Amalie Thestrup: What Liverpool Women need? – scout report
Liverpool Women had a disappointing 2019/2020, culminating in relegation to the Women’s Championship after finishing bottom of the league. They have already brought in several players this summer in an attempt to rebuild and make an immediate return to the WSL, but one name who has really caught the eye is Denmark striker Amalie Thestrup, who has joined from Roma Femminile. This scout report will look at how Thestrup can fit into Liverpool’s tactics next season, whilst seeing how Liverpool can best use her in their attempts to get promoted next summer. The analysis will also see how Liverpool’s opponents next season could line up, and how Thestrup will help the Reds to beat them tactically.
Amalie Thestrup at Roma Femminile
In order to see how much of an impact Thestrup will have with Liverpool, this tactical analysis will first see how she played at Roma.
The first thing any team expects from their strikers is for them to constantly be on the front foot, and this is what we see in this image. Thestrup is moving forwards, and you can see from her body position how she is looking to create a passing option high up the pitch for Roma to get the ball into. You can see how, with Inter Women coming high up the pitch, there is space available for Thestrup to make this movement behind those players in the image, thereby ensuring that Roma can counter attack if they want to.
We can build on this here, in Roma’s game against Empoli. Again, Thestrup’s body position shows how she is running into the area to get on the end of any ball into the box. Again, she is moving behind the defenders, which means that she can get into promising positions before the defence are aware of her presence. This is something that all good strikers can do, because they see where the space is, and the best way to access it. She is aided by poor defending in this image, but the fact that she knows where to be, and constantly wants to attack forwards, is a key quality in her play.
Linked into this is what we can see here. Another quality that all top strikers have is that they like to have possession of the ball, and that means getting into the best areas on the pitch. Here, Thestrup has seen that her teammate has run forwards, and so she has held back, and now positions herself in the space behind. The Inter defenders have gone with her teammate, blocking her off as a passing option, and this means Thestrup has now become a good option in space. Therefore, again, she knows where to be to receive the ball.
These have all been brief points, but what all three images above have shown is that Thestrup’s spatial awareness means she always positions herself in the best place for her team to get the ball into her. This is why she has caught the eye of clubs like Liverpool, as we shall see later on.
The next point to look at with the Denmark striker is her ability to play amongst the opposing defensive line.
Here, we see how Verona Calcio Femminile have organised their defensive line with a good shape, but have left a gap in the middle. Thestrup puts herself into that area, which means that the defensive line have to stay with her, otherwise they risk allowing her to run behind them, as we know already that she can and will do. This in turn means that Roma, through Thestrup, can stretch the play forwards, forcing the defensive line away from the rest of the team, and you can already see how there is space appearing in between Verona’s defensive and midfield lines.
The other thing that having a gap like this does for the defence is to open up gaps between the players, and you can see how Thestrup is positioned between one of them in the image. Therefore, Thestrup is clearly a striker who likes to get in and around the opposing defensive line, applying pressure on them, which is more likely to lead to defensive mistakes.
Going back to the game against Empoli, here we see another way that Thestrup uses this tactic. Again, she has got herself in amongst the defensive line, and has forced them to move backwards to stop her running in behind them.
However, instead of pushing the defence back even more, she turns and moves back towards the ball, into the space that has been created in the middle. What this shows is that Thestrup is an integral part of her team’s tactics in creating space in attack, and without her movement, it would be harder to attack against opponents in this way.
This image shows another way that Thestrup likes to play amongst the defenders. Here, the ball has been passed into her, and she drives through the gaps in the Verona defence. You can see how three defenders have moved over to focus on Thestrup’s teammate on the left hand side, which means that the gap has opened up in the middle for her. We saw previously how she sees where the spaces are, but add to that this speed and spatial awareness, and we can start to see properly how she will improve Liverpool’s play in the final third, because she is difficult to defend against when in these areas.
The final point to make about Thestrup’s play is that she is versatile, and, whilst primarily a striker, she can play anywhere she needs to. This comes from her desire to receive the ball in spaces that help her team to keep the ball and create opportunities.
We will start here with how she plays centrally. We see here how she is playing as part of a front three, and the Inter defence has become narrow as Roma attack. Thestrup is in the middle of this attacking formation, and you can see how they draw the defenders apart, creating the gaps for Thestrup to run through. This again highlights how she plays in amongst the defenders, and constantly wants to access the spaces behind them. By making a run through the defence, she would then create a passing option for her teammate with the ball, who is on the right of this attacking line.
However, this is where we would expect her to be as a striker.
Where we would not necessarily expect her to be is here, in the wider positions.
In the first image, we see how she has taken up the position of a winger, and is looking to pass the ball into the box. Due to the threat she poses when in these situations, the defenders naturally drift over towards her, and you can see how this then opens up the space in the middle of the pitch. However, she can also shoot at goal from these wider areas as well as passing into the middle, and this is another reason why she has gained Liverpool’s attention. Her threat from different areas of the forward line means that she offers her new team different options tactically, which is something that we will come back to.
The second image completes the picture, in that she is running forwards with the ball, but from the left this time. Again, we see how her movement draws the defenders towards her, leaving the spaces open for her team further across the pitch. This situation also shows a three-player attacking line for Roma, so she can adapt her play to be in the wider or the central roles as required, and that increases the threat that she poses to opponents.
Improvements to Liverpool Women’s attack
We have looked at how Amalie Thestrup plays, and now we will focus much more on Liverpool Women, seeing how the Danish international will fit into their attacking tactics, and how she will improve them.
Here, we see how Liverpool forward Rinsola Babajide has got into a good area, and last season she was Liverpool’s main centre forward, despite primarily being a winger. This often meant that she drifted over to the wider areas in some games, leaving the central areas empty. This was one reason that Liverpool struggled in front of goal last season. However, the other big reason was that they constantly got into good areas, such as here, against Bristol City Women, but then there was a lack of quality in the shot, often making it easy for the goalkeeper to save the effort.
Therefore, whilst the issue here is not that Liverpool don’t advance into good areas, they need a striker who will take advantage of these situations, as Amalie Thestrup will.
In this situation, Liverpool have again got into a good area, ahead of the defence, this time Chelsea Women, but Babajide is in the wide area. There is a teammate on the far side of the pitch, but they are being marked, and so passing into the middle has become risky, because there is a strong chance that the ball will be intercepted and cleared. Therefore, there needs to be a player coming through the middle, and this is something we saw in Thestrup’s game, when she had a teammate on the wider areas, but ran through the middle into the area that is marked by the red square in this image. Therefore, we can see how Liverpool’s attack would benefit from Thestrup’s presence in the team, running into these areas and offering passing options in front of goal.
The third and final thing to mention in how Thestrup can improve Liverpool’s attack is in becoming a new target player for them. In the image above, we see how the Reds have the ball outside the box, looking to cross it in.
The problem is not the way that Liverpool have set up inside the box, because they have options in good positions, and have a good chance of getting a shot in at goal. It’s that the two players in those areas, both circled, are Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, on the far side of the box, and Niamh Charles, on the edge of the box, have left the club this summer (Sweetman-Kirk was released whilst Charles joined Chelsea). Therefore, Liverpool need someone to fill these gaps. As we have seen, Thestrup is the ideal target player, playing amongst the defensive line, and creating passing options for her teammates to move the ball forwards to. She could fill this target player role adequately.
In this section, we have seen three different ways that Liverpool’s attack needs to be improved or added to, and have matched those up with examples from Amalie Thestrup’s play at Roma last season. We have now seen exactly how the Denmark striker would fit into Liverpool’s play, and why they have decided to sign her, hoping she will spearhead their promotion charge.
Liverpool Women’s Championship opposition
The next thing we will look at is the formations that Liverpool’s opponents next season play. This will aid us in our analysis of how Thestrup will help the Reds to win as many games as possible.
In this table, we have listed how each team lined up in the Championship last season, except Aston Villa Women, who took Liverpool’s place in the WSL. The formation listed for each team is the one they used the most last season, with the percentage of times it was used also listed.
Apart from London Bees and London City Lionesses, each of the teams played with a back four. That means that Liverpool can play with their favoured 4-2-3-1 lineup, keeping their wingers wide, marking the full-backs, and giving Thestrup the space to attack through the middle and create passing options for them. The opposing centre backs may be pulled towards the wings if Liverpool use their full-backs and wingers to pile pressure on their opponents’ full-backs. We know that Thestrup likes to find gaps in between the opposing defenders, and play through them, and so this would help Liverpool to make the most of her on-pitch capabilities.
For the teams playing with a back three, Liverpool could change to a front three formation. We have seen how Thestrup can play in the middle of a front three, and can again play through the gaps if the defensive line are pulled apart by Liverpool’s three player attack. If the wingers again draw the centre backs apart from each other, then Thestrup will be able to play as we saw her do at Roma.
Therefore, these are the ways that Liverpool can use Thestrup to the best of her ability against all of the teams in the Championship next season, giving them the best possible chance of returning to the WSL at the first time of asking.
The final thing to look at is Thestrup’s statistics compared to Liverpool’s last season.
If we look at the table, we see how Liverpool had a better goals and expected goals number, however, Thestrup has a higher value for shots on target, by 12.4%, whilst her crossing accuracy is also 16% higher. Quite simply, we have already seen these stats in action, because we know that Liverpool lack quality when taking shots, and that their strikers tend to drift across, meaning their crosses are not always accurate, whilst we know that Thestrup can play in wider areas, so therefore it is perhaps understandable that her crossing accuracy will be higher than Liverpool’s.
Overall, the stats show that Thestrup will help Liverpool with their passing, crossing and shooting. She will also add goals, as you would hope. Whilst the stats show that Liverpool’s goals per game and expected goals per game is higher than Thestrup’s, the Dane exceeded her expected goals, scoring 0.28 per game with an expected 0.25, whilst Liverpool missed theirs, only scoring 0.57 from an expected 1.09. Therefore, it is clear that Thestrup will improve Liverpool’s overall productivity in the final third.
In conclusion, the point of this article was to see whether the Liverpool’s decision to sign Denmark striker Amalie Thestrup from Roma was a good one. To answer this question, we have analysed in several different ways both her and Liverpool’s play, with the aim of seeing whether she will improve them or not. Through looking at her, Liverpool, their opponents next season and both sets of stats, we can conclude that signing Thestrup has been a good move by the Reds, and will definitely give them a boost in the final third. They needed to add quality to their attack this summer, after only scoring eight goals in their 14 WSL games this season, and it is clear that Thestrup, who scored three goals and gained one assist by herself in Serie A Women last season, will give them more of a presence in the final third.