What can Alessia Russo add to Arsenal Women from an attacking perspective? – scout report
For those who do not already know Alessia Russo, she is an international English player who has just moved from Manchester United Women to Arsenal Women. Russo is a 24-year-old who started her senior career at Chelsea during the 2016-2017 season before moving to Brighton and then to Manchester United from 2020 to 2023.
Her most significant and impressive period was certainly her time with the Red Devils in the WSL where she made her breakthrough and helped her team a lot in terms of goalscoring and goal contribution in general. She helped her team reach their first-ever qualification to the UEFA Women’s Champions League this season and was a key player during the time she had in Manchester. Also, she was crucial and very impactful during the 2022 UEFA Women’s Championship with the Lionesses as she scored some decisive goals to help her team win the trophy.
Arsenal announced their signing of Russo in the past few days and this can be considered a huge move for the Gunners who have improved the quality and depth of their squad even further since they will be making use of the services of two excellent strikers upfront, Alessia Russo and Stina Blackstenius.
In this tactical analysis scout report, we will be looking at Russo’s goalscoring and attacking abilities while considering what she can improve in her performances. Also, the analysis will shed some light on Russo’s possible impact on Arsenal’s tactics and especially on their attacking organisation. And in order to have a complete idea of the matter, a section will be reserved to compare Russo’s and Blackstenius’ abilities so as to know if the players can be complementary in attack or if it would be better to rely on one of them solely during games, depending on the type of the opponent.
Strengths and possible improvements
Russo can be considered as one of the most complete strikers in WSL and in Europe in general since she has developed a lot during the past few seasons and become more crucial in front of goal and also more useful when out of possession and when retreating to help the team in terms of playmaking. Her goalscoring rates are actually good enough since she equals 43.3% of her shots on target per match and provides 76.6% accurate passes per game, which represents an excellent number for a striker.
Moreover, the graphic below confirms that Russo is a very good dribbler and a player who provides dangerous passes so often. She is also someone who shoots a lot per match and wins plenty of aerial duels, which is a very useful trait for a striker. Plus, her excellent positioning inside the box helps her in getting to score numerous goals per season and is always dangerous to defences.
Despite all of these strengths, Russo can always keep on improving in terms of goal contribution by providing more key passes and alternating her goalscoring methods in order to improve her number of goals per season and therefore become even more impactful, especially when knowing that she will be participating in UWCL next season and that she will get the chance to have more playing time per season.
Also, having some poor averages in defensive duels can be considered normal since Russo is a striker. Yet, even strikers are nowadays required to be more effective in defensive duels and are asked to defend more often than before. And Russo will more likely have to adapt to Arsenal’s defending system and this can only be done through improving her ability in intercepting the ball and in disturbing opponents.
Her possible impact on Arsenal’s attack
Russo will certainly represent a valuable addition to Arsenal’s attack and that’s because she has experience in the WSL and has been very successful during the seasons she played with Manchester United. This will help her adapt quickly to the change of teams since she will not play in a different league nor will she have to adapt to a distinct footballing philosophy.
Plus, playing under the management of a head coach like Jonas Eidevall will most probably suit Russo since he is a head coach who always seems interested in all details and knows how to deal with players on and off the pitch while creating a friendly rivalry between players for regular spots. Russo will certainly be used as a striker for Arsenal even though she can also play as a left and right winger as the heatmap shows.
She played on the right wing a bit more this season as she was asked to play as a right winger on a few occasions. Yet, her main and most suitable role remains the striker one and it should be said that Russo can’t interpret other positions with the same efficiency as when playing as a striker since her abilities are more of a striker.
With both Caitlin Foord and Victoria Pelova, Russo will be able to make an excellent attacking trio with these two players or their alternatives in Arsenal’s 3-4-3 formation. Another possible way of employing Russo would be to use her as a second striker with Blackstenius, in a 4-4-2 formation, knowing that Jonas Eidevall has already resorted to this formation lately when facing Chelsea with both Foord and Blackstenius as strikers.
Rivalry and complementarity between Russo and Blackstenius
Russo and Blackstenius are at the same time similar in some aspects yet different in others. They are both excellent goalscorers who are very efficient in the air, with a slight advantage for Blackstenius in this regard. At the same time, Russo is a striker who always positions herself well, especially inside the box and she is better than Blackstenius in terms of positioning and also in terms of dribbling, shots per game and dangerous passes too. And this already gives the advantage to Russo as a starter given her numbers so far.
For Eidevall, Russo provides a valuable attacking option and this will help him make decisions corresponding to each match and to each opponent. He will be able to opt for Blackstenius in one match and Russo in another. And if both players are going through a positive period, it would suit the team more if he plays both strikers alongside each other in the 4-4-2 formation.
Moreover, having a striker like Lina Hurtig on the bench is also excellent for Arsenal since the team will be able to replace Russo or Blackstenius with a quality player like Hurtig without losing the danger upfront and while providing a distinct type of attacking solution inside the box.
Russo can be considered one of the most skilful finishers in WSL and in Europe in general. She confirmed her ability to score from various angles and in very complicated situations and is continuing to do so and will most probably help Arsenal a lot, especially in key moments and against tough opponents in the UWCL for example. Her great presence in big games is also remarkable since this guarantees that she is not the type of player who doesn’t know how to deal with pressure or who fails to perform at her best under pressure.
On the contrary, Russo was able to score in some of the most difficult moments during Euro 2022 and when facing some of the toughest opponents such as Sweden. This goal not only highlights Russo’s ability to deal well with pressure but also showcases her powerful personality and great shooting technique. Executing a back-heel shot while being surrounded by two defenders and with her back against the goal was an action that needed courage, vision and efficient execution. And Russo was able to finish this action in the most beautiful way, scoring a historic goal.
Moreover, Russo always moves well inside the box especially when asking for the ball and she usually times her movements to avoid marking and to avoid the offside trap as well. The following example shows Russo’s quick and intelligent movement that allowed her to receive the pass in a free spot after getting away from her direct marker and before executing a first-time shot to score a decisive goal.
Being able to make such quick yet efficient decisions in terms of movements and shooting makes Russo a very special and valuable striker to any attack and adds a lot to the team’s goalscoring and goal-contribution success. Plus, it should be said that, like many poachers, Russo likes first-time shots and often executes them with success since these shots usually confuse goalkeepers and are difficult to save.
As mentioned above, Russo is a striker who is always present in key moments and can be relied on during difficult situations. She was crucial in Manchester United’s away game against Arsenal by scoring a decisive winning header in the 91st minute following a corner-kick and this meant that Russo decided the result of the match thanks to her goalscoring abilities.
She was able to put the impact she wanted on the ball despite being marked tightly and disturbed by different opponents at the time of the execution of the set piece. Yet, she was able to resist and then direct the ball towards the bottom right post with success.
Alessia Russo will definitely be a great addition to Arsenal Women and she will surely be impactful during key and complicated moments that the team failed to overcome previously. Her goalscoring abilities will most likely be very beneficial for the whole team and the rivalry between her and Blackstenius will only help the team put on some more convincing attacking performances.
Also, the idea of playing both strikers alongside each other is a possible and very suitable solution that needs to be considered by Jonas Eidevall if he believes it suits the team balance.