Preston boss Alex Neil has told Lancs Live that he thinks Emil Riis can be a ‘top, top player’ – but needs to find consistency.
Riis joined North End from Randers in a £1.2million deal back in October, becoming Preston’s one and only summer signing.
That ultimately put a certain level of expectation on Riis, and it’s fair to say that the Dane has blown hot and cold so far.
When at his best, Riis has been dangerous; quick, skilful, direct and an absolute nuisance, running Championship defences ragged.
In other games, Riis hasn’t quite managed to exploit space in the channels, and physical Championship defenders have got the better of him.
That’s ultimately part of the development process. Riis is just 22 and is in his first Championship season, so he is still adjusting and growing at Deepdale.
On Friday, Riis came on as an impact substitute against Blackburn Rovers, as he so often does, and almost scored a stunning solo goal as he nutmegged Jarrad Branthwaite only to fire straight as Thomas Kaminski.
Neil has now admitted that Riis can be ‘as threatening as anyone’ at his best, and can be a ‘top, top player’ thanks to the special qualities he possesses.
Neil noted that Riis is frustrated at the moment as he seeks to make a big impact, but just needs to find some consistency in order to become the player he can, heaping praise on the Dane as he looks to build some confidence.
“Emil’s got all the raw tools to be as threatening as anyone I think,” said Neil. “He’s powerful, quick, can hit it off both feet and he can literally run past anybody at this level when he’s on it, I think. Consistency levels, is something that I think Emil needs to work on more than anything else. And listen, you are not going to play well every single week but I think providing we get a level of performance from him that’s a six or seven out of ten – then that is what you’re looking for. I think what Emil has done is vary between being a nine or ten out of ten, to then potentially being a three or a four. And if we can find that consistency – bearing in mind he is still only a young lad – he’s got all the attributes to be a top, top player.”
“At the moment he’s a bit frustrated, even the other night when he came on and gets a golden opportunity; he was frustrated with himself after the game but that’s learning for him. He needs to keep getting in those positions, because to do what he did – he picked the ball up, stuck it through the lads’ legs, ran away from him and created a chance for himself. There is not a lot of players that can do that, so I think he needs to realise that he’s got some special attributes and focus more on the positives for himself than the negative – he is only young and will get better,” he added.