Beth Mead at Arsenal Women 2019/2020 – scout report
Arsenal Women had a slightly disappointing 2019/2020 season, placing third in the WSL, four points behind Manchester City Women, and missing out on Champions League football next season. They have made a few adjustments this summer, including handing the no. 9 shirt to England forward Beth Mead, following Danielle Carter’s move to Reading Women. While at Sunderland Ladies, Mead played as a striker, but has had to adapt her play at Arsenal, becoming more of a winger, with Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema occupying the centre forward role.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at Mead’s game, seeing how she fits into Arsenal’s tactics, and then we will look at her statistics for 2019/2020, seeing if we can identify some areas she can improve on for next season.
Creating passing and shooting options
This scout report will first look at how Beth Mead creates passing and shooting options with her movement.
Here, we see a key part of Mead’s game. She is comfortable playing on either side of the pitch, which is important. What she does as a winger though is to often cut inside and get shots away, which is what she has done here. Mead has gained possession of the ball and has ran inside the Chelsea Women defence, as the yellow arrow shows, and you can see how this has opened up some space for her to shoot from.
Chelsea’s midfield diamond formation means they will leave gaps in the final third, but Mead still had to see the space to run into, which is what creates the chance for Arsenal. You can see how Chelsea’s attackers have focused on her, allowing Arsenal’s Jill Roord (number 14) and Danielle van de Donk (number 7) to move behind them. Here, Mead gets a shot away at goal instead, which shows her ability at shooting from these kinds of distances, but also shows how her movements affect opposing defences.
Again, Mead has come inside from the wing, but here she is running into the centre forward position. Vivianne Miedema likes to drift around and move into the wider areas every so often, and so Mead’s ability to run into the central areas when needed, which comes from her previous role as a striker at Sunderland, means that Arsenal have cover when the Dutch international isn’t in the middle.
You can see from Mead’s body position how she wants to get to the ball before the Manchester City defenders, and that shows her desire to have the ball and make things happen for Arsenal in the final third. This is what she brings to the team, and why she is so important for them. Again, the effect it has on the defender is that it gives them another thing to think about, and that’s when defensive errors can creep in at crucial moments.
Here, we see how Mead plays ahead of the ball, always offering a passing option. Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation enables them to have two wingers who stay wide, offering passing options when the Gunners are moving forward, and this is what we can see here. Vivianne Miedema is advancing forwards with the ball, but Reading Women are defending with two players, stopping her getting too far forward. However, there is enough of a gap that Miedema can pass the ball through to Mead if she wants to. The fact that there is this option is another way that Mead creates options for her team, and her pace means she can stay in these areas, ahead of the ball, and not be caught behind it when Arsenal need a player in the space behind the opposing defence.
Finally in this section, we see here how Mead, circled, is in a central position, with Miedema, in the red square, advancing inside the central channel with the ball. Mead moves out to the wing, as the red arrow shows, which does two things. Firstly, it opens up a passing option for Arsenal, should Miedema need it, and secondly, it pulls the opposing Reading defenders away from where Miedema wants to go, opening up that central space for the Dutch striker to move into.
Therefore, in this section, we have seen how useful Mead’s movements have been this season, not only opening up chances that she can shoot from, but also creating space and passing options for her team.
We will now move the analysis on, looking at how she has transformed into a natural winger with Arsenal.
Here, we see how Beth Mead is in her usual wing position and has received the ball from her teammate. She passes the ball backwards, but what is significant in this example is that she is under pressure from two Manchester City defenders, which is marked out by the red square. Her ability to receive the ball in this tight area, control it and then pass it back out, as the yellow arrow shows, demonstrates how good she has become as a winger.
Here, we see another way that Mead plays as a winger. Arsenal are attacking, with the ball on the far side of the pitch, and Mead is tracking the play on the nearside. By staying wide, she ensures Arsenal always have a passing option in space, should they run into Manchester City traffic on the far side of the pitch. She also forces some Manchester City players to stay away from the ball, as they have to prevent Mead’s run into the box in case the ball is crossed into the middle. That, therefore, means that not all of Manchester City’s players can crowd around the ball, again meaning Arsenal have more chance of the ball advancing into dangerous areas.
If we look at this image, we see how Reading’s wider players have moved inside the pitch, and Mead has taken full advantage of this to ensure that Arsenal can get behind the defensive line. Again, you can see how she is ahead of the ball when it is passed to her, which is something we picked up in the last section. You can also see how, with Mead on the wing and Miedema in the middle, Arsenal have gained a foothold in Reading’s defensive line, and the space behind it is now open for them to move into.
Therefore, this image shows us how Mead anticipates where the space will be, and her pace means she has been able to adapt to her role as a winger in her three seasons at Meadow Park.
This is another example of how Mead makes the wing role her own. You can see how Miedema has drifted away from the box, but Scotland winger Lisa Evans, in the red square, and Mead, circled, have moved ahead of Reading’s narrow defensive line. We know that Evans likes to control the wing for Arsenal, but her movement means nothing if Mead hadn’t also made the movement on the other side of the pitch, because it gives Evans a target in the middle for her cross. Like with the last example, we can also see how Mead has moved outside of the narrow defensive line, and into the space behind it.
The effect this has on Arsenal’s opponents is that they have to stretch across the pitch much more in their setup, and this means that there is more chance of gaps appearing between the individual defenders. This is what Arsenal want because it allows the likes of Miedema, Jordan Nobbs and van de Donk to move through those gaps and into dangerous areas, increasing their central threat.
Here, we see how Arsenal again have a front three setup. Manchester City have a narrow defensive triangular structure, which means it’s easy for Arsenal to surround them and control the area. Mead is circled, and you can see how, despite wanting to get a shot away, she is being disciplined, and is keeping the width in this attack. This gives her the best possible chance of getting a pass or shot away from this space. It also enables Arsenal to keep the ball, because of the amount of clear space that Mead is in.
Therefore, what we can say about Mead’s wing play is that she has morphed into a winger from a striker well, and this has enabled her to become a major part of Arsenal’s tactical play. Her pace and ability to cut inside from the wing, but also to stay wide and keep the ball when she is needed to, means that she can do whatever is asked of her.
Partnership with Miedema
We have seen it emerging in part already, but Beth Mead does seem to have an on-field understanding with striker Vivianne Miedema, which has definitely been a major part of Arsenal’s attacking tactics.
In both of these images, we see the same thing happening. Miedema has moved out to the wing, where we mentioned before she likes to go to every now and again, and Beth Mead has moved into the central areas to offer the passing option to her Dutch teammate. This comes from Mead’s background as a striker, so she knows where the best areas to get into are. This helps Arsenal because it means that when Miedema is not in the middle, Mead can fill in as required. The fact that she has been given the no. 9 shirt is perhaps a reflection on this, as Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro is perhaps planning for Mead to come inside, deputise for Miedema much more.
In the first image, we can see how Manchester City have understandably moved to close down Miedema, but in doing so, they