Georgia Stanway 2019/20 – scout report
Georgia Stanway, the Manchester City academy prodigy, is enduring a crucial phase of her footballing career. The 21-year-old English attacking midfielder stands out as one of the club’s most successful graduates. Last season, she took the FAWSL by storm with her sensational goals and performances that racked up plenty of expectations from fans for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the current season. She was the youngest outfield player in Phil Neville’s World Cup squad that faced a disappointing exit at the hands of the world champions, the USWNT.
However, the following season in the FAWSL, she appeared to be a shadow of herself from the 2018/19 season. The advent of fresh talent in the Manchester City squad like Pauline Bremer, and the transition in tactics the team had to undergo with the departure of former manager, Nick Cushing seems to have stolen the limelight from Stanway. The forward, hailed for her attacking attributes even made consecutive appearances as a right-back, a make-shift role she was assigned to at the beginning of 2020.
In this scout report, I shall attempt to examine whether Georgia Stanway has been actually under-performing compared to the previous season, or whether she is undergoing an important metamorphosis as a player. I take a closer look at the tactical analysis of games where Stanway was utilised both as a forward, and a right-back, and data analysis from statistics collected over the previous two seasons.
Stanway is predominantly a forward, who likes to play in the space between the lines of opposition defence as an attacking midfielder. She thrives in Zone 14 in front of the opposition penalty area where she can indulge in creative playmaking and also find the space to pull the trigger. If we look at her heatmap this season, we see the two roles that she has undertaken.
We see a lot of her positioning and activity in the space in front of the opponent’s defensive line and in both half-spaces. This season she has been widely utilised as a second striker alongside Ellen White in a 4-4-2 system that can transform into a 4-4-1-1 when Stanway plays deeper just behind White. She has also been used as a winger occasionally, and on three occasions as a right-back which explains her activity along the right flank in the heatmap.
Looking at a radar of her attributes from data collected from wyscout, we can see that her strengths are her passing and dribbling ability. Despite playing in an advanced position she attempted 29 progressive passes, 24 of which were successful. She has also made 17 out of 24 accurate passes into the final third and an 81.4% overall pass accuracy. Her crossing ability is also a highlight of her profile, although she doesn’t willingly drift into wide positions to cross from during the game, as we shall see further.
Stanway has attempted the second-highest number of dribbles (17) behind Lauren Hemp (29) in Manchester City. Although she has attempted the highest number of defensive duels in the team (42) she is not known for her defensive attributes. Her style of play focuses on slipping into the right positions to transition into attack rather than positioning to win the ball back if possession is lost.
If we grossly compare her statistics to the previous season, we do see a drop in most of the figures. We see a big drop in her shooting stats especially her total goals and successful dribbles leading to goals which are less than half of the previous season. We also see a significant drop in her xA from 3.0 last season to 1.3 this season. Defensively, we also see a drop in her tackles attempted and aerial duels comparing to the previous season. Her 5 foot 3 inch frame makes it difficult to win challenges against far bigger opponents and she instead chooses to contest for second balls. She has won the second-highest number of loose ball duels this season (8/14) after Jill Scott.
Stanway was most famously remembered for her screamer goals from the previous season. She held the top spot with an xG of 5.5 making her lethal in front of goal. This season, her xG is still 4.4 but we see a big decrease in her shot-creating actions such as dribbles and passes leading to a shot (28 this season compared to 66 last season).
Above I have plotted the Manchester City players in terms of their xG values across their xA values. As you can see, Stanway’s xA is far lower than her teammates like Wullaert and Hemp and she is behind White and Bremer in terms of xG. This could explain why she fell lower down the pecking order for the spot of the attacking midfielder in recent games where she was utilised as a right-back instead.
I have also plotted the City players’ shots per 90 against their non-penalty xG with the size of the bubble representing the xG per shot. Yet again, we see Stanway overshadowed by White and Bremer by solely looking at the data. Reducing the volume of shots from the previous season hasn’t helped her shooting attributes or sell her as a potential threat in front of goal this season.
I took some help from my fellow analyst Sathish Prasad (who recently did a team analysis on Manchester City) in preparing this shot map below for Stanway this season. Here we can see the shots attempted and converted by Stanway, with the size of the bubble representing the probability of the shot resulting in a goal. We can see that she hasn’t been as clinical in front of goal this season. In fact, she has only managed to hit the target 36% of times from the 11 shots she has taken.
In order to see the data in perspective with her tactical role for Manchester City, we have to take a closer look at City’s tactics and how Stanway contributes to City’s attack as a player.
As mentioned previously, Stanway is most comfortable in playing alongside a target man like White, as a second striker or behind the number nine as an attacking midfielder. In this 4-4-1-1 system, Stanway thrives in the space just in front of the opposition defence. Here she can work off the runs made by the target man to push the defensive line and create space for herself. Stanway likes to receive the pass between the lines at her feet so that she can play it out wide to Hemp on the left-wing or lay it off to an advancing midfielder like Scott. Occasionally in attacking transitions, when she is gifted more space, she can choose to pull the trigger herself from outside the box.
In this game against Chelsea, which City drew level (3-3) we see Stanway playing as a second striker. Here we see her asking for the pass from deep between the lines breaking the midfield line of pressure but with sufficient distance from the Chelsea line of defence. We also see White playing on the shoulder of Chelsea’s captain and central defender, Magdalena Eriksson.
