Center back Nathan Collins became the Brentford’s third signing of the summer transfer window when a club-record £23m deal was struck with Wolves for his transfer. The defender is expected to add competition to Brentford’s already-solid backline while also helping the club prepare for the future.
Born in Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland, Nathan Collins began his football career at Dublin club Cherry Orchard. It happens to be the same club his father, David, and Uncle Eamonn played for at the start of their careers. He juggled playing at the youth club while simultaneously attending Confey College.
Collins moved to Stoke City in 2016 after being scouted by the brother of assistant manager Mark Bowen. After seeing Collins in action, Tony Bowen helped facilitate a move to the English club. The youngster quickly progressed through Stoke City’s youth setup and made his senior debut on 9 April 2019 against Swansea City. His first start for the club came ten days later in a one-nil away loss to Middlesbrough.
Collins began the 2019/20 season in impressive form and started the first few matches. The youngster was surprisingly given the armband by Nathan Jones against Leeds United, making him Stoke City’s youngest captain. The Northern Ireland international went on to make 17 appearances for the Potters that season. Collins saw even more pitch time in the following campaign, but a season-ending foot injury cut him short after just 27 appearances. Nevertheless, Burnley came calling that summer, as they believed they had seen enough from the youngster before he picked up his unfortunate injury.
Collins joined the Clarets for an undisclosed fee on the 24th of June, 2021. The youngster failed to nail down an immediate place in Burnley’s starting lineup, but became a key member of the first team in the second half. He scored his first two goals for the Clarets in home games against Everton and Southampton. Despite an impressive showing from Collins, Burnley was relegated on the season’s final day following a 2-1 loss to Newcastle.
Wolves rescued Collins from the clutches of Championship football with a bid of £20.5 million — an all-time record fee for an Irish player. He joined the Premier League side on a five-year deal in July 2022. Collins made his Premier League debut for Wolves in a 2-1 defeat away to Leeds United on the season’s opening weekend.
How Will Collins Fit In At Brentford?
Standing at 6ft 3in, Collins is a monster in the air but is also very adept with the ball at his feet. In his sole season at Wolves, Collins was ranked in the 97th percentile for aerial duels won among center-backs in Europe’s top five leagues. He won 1.4 aerial duels per game last season.
While his ability to use his impressive height to his advantage has already been established, he’s quite comfortable with the ball on the floor as well. Collins made 80 clearances last season, equating to 4.08 clearances per game, which saw him ranked in the 93rd percentile in the Premier League. Opponents dribbled past him just nine times last season, and his 24 blocks also saw him ranked in the 99th percentile.
His poise and control is evidenced by the zero penalties he gave away last season. He also completed a whopping 953 of the 1076 passes he attempted, placing him in the 92nd percentile for successful passes. His pass-completion rate in the final third was an impressive 78.1%. The youngster emphasized his comfort as a ball-playing defender when he was unveiled as a Brentford player.
I like to play football. I want to dribble, play and create. It starts at the back. I can play long balls and short balls. But, at the end of the day, I’m a defender and I have to head the ball and win my challenges.
A natural center back, Collins can also slot in at right back when needed. Capable of playing in a back three as he does with the Republic of Ireland, he has mostly been utilized in a back four at club level. His ability to play in multiple positions and in different systems is part of the reason Thomas Frank pushed hard for his signature.
Brentford has an aging defence that needs to be refreshed, and Collins is an excellent candidate to begin the renovation. Thomas Frank’s current first-choice center-backs, Ethan Pinnock and Ben Mee, are both over 30 years old and, and both are left-footed. Backup Mathias Jorgensen turned 33 in April, and backup Kristoffer Ajer is frequently unavailable due to a propensity for injury.
A center-back pairing of Mee and Collins could work well, as the two have history during their time together at Burnley. Mee was one of Collins’s mentors during his short stay at the club, the youngster often picking Mee’s brain as well as those of other senior center-backs like Kevin Long and James Takowski.
Thomas Frank’s love for ball-playing defenders should bode well for Collins, as the coach admitted toward the end of last season that he wants his team to evolve into more of a possession-dominant side. Collins fits that bill perfectly, as he not only likes to step out of the backline to rob the opposition of possession, but also enjoys carrying the ball forward from there.
Priced at just £4.5m in FPL, Collins will represent a good investment whenever Frank needs to rotate at the back. While the paring of Mee and Pinnock looks to remain first-choice this season, Collins will probably jump ahead of Ajer and Jorgensen in the pecking order. If either Pinnock or Mee is sidelined for a spell, Collins will come into contention as a reasonably-priced ticket into the Bees’ solid defense.
In Fantrax, Collins’ aerial prowess as well as his talents on both sides of the ball should see him replicate the rich productivity we’ve seen from Mee and Pinnock whenever he is given the chance.
What are your thoughts on this signing? Do you think Collins could unseat Mee or Pinnock to become a first-choice center-back this season? Please log in and let us know in the comments below!