Profiling Peterborough United's England U-19 international defender
Who is Ronnie Edwards?
Ronnie Edwards is a Barnet academy graduate who left the Bees to join Peterborough United in 2020, as part of the club’s vision to poach and develop some of the very best League Two and National League talent.
It is worth noting that Edwards had only just made his senior debut for Barnet, playing just two minutes for the first team before his departure.
The move came when Peterborough themselves were still in League One, but Edwards would experience promotion to the Championship in his first year with The Posh, also earning himself a handful of first-team appearances last season.
It might be surprising then to see that this season, at just 18-years-old, Edwards has made 20 Championship appearances with roughly a third of the season yet to be played.
Edwards’ fate seems to be following that of former Posh players that starred briefly at London Road before being sold on for a huge marginal profit. Ivan Toney’s sale to Brentford is the most recent and noted example, but sales of Britt Assombalonga and Dwight Gayle have also provided the East Midland-based club significant funding. It is no exaggeration to say that a club of Peterborough’s stature could sustain themselves for at least two years off of a player sale that a talent like Edwards could produce.
Spirited director of football Barry Fry has stated that a couple seasons of Championship football could see Edward’s price rise to between £10-20 million, a windfall so important to the club that club chairman Darragh MacAnthony has referred to Edwards as ‘new stadium’. Fry has also reiterated that Peterborough have no intention of selling him, but take another look at the league table, and Peterborough in 22nd place, and quickly realise that this may not be a choice for long. They must sell if they drop back into League One.
For England, Edwards was first called up for international duty in October 2021, after taking part in an England U-19 training camp in May 2021.
Ronnie Edwards' style of play
Peterborough’s style of play has this season, at times, been hard to identify. Darren Ferguson has opted for flexibility in formation – everytime the team sheet is announced, the first task for fans is figuring out who’s playing where – and this has included both back three and four formations. In a back three, Edwards has been selected in the middle, covering for captain Mark Beevers at the start of the season, but now the captain’s place has been usurped by the young defender, given the nature of his performances, despite the collectives.
What most comment on about Edwards game is his composure, and for damn good reason. He seems unphased by opposition pressure, nor the fact he’s playing in front of thousands of football fans. He has a strong awareness of the space and players around him, which mixes well with his composure and elegance on the ball. He is predominantly right-footed, but Edwards frets not when an opponent runs towards his location, and simply lays off the ball before he can lose it, or even sometimes take it past an opponent, though this is rare.
Peterborough’s style of play has this season, at times, been hard to identify. Darren Ferguson has opted for flexibility in formation – everytime the team sheet is announced, the first task for fans is figuring out who’s playing where – and this has included both back three and four formations.
In a back three, Edwards has been selected in the middle, covering for captain Mark Beevers at the start of the season, but now the captain’s place has been usurped by the young defender, given the nature of his performances, despite the collectives.
What most comment on about Edwards game is his composure, and for damn good reason. He seems unphased by opposition pressure, nor the fact he’s playing in front of thousands of football fans. He has a strong awareness of the space and players around him, which mixes well with his composure and elegance on the ball.
He is predominantly right-footed, but Edwards frets not when an opponent runs towards his location, and simply lays off the ball before he can lose it, or even sometimes take it past an opponent, though this is rare.
In the centre of a back three, Edwards is undoubtedly the hub of Peterborough’s possession. He is their most progressive as well as accurate passer, and it is a large part as to how they generate any attacks at all. Of Peterborough’s regular starters, he has the most passes per 90 with 62, at a stunning 92.3% accuracy. This says a lot about the trust that his teammates have in his passing ability, and ability to handle pressure at an important third of the pitch.
Although prone to a sideways pass a bit too frequently, not all of these passes are for possession’s sake. He attempts 6.4 long balls per 90, and 3.8 of which are successful (59% success rate), so he is attempting to force the play forwards.
