Attack and The Importance of Ellen White
Moving forward, the importance of Ellen White for England can’t be understated. It’s something I talked about in the preview for the Norway game and, although her numbers have taken a bit of a hit compared to then, it’s something that’s stayed true come the end of the tournament.
White has the most pressures in the final third p90 in the whole tournament and also has strong numbers for pass progression received p90 as can be seen below.
Her goals are obviously the highlight, but being the player to lead the press and offering a focal point upfront should England need to go direct separates her from the likes of Jodie Taylor who are competing for the role.
White’s importance with her goals shouldn’t be discounted because of this as well though. It’s something I also mentioned in the preview for the Norway game, but England’s attackers didn’t do a great job of generating chances this tournament, which can be seen on the plot below.
It’s why the attacking performance against Norway was probably my favourite. England did a good job of creating both quality and quantity. The cutbacks for Scott and White were good chances, but England also had a few mid-quality shots from people other than White. Parris had 3 shots (not including the penalty), Scott had 3, while Stanway came off the bench to have 2 and Mead had 1.
The game against the USA was the opposite of Norway, where White had 2 shots and no one else had more than one. In open play the only shots England had were White’s goal and two long shots, one from Walsh and one from Jade Moore.
It’d be nice to see the likes of Mead, Kirby and Parris taking more shots from just inside or even around the edge of the area.
It shouldn’t come as a detriment to trying to create good quality chances, but with such tight games in the latter stages of tournaments, it feels as though only trying to create the perfect chance can have its drawbacks and it may be worth trying to up the shot volume in and around the box – particularly when you have technically gifted players like Kirby and Mead.
Beth Mead is also a player worth highlighting for England and, while Toni Duggan is an extremely talented player too, it was disappointing to see Mead lose her spot.
Mead and Duggan both played just shy of 250 minutes in the end and Mead was much more productive. Mead has the highest xG assisted per 90 in the entire tournament, mostly thanks to her crosses leading to goals in the games against Argentina and the United States.
Her xG + xA of 0.62 per 90 was only behind White for England. The next closest was Nikita Parris with 0.30 per 90, while Toni Duggan had 0.20 per 90.
@Stillberto wrote about her transformation from an out and out forward to a winger for ArseBlog and she seems to have almost everything you want from a wide forward. She’s strong technically, capable of scoring and creating with both feet while also possessing strong set piece taking, while she also had strong numbers for attempted dribbles and progression received in the FAWSL last season.
I don’t mean to belittle or disregard Duggan, but it does feel as though Mead offers a lot more for England on the left flank than the Barcelona forward does.
It’d be wrong to talk about England’s attack without mentioning Nikita Parris. As briefly mentioned earlier, the forward was a huge part of England’s right side, she had the 3rd highest xG + xA per 90 for England, the 4th most pass progression per 90, the 2nd most pass progression received per 90 and the most dribbles attempted per 90.
Her performance against Norway was probably her best. She set up 2 chances for Ellen White, had 3 shots of her own and linked up with Lucy Bronze on the right for the opening goal.
Then, how can you forget her great bit of skill in the opening game against Scotland, introducing the kind of combinations we’d see on the right flank.
I’ve talked about the right side enough, but the combination of Bronze’s powerful and direct running and Parris’ 1v1 ability in tight spaces really is a huge strength of England’s. It’ll be interesting to see both how Parris develops at Lyon and also if they can recreate this relationship there. It also makes it all the more frustrating that we didn’t get this right side from the start in the semi-final.