White’s role as the furthest City player pushing the defensive line back is vital to create the space for Stanway to receive the pass in front of the defence. This is a common tactic that we see when White and Stanway are used together in a 4-4-2 system. When White makes a run in behind, Stanway comes short asking for the pass. Once she receives the pass she can lay it off in the path of Hemp making a run along the left-wing, or Scott advancing from deep.
By asking for the ball to her feet while dropping deeper from a higher position, Stanway most often draws a marker onto her looking to pressure her. This creates a disruption in the defensive line of the opposition that other teammates can exploit. Here, below, we see Stanway receiving the ball in the hole being closed down immediately by Eriksson. Once she receives, she turns and has White attacking the Chelsea back line, and Hemp making a run down the far side for Stanway to play an easy pass into.
Stanway also has the intelligence to exploit the spaces created by her teammates, especially the target man. Below we see White is dragging Eriksson with her by her positioning. This creates a little space behind the defensive line that Stanway can exploit and she immediately starts her run. She is then fed a long ball that lands accurately for her to receive and create a shot attempt.
We have already seen the role in which Stanway is most comfortable playing and how she manages to create opportunities. Stanway has a natural ability to find the best position to make space for herself for her next action. She is gifted in finding pockets of space in the opposition structure.
Below we see an instance in the attacking phase where White and Hemp have pinned the Chelsea defenders back into their box. The rest of the Chelsea formation appears to be disorganised and Stanway manages to find a fertile space behind the midfield line to receive a pass. In this instance, the midfielder chooses to cross the ball into the box, but we see Stanway gesturing her teammate to play her the pass managing to evade all of the Chelsea players’ attention. Had she been played, she could easily let it run with the space that she has behind her or take a touch inside with enough room to pull off a shot, both of which would have been very lucrative outcomes for City.
One drawback of Stanway’s game is that she appears to only feel comfortable receiving the ball in front of the defence rather than behind. I identified a couple of instances where she could have easily attacked the spaces in the flanks and received the pass to square off a cross or a cut back, but instead, she chose to hold a central position or come closer to her teammate in possession of the ball.
Let’s consider this example, where Jill Scott is carrying the ball and Chelsea’s left back’s position suggests Stanway should attack the space behind her to receive a pass in the far right from where she could put a cross into the box. Instead, she comes closer to Scott asking for a pass to her feet, and Scott eventually runs of out yards with no option to progress the ball.
In another instance, City’s right back Janine Beckie is driving forward with the ball and Stanway is in a similar position where she can easily attack the space behind Chelsea’s left-back. Instead, she chooses to check her run and drop deeper forcing Beckie to beat the left-back by dribbling past herself, while Stanway is left behind.
Role as a right-back
In this section, I shall look at Stanway’s cameo as a right-back which she made against Birmingham City, Arsenal and Bristol City, all three fixtures which proved victorious for City. City’s tactics started off in a 4-4-2 system that transformed into a 3-3-4 in attack allowing Stanway and Hemp to attack the wide flanks.
This required Stephanie Houghton to drift across to cover the space left behind by Stanway as City played with a back three. Scott would have a role as a box-to-box midfielder with the defensive duties of covering up for a loss of possession along the right side.
Here we can see an instance in the game against Bristol City where Jill Scott is positioned deeper in the right half-space and Stanway attacks the right flank as a right back. As Stanway looks to receive the pass behind the Bristol City left-back, City are almost attacking with four forwards, with Hemp on the far left, White and Wullaert up top in the middle and Stanway along the right.
This role was a very interesting addition to Stanway’s resume as it helped her deliver four out of four accurate crosses during this game, especially from the positions she ended up after her runs. She also completed more dribbles as a right-back than what she was previously averaging as an attacking midfielder.
Defensively, Stanway was out of place and Houghton and Scott had a lot of covering up to do. This proves that Stanway’s role was definitely intended to make an impact in the attacking phases of City’s tactics. This role certainly gave Stanway positional versatility and experience and added to her confidence as she returned back with a much stronger performance in her usual forward role alongside white against Chelsea and even managed to bag a goal for herself.
How can City best profit from Stanway’s abilities?
Although Stanway’s commitment to fill in for any role that is demanded of her by City needs be lauded, I feel that she is far too talented to be seen as a utility player. Stanway’s dribbling and key passing strengths need to be tapped wisely by Manchester City.
If we look at this dribbling report of Manchester City, we see that Stanway stands fourth with 3.5 average dribbles per 90. Yet if we look at the team, they rank below the league average for dribbling in the centre of the pitch, where key progressive dribbles can be crucial to exploiting transitions and creating opportunities for the team.
A player like Stanway could be useful in replicating the success of dribbles in the final third that we see in this representation, in the middle third as well. By using Stanway in deeper positions that involve her more actively in the build-up, City could boost their creativity in the midfield and exploit the strengths of attacking players like Hemp and Wullaert.
Georgia Stanway’s pure talent and skill are one of a kind. She is among the rising phenomena of the women’s game and her technical ability and positional sense especially in front of the opposition box make her a very unique player. She gathered a lot of hype early on in her career and the expectations will definitely put a lot of pressure on her to perform consistently as the FAWSL steadily rises in competitiveness.
Stanway’s experiences will only add to her maturity. As she diversifies her profile as an attacking player, she expands the role that she can play for her club and country. As a pivotal part of the Lionesses, Stanway’s future holds a lot of responsibility to deliver at the international stage and she needs to find a way to make her performances click from game to game, for a long time to come.
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