These are often as a result of a period of passing between the three centre-backs, opening up space in the midfield, and Edwards is typically aiming these forward passes into the feet of an attacker who has dropped deeper to collect the ball. He has a keen eye for when these moments occur, and looks to take advantage when possible.
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Having said all that, his passing is not perfect, and does actually have quite some room for improvement. As seems to be the case with many a young centre-back, his passes are sometimes underhit and do not reach his teammates quickly enough.
This has rarely been caught out in his time so far, but at a higher level, where pressing systems are more incessant, this could be a glaring issue in his game. He could find himself labelled ‘error-prone’ which can often lead to good players earning themselves plenty of pressure from social media.
It is his sideways passing in particular where this might be an issue, and it is a type of pass which he opts for a little too often, sometimes negating an avenue to progress play forward in order to play it safe. This type of decision making can simply be ironed out with more game time, however.
On that note, Edwards would do well to decide to use his weak foot a little more often. He favours his right foot quite a lot, but whenever he uses his weaker left, there seems to be no drop-off in passing technique or precision, and using that more would add another dimension to his game in possession.
Now, looking at the defensive side of his game, Edwards has his pros and cons. Positionally, Edwards seems keen and aware, and even at his tender age, he can be seen commanding his defensive partners in a back three, notioning them forwards and backwards.
In one-on-one defensive duels, Edwards positions his body sideways which enables him to keep pace with an attacker, and his tackling timing and technique is solid enough to come away with the ball more times than not (he boasts a 69% tackle success rate at the moment). He also reads deliveries well from wide areas and has the agility to intercept the ball semi-frequently, but not always.
There are currently some question marks surrounding his ability to defend in wide spaces, given his lack of gametime in a back four compared to a back three. Edwards is reasonably quick, but at the moment, he is typically shielded from most defensive exposure in the centre of a back three, with midfielders ahead, and defenders beside him. His main task defensively is marking opponents inside his area and winning aerial duels, where he currently struggles significantly.
He wins only 34% of his aerial duels, which cannot be acceptable regardless of who he is partnered with in the future at the top level. This must improve to a respectable level before elite clubs will ever consider him. He simply does not generate enough height in his leap to contend with opponent attackers, and as is often the case in the Championship, he will be up against physically dominant forwards.
There have been, however, signs of improvement in this department. In Peterborough’s recent match against Cardiff, Edwards won four of his seven aerial duels as the left-sided centre-back in a back three. So, there is potential to improve there, at least.
Forecasting Ronnie Edwards' future
Here and now, Edwards focus must be on maintaining Championship status for Peterborough. They are 22nd, but with a game in hand on Reading, they have a chance to leap frog them at this point in time.
There is hope for The Posh, but it is slim – they simply do not have the talent to survive in such a competitive league. Come the season’s closure, if Fry tells the truth of Premier League scouts tracking his progress, then expect bids in the summer regardless of where Peterborough finish.
Regardless, Edwards should look to play at least another couple of good seasons in the Championship for the good of his progression. His jump from the National League, League One, to Championship has been meteoric, and at times, it has revealed the raw nature of his skillset as a defender.
Projecting his long-term peak, Edwards absolutely has the potential to be a solid Premier League-level defender, or maybe even defensive midfielder.
In possession, he is ready today, but as for his defensive ability, there is much to learn. Learning that should take place in the Championship, whether it be on loan, or permanently at a club with hopes of promotion from the division in the future (Coventry or Stoke stick out as good clubs to aim for).
While it is not worth getting ahead of himself, Manchester United have been credited with legitimate interest in Edwards after he was reportedly recommended to the club by none other than Sir Alex Ferguson.
Projecting his long-term peak, Edwards absolutely has the potential to be a solid Premier League-level defender, or maybe even defensive midfielder given his skillset lends itself to that position. He has experience there at youth level too. If he can iron out some of his defensive drawbacks, a future at a top-six club can surely be the aim.