Kai Kennedy is arguably one of Scottish football’s most exciting talents on display currently. The youngster is destined to follow in the recent footsteps of impressive compatriots, Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney.
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Kennedy, 18, who has just 10-months left on his deal is currently plying his trade with Ranger’s youth team whilst being touted for the step-up into Steven Gerrard’s first-team as early as next season.
The Scottish winger will undoubtedly be being monitored by some of Europe’s best clubs as the youngster displays some seriously impressive offensive traits and is someone who has all the makings to go onto achieve great things in even more illustrious leagues.
Kennedy has been within the Rangers youth set-up since 2018 and has gone onto make 13 appearances in all competitions for the Scottish club’s B side.
The exciting teenager has enjoyed an impressive 18-months after managing to be directly involved in five goals for his side, including three assists in the illustrious youth competition the UEFA Youth League.
Internationally, Kennedy has featured three times for Scotland’s under 19s with all of his appearances coming in his team’s UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign. Kennedy’s most notable performance for Scotland’s under 19s came against Andorra back in December 2019 when he bagged a brace of assists as his team went onto win 2-0.
Style of play
Kennedy generally operates on the left-side of an attacking front line but is truly at his best when deployed as an inside forward role.
The youngster has a superb ability to cut inside from the left flank and create half-a-yard of space before utilising his stronger right-foot to either step up a team-mate or unleash a shot on goal himself.
Kennedy has a unique ability to spray quick, curved balls into his side’s leading attacker or even further out to the right-sided winger. The young winger’s ability to perfectly weight balls whilst maintaining his side’s tempo has become key in his effectiveness to unlock opposition defences.
The exciting wide-man’s game really comes to life when he is given the freedom to run at opponents, very rarely does Kennedy come off second best in a one-on-one situation.
Kennedy possesses some lightening sharp acceleration which he can effectively maintain over greater distances, it is this ability to get ahead and stay ahead of his opponents which really allows the youngster to dictate which area of the pitch he is going to drag his man into.
The Scottish attacker’s ability to drive at his opponents’ back-line whilst exercising his impressive technical ability in the form of close control often allow him the necessary breathing space to be able to execute pin-point and perfectly weighted balls to his progressing team-mates.
At the tender age of just 18 still, it goes without saying that Kennedy could still have time to grow into his frame. The youngster stands at five feet seven inches tall and could arguably develop a physical stature closely reminiscent of Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri.
Kennedy is quick, powerful and remarkably strong for such a young player. The youngster’s ability to shift the ball between half spaces and adjust his body’s movements almost instantly suggest the Scotsman possesses incredible agility and balance.
The winger’s low centre of gravity is really evident to see as he often successfully shifts the ball inside in a seamless and single motion which in turn leaves his man wrong-footed and struggling to recover.
Kennedy has all the makings of becoming one of British football’s stand-out performers over the next 10-years. The youngster possesses some seriously impressive attributes which would not look out of place in a top-half Premier League side.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Rangers youngster is his intelligence when both on and off the ball. Kennedy’s awareness of how to successfully create space not only for himself but also for his team-mates really do pay tribute to his knowledge of how to maximise his own strengths.
Going forward, which of course is the primary duty of an attacking winger, Kennedy showcases both strong physical and technical ability. The Scottish teenager would undoubtedly flourish in a top-flight side who are comfortable allowing their wide-men to be offensively creative. The 18-year-old’s game would become even more influencial in a side who choose to adopt an interchanging front-line, similar to how Manchester United currently play under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Arguably Kennedy’s game would thrive in a senior side where he could engage in a role which allows him to receive the ball in deeper areas and look to carry the ball as he progresses through midfield and towards the edge of his opponent’s area.
I have no doubts that Kennedy’s game would continue to flourish under any manager which utilises his capacity to act as an offensive outlet situated in a more wider position, arguably one not too dissimilar to the role Wilfried Zaha undertakes at Crystal Palace.
As mentioned in depth above, Kennedy’s greatest strengths are his ability to drive at his man whilst very rarely looking likely to lose the ball. The teenager who operates best in the modern role of a wide inside forward has remarkable ability to read the game incredibly well for a player so young.
Kennedy’s willingness to initiate his side’s attacks from deep before offloading the ball and drifting more centrally showcases his versatile ability to adapt to both a wide-man and a mezzala role.
Clearly Kennedy is one to watch as teams all across Europe gear up ready for the start of the 2020-21 season. The young and exciting winger is unquestionably one of, if not, the most impressive young talents to emerge from Scotland in recent times.
The teenager’s ability both technically and physically could see him snapped-up by a Premier League big-boy in the near future. The youngster would not look out of place in England’s big leagues as a genuinely solid left-sided winger capable of operating as an attacker is becoming increasingly more sought after.
As Kennedy naturally flourishes when faced with opponents one-on-one, his ability to know when to move more centrally plays a key role in his effectiveness to dictate proceedings.
It is clear that Kennedy’s team-mates follow his positional lead and that really is one of the greatest compliments a player can receive. With his peers acknowledging when to shift over and when to move into the space Kennedy has freed up for them, the 18-year-old really does showcase some superb tactical awareness which he effectively puts into practice by utilising his impressive physical traits.