The gap between Paris Saint-Germain Feminin and Olympique Lyonnais Feminin has shortened slightly. The Parisians have shown fight and desire in every game they’ve played against Lyon, and though they’ve been beaten on most occasions, they have been outdone by only the finest of margins. The gap in quality is shortening: PSG are beginning to recruit better quality players whilst the core group remains impressive. Their squad consists of some great young talents, but none more so than Canadian Jordyn Huitema.
The centre-forward is a prodigious talent that came from the Vancouver Whitecaps and impressed from an early age. Huitema has been a revelation in all age groups and has become a full international at the age of 20. So, what makes her such a talented striker? This scout report will look to detail the qualities she possesses and what she can bring to Paris Saint-Germain in the coming years.
Jordyn Huitema is a natural striker playing primarily through the middle. The Canadian is taller than most girls which plays a part in her being a good force in the air. Her role and main strengths are that of a deep-lying forward who prefers to drop into pockets of space, link play, but also to run the channels to latch onto through balls. This combination of qualities is rare and is one that benefits the ways both Paris Saint-Germain and Canada play. Huitema has been likened to her international teammate Christine Sinclair as they both possess similar qualities and play style. The 20-year-old centre-forward is not the finished article, not by any stretch, but has immense potential. Her style is very beneficial to Paris Saint-Germain, which will be explained in this tactical analysis.
Jordyn Huitema & Paris Saint-Germain’s tactics
For a striker, their game is mainly predicated on their attacking phase of play and, depending on the type striker, their transitional play. In Huitema’s case, I will be analysing both because of her involvement in both phases of play.
Paris Saint-Germain often line up in a 4-3-3 but have also used a variation of 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1, though the 4-3-3 is their most-used system. The wide players are key components to their method of attack and build-up with Nadia Nadim, Marie-Antionette Katoto, and Kadidiatou Diani the first-choice front three. With attacking full-backs to match, PSG look to be defensively solid in midfield to allow the front players more freedom, sometimes even creating a flat front four when attacking.
The two wide players are positioned in much narrower positions as Diani is more of an inside-forward while Nadim is closer to a goal-scoring attacking midfielder (‘10’) that likes to play in the half-space / central areas starting on the opposite side. Katoto is very much a mobile striker interchanging positions with her two wide forwards, sometimes even starting in a wide position playing as an inside-forward, making PSG a very fluid team in attack.
Huitema will often come in for one of the front three but she always starts in a central position whilst the other two play wider. However, due to the fluidity of the team, it means the difference is really only in the starting position as the system allows them to interchange and make space for each other. This leads us to the qualities in Huitema’s attacking phase and what makes her special in the final third.
Positional intelligence – Hold-up & link-up play
After understanding the tactics PSG employ, we know that Huitema needs to be quick, mobile, and tactically intelligent. One of her major strengths is her intelligence on the pitch which can be seen in her link-up play. Part of Huitema’s playstyle is her ability to drop into pockets of space and play off the midfield’s passes to create space for the two wide forwards to drift into the box. There is a lot of movement in the channels which means she can occupy multiple players at once. Having a good relationship with the midfielders is vitally important, it makes a difference between a smooth and quick build-up or a turnover for the opposition.
Huitema’s positioning is obviously a key trait in her role but it’s her link-up play which makes it even more impressive. Moving to the right position can make the next move much easier to execute and opens up space in the area that was vacated. This spatial intelligence means bouncing off creative players in Sara Däbritz and Nadim means Huitema should get good enough service to be able to create space for dangerous attackers in Katoto and Diani to move in to. Perle Morroni and Ashely Lawrence both play very attacking full-back roles which makes them good outlets for Huitema. A lot of times Huitema will look for wider players to create a wide angle of attack to take advantage of the height and aerial proficiency of Katoto and herself.
The heat maps illustrated above show Huitema’s activity for both PSG and Canada which shows where she often plays for both sides. For both club and country, you can see that Huitema plays across the pitch whether it’s outside or in the box. This is where you can see Huitema’s link-up play becomes more apparent and how the teams she is part of play to her strengths. Her movement drags defenders away and combined with her bigger frame, can occupy multiple defenders which ultimately gives more space to other attacking players. Especially for PSG, we know that Diani and Katoto prefer to drive into the box so her downward movement makes sense. If the full-backs receive the ball quicker, then it makes crossing into the box much more dangerous because of the numerical overload.
The still image above is from a UEFA Women’s Champions League game against Briedablik where Huitema started as the centre-forward. During PSG’s build-up, Huitema drops into the hole as the ball reaches the central midfielders. Briedablik held a compact shape and man marked the attacking players. Huitema’s deeper position has brought out the centre-back from her position which means this is an opportunity to exploit.
Here, Huitema is in possession, and as such, has held the defender out of position which allows Lina Boussaha (#18) to drive into the vacant space and receive a final pass from Huitema or a cross from the far-sided player. If her hold-up play can keep defenders occupied, then it becomes a very useful attribute for any side. Huitema averages 10.35 offensive duels per 90 minutes which suggest she often receives and engages in battles against defenders, though her win percentage could be better at 29.2%. However, that will come with more game time because it is important to remember that Huitema only played 565 minutes of football last season.
The analysis has explained how her positioning and movement has benefited from her impressive link-up play but her hold-up play is another good technique that can be seen. In doing so, she is able to allow other players to move into more attacking positions with her back to goal, and I would even go as far as saying that with some development and experience, Huitema could become a very useful target-man in the future.
If you look closely at this example against France, you’ll see a combination of her movements and hold-up play in one. The first image shows Huitema moving from her central position towards the right side channel. In doing so, she’ll force a defender to follow her whilst giving the full-back a choice to either press the ball carrier or sit back and try to intercept the pass.
Here we can see the ball reaches Huitema in the wide right channel where she is now surrounded by three French players. However, what’s important to take away from here is the ample amount of space in behind the three French players. The Canadian full-back, who made the initial pass, could drive into the interior channel and be a potential passing option for Huitema. Though there is a chance she’ll get dispossessed here, Huitema’s ability to engage and occupy up to three players is impressive. The two Canadian attackers are now in favourable 1 v 1 battles.
There are parts of Huitema’s game that need improvement, especially in her hold-up play which will be tested against top-quality opposition such as Olympique Lyonnais, Chelsea, Juventus, and Bayern Munich, however, the ingredients are there to become a very good link player. 11.95 losses per 90 is high but a number you’d expect for a player in the thick of things.
Movement in the box
Huitema’s game isn’t only predicated on her deeper movement but also what she does in the box. Huitema is a clinical striker, one who knows how to find the back of the net. In her 565 minutes last season, the Canadian scored five goals and two assists, which illustrates an awareness of her positioning in the box and knowing how to manoeuvre past defenders.
Often the deep-lying forward is paired with a more advanced striker which is the case for Canada who utilise a 5-3-2 system whereas PSG, as we know, use a single-striker formation. Regardless, Huitema is able to adjust her game between both systems and has profited from it. It’s no coincidence that she’s scored seven goals and contributed one assist in 356 minutes of international football along with her five goals and two assists for club in 565 minutes. Though she has played a fewer number of minutes, her goal to minute ratio is impressive and with 4.46 shots per 90 with close to 40% on target, she is giving herself every chance of scoring.
After analysing Huitema’s goals last season, there was one common factor between all of them: her timing and deft movement in the box. Making short movements away from centre-backs allowed the centre-forward to get on the end of crosses and cut-backs. It’s no wonder that all her goals were scored from in the box, many close to the six-yard box meaning her timing is impeccable. With 8.12 touches in the box last season, the statistics back the notion of her constantly being in the prime goal-scoring area.
Going back to her game against Briedablik, Huitema scored two goals in this game. This goal was one that showcased all her strengths in one swift move. The first image shows Huitema in possession battling and occupying two defenders. She passes it out wide to the PSG wide player and makes her way into a more attacking position in the box.
Once the cross goes in at the back post, the cushioned header is put into the vacant space in front of Huitema. Notice how she has distanced herself from the central defender anticipating the pass back into the general area. The centre-forward gets the return pass and manages to score almost unopposed. It’s no secret that Huitema has played more minutes against minnows more than high-quality sides, however, her quality is there for all to see. You can’t teach a striker this sort of movement, positioning, or instinct in the box, it’s an innate ability.
The below graphic illustrates where they take most of their shots. The diamond shape represents a goal while the filled circle represents a shot on target. Most of their goals come from the middle of the 18-yard box which means they are getting shots away with finesse.
Huitema also brings height to both Canada and Paris Saint-Germain because of her proficiency in the air. Huitema has scored a couple of goals from high crosses which means she can deal with the bigger centre-backs. Her height is a factor and the centre-backs she’s come up against till now haven’t been able to get the best of her.
The image shows her scoring a headed goal for Canada. The cross from Lawrence goes into a crowded Mexico box with Huitema marked by a centre-back. She wrestles herself away from the defender and manages to tower over her and score. This sort of versatility in her forward play is a rare commodity and one that is in demand especially if it can be produced consistently.
Realistically, until Huitema plays regular minutes against top-quality opposition, we won’t know how her skills will translate but all the signs point towards her becoming a world-class centre-forward. There have been comparisons with her compatriot Christine Sinclair and while the legendary Canadian striker isn’t as mobile as Huitema, her intelligent positioning and movement are exquisite.
Taking this example from the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Canada are attacking the Netherlands who are defensively organised in the image above. Sinclair drops into a pocket of space to bounce a pass and moves into the left channel.
After Canada switch play to the right flank, Lawrence is ready to cross it into the box. Notice Sinclair who is within range of her marker, but times her run to perfection by getting to the back post with just enough acceleration to beat the defender to score from this position. From where she started the move in the first image, to where she ended up is a testament to her tactical intelligence and ability to understand space.
Knowing when the move and when to hold is a crucial element of her game. Huitema has similar qualities and from the examples illustrated above you can see where the comparisons are borne. When you consider that Huitema is quicker, then you would think that she could be even more dangerous than Sinclair.
Huitema has shown immense potential and qualities beyond her years. The 20-year-old still has room to grow but with more game time and trust in the bigger games this season, there is a good chance this could be Huitema’s breakthrough season. Both Paris Saint-Germain and Canada have well-developed squads which require a couple more pieces to the jigsaw puzzle to finally compete for the biggest prizes.
Canada have a number of world-class players in Lawrence, Sinclair, Kadiesha Buchanan, and Jessie Fleming who along with Huitema, can compete with the top sides. Though Sinclair is in the twilight of her career, the future looks bright and in Huitema they have a worthy successor.
As far as Paris Saint-Germain go, there is a new wave of players joining Paris’ quest to dethrone Lyon, Huitema is at the forefront of the new generation of young players to propel Paris Saint-Germain towards glory.