This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Manchester United winger Daniel James has been given something clear to work on from his latest appearance for Wales.
United’s summer signing from Swansea City started the clash with Azerbaijan on Saturday and created his side’s first goal, as he embarked on a mazy dribble and crash an effort against the underside of the bar, leading to Harry Wilson’s opener.
However, the statistics show that he endured a mixed evening despite his side’s victory.
Per SofaScore, James had 57 touches of the ball and while he laid on three key passes, he struggled with his general accuracy.
He had a pass completion rate of 81%, completed just one accurate cross having attempted seven, and did not have a single shot on target.
Add in that James lost possession on 17 occasions – more than any other Wales attacker – and that he was dribbled past once, and it’s clear James was not quite at his sparkling best for his country.
However, he was rated higher than Gareth Bale for his contribution, picking up a 7.7 rating, and one feels that he merely has to improve in terms of his decision-making if he is to fulfil his burgeoning potential.
James is perhaps a victim of the way he tries to play.
The United speedster is so quick that he continually looks to carry the ball forward and beat his man, not unlike Bale.
He completed three dribbles out of the four that he attempted and, while he created one big chance, there is a case to be made for James slightly altering his playing style if he is to have even more success, particularly for Wales.
His profile has been raised by his time at United and defences are already doubling up on him as he tries to make his runs.
It is excellent to see a young player with the confidence to run with the ball and look to take players on consistently, and James is a real outlet for both club and country.
But there is nothing wrong with looking to pass instead of running on, otherwise James risks running into cul-de-sacs all too regularly.
Wales boss Ryan Giggs was a master at this and always seemed to make the right decision when it came to choosing whether to take his man on or not.
That knowledge will surely trickle down and, eventually, one has to believe that James will strike the right balance between trying to beat defenders and distributing effectively.