own flourish. His father Andy, his grandfather Frank and his great uncle Eddie were all former Leeds players, whilst his younger brother Harry is also at Leeds’ academy.
Having joined Leeds in 2014, Gray quickly established himself as one of the academy’s brightest prospects with an agreement being reached between Leeds and his school for him to miss classes in order to train with the first team, at the behest of then-manager Marcelo Bielsa. On December 18, 2021, he was named on the bench for a Premier League match against Arsenal, and if he had featured, he would have broken the record for Leeds’ youngest player set in 1962 by Peter Lorimer. Today, at the tender age of 17, he has the chance to follow in the footsteps of his family members and make a name for himself at Elland Road.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Robbie Stephenson – PA Images