The NWSL is gearing up for another season where teams will look to get back to playing regular football this season. Teams will be on the lookout for players ahead of the transfer window opening up. OL Reign, however, will be guaranteed to bring in two of three Olympique Lyon Feminin players after confirmation from Jean-Michel Aulas that two of Wendie Renard, Dzsenifer Marozsán, and Sarah Bouhaddi will make the trip. The signing of Karen Bardsley from Manchester City Women in the FAWSL could point towards Bouhaddi staying in Lyon which means Marozsán and Renard could be on the move. This isn’t the first time these players have been linked with the NWSL when a move to Utah Royals falling through last year.
The German playmaker has been a crucial player for the French champions for years and will bring her a wealth of experience and creativity to the side. Another move that was recently finalised was the loan recall of Jessica Fishlock from Reading. The Seattle side now have a plethora of midfield options, so with these players coming into the side, how will OL Reign look to play?
Our reason for looking at Marozsán is because she’s likely to be the fulcrum around which this team will be built for the season. The number 10 position is crucial to the way OL Reign operate and as a result, a player of Marozsán’s ilk will bring quality and experience to the position.
OL Reign’s attacking style of play
Before moving into a scout report of the player’s effect on the team, we have to understand how the team plays. OL Reign have used two main formations in the 4-2-3-1 (44%) and 4-1-4-1 (29%) system which sees the use of an attacking midfielder and two wide players as their main form of attack. In both systems, there is at least one defensive-minded midfielder to protect the back four. The other midfielder is more balanced with the third a more attacking one. This gives the team a good balance between attack and defence and helps with the transitions.
Their main outlet is to play through the wide areas which see the wingers play more like inside-forwards and the full-backs being used for width and create passing options. A lot of their play comes from them where they want to play cutbacks and crosses to the edge of the box for players to get on the end of them and take shots. There is an emphasis on quick switches of play with the ball being moved horizontally with the forward players constantly moving to move players out of position. The centre-forward plays as a deep-lying forward constantly dropping into pockets of space to pull players out of position.
The first image shows the Reign team building an attack out from the back. The first point to notice is the number of Reign and Portland players on the right side of the pitch. Reign try to find a way to pass it down the right side. The initial aim is to find the player who is widest.
Once the ball is played down the right-wing, there is a natural tendency for the opposition to shift across and stop the attack building. From here Reign will start their positional movements where players will make moves to create space to attack and for the cross. The ball is played back and the movement between the three players causes the Portland midfielders to try and press each one.
Finally, after a few passes between the right-sided players, space opens up behind, and once Lindsey Horan presses the ball carrier, she is able to sidestep and run into the space behind for a cross. Here she’s able to cross the ball into the middle and aim for Balcer as the main target.
OL Reign usually employ a patient build-up method but in times of a counter-attack, they do opt to move the ball quickly to try and capitalise on the spaces left behind.
The image is an instance of the team in attack where the ball gets played long into the striker, Bethany Balcer (#24) and the second ball lands at the feet of the left-winger (highlighted). From here you can see two more players come into frame and create two extra supporting bodies.
The next frame sees the ball being switched to the opposite side which has put the right-winger in a 1 v 1 position against the defender. She makes a side pass to the number 10, Rosie White, who has a clear shot on goal. This move is more often than not a method of attack for Reign. One of the most important roles in OL Reign’s system is the number ‘10’ which we’ll discuss next.
The attacking midfielder in OL Reign’s system is vital as most of their play ends up going through this player. They are involved in two phases of play, both the build-up and final third where the player needs to be able to come deep, pick up possession and control the tempo. She has to be agile and be able to recycle possession to find a way into the wide areas or keep the ball ticking over to keep the ball if there are no open avenues. In the final third, the player needs to be creative to find passing opportunities when teams will be more compact as the next image demonstrates.
Here, Reign wins the ball back in their own half and look to counter-attack quickly and push the ball forward. The ball here finds it’s way to Rosie White who needs to immediately play a controlled through ball to the onrushing centre-forward. Positioning then becomes a very important component of the attacking midfielder because their position defines how easily an attacking move is made. If they’re positioned in the right central area, they can use this space to find players running in behind with a range of passing or take long shots.
Overall, whoever plays in this position needs to be well rounded in terms of their overall attacking play which includes having an excellent passing range, powerful shot, and an aggressive off the ball presence. The number ‘10’ often finds themselves pressing opposition defenders to try and force a misplaced pass to create a counter-attacking opportunity and use everyone’s pace. White typically plays this role for Reign and will be used as an example when it comes to comparing her to Marozsán.
Marozsán plays like a classic #10 where she is tasked with being the team’s main creative outlet and hub. Usually deployed alongside two slightly defensive-minded and positioned midfielders (Amandine Henry and Saki Kumagai) behind her at Lyon, Marozsán playing behind the central striker, provided a reliable base option but also making off-the-ball runs. The Lyon system is very fluid as has been mentioned, which puts the German in the bracket of the new No. 8/10 hybrid player, but one that has evolved from being just a specialist No.10. The German’s qualities are very similar to a shadow striker, but with more creativity and responsibility in recycling possession in the final third.
A shadow striker operates as the team’s main goal-scoring threat. The role sees the player aggressively push forward into goal scoring positions as the ball moves into the final third and looks to close down opposing defenders when out of possession. The heat map highlights the areas Marozsán (L) likes to operate in which is similar to White’s (R). The analysis has shown that Marozsán is a player that wants to be playing between the lines and not be predictable. She moves all across the pitch and is always looking to receive possession because she has more mobile players around her. Someone like Balcer will benefit from this because of her pace and movement in the final third as the image portrays.
In this example, you can see Marozsán’s positioning between the lines and away from any Soyaux player. She picks up possession here and wants to turn and exploit the high line but needs to make a quick decision on which pass to play. Marozsán manages to play an accurate long-ranged switch to Delphine Cascarino on the far side and stretch the defence.
Her best traits include operating in tight spaces, creativity, and positioning. Marozsán’s ability to make smaller and shorter movements put her in better positions. Being able to see moves one or two steps ahead puts her ahead of the opposition. Additionally, what makes Marozsán different is the work she does off the ball as much as on it, and what the team demands of her. From what we already know, OL Reign will need a player with similar attributes to run the position well. Marozsán possesses the qualities and on the ball traits needed to play here with an excellent shot taking ability and press resistant style of play.
This example against Juventus clearly highlights her football intelligence and vision where Lyon are in an attacking move with Melvine Malard and Marozsán the ones nearest to the ball. Marozsán makes a diagonal run behind Malard to utilise the space while the defenders are focused on the ball carrier.
In doing so, it creates a gap between the Juventus defenders for Malard to slip though but equally Marozsán releases a quick through ball which puts the French forward through on goal. The vision to move the defenders out of position and create a goal-scoring opportunity in a matter of seconds is what the German is extremely good at. It’s this quick thinking that will be needed in the NWSL as teams will look to close spaces at the back.
She isn’t the most mobile player but is able to press but there could be a slight change to allow the double pivot to do more of the pressing and defensive work allowing the German to flourish in an attacking capacity.
OL Reign have averaged 33.78 positional attacks their conversation rate into shots sits at 27%, which means their open play attacks only convert to a shot 27% of the time. Also, they rank second for shots outside of the penalty area (data from NWSL Challenge Cup 2020) which highlights their want to shoot from distance.
At the time of writing, Marozsán’s average is 2.11 shots per 90 minutes with 44.4% on target (1,539 minutes in league and UWCL). That percentage success rate indicates that she is extremely proficient in this area. This can be further seen in the shot map which indicates where she takes her shots from. White’s average is 2.96 with a 27% rate on target albeit from 334 minutes (NWSL Challenge Cup 2020).
Due to the limited number of statistics available for 2020, we’ve used data from the last five matches played to measure Marozsán against her teammates. Rosie White didn’t play enough games to generate a fair comparison, so Beverly Yanez has been used instead. Both White and Yanez played in the attacking ‘10’ role for OL Reign making the comparison apt. What is noticeable here is Marozsán is superior in most aspects. When it comes to the defensive stats, Yanez is seemingly much better but overall, Marozsán is an instant upgrade on one of Reign’s more experienced players.
Marozsán’s experience and sheer ability to identify and execute tougher passes in the final third will be a massive plus for OL Reign. While White has performed with energy and pace, the German represents a player who can elevate and make more use of the positions. The next image shows White in a good position to create an attacking move but misplaces her pass. Just from the examples, we’ve seen earlier, Marozsán thrives in these situations and with no real pressure around White, more could have been made here.
Another beneficiary of her inclusion will be OL Reign’s forward players namely Megan Rapinoe and Balcer. The 23-year-old forward is a young, pressing centre-forward with good movement, pace, finishing, and proficiency in the air. When you have a pinpoint passer in Marozsán behind you, someone like Balcer can make a calculated run and will likely be found. If we revisit one of the earlier examples, here you can see Balcer make an excellent diagonal run to get on the end of the cross.
To conclude this tactical analysis, anyone bringing in an international superstar like Dzsenifer Marozsán will instantly see some results. The German has played in countless finals and World Cups being a key component to her side’s victories. The creativity, vision, and leadership that Marozsán will bring cannot be replicated and gives Reign a big boost in their chances of taking the title in 2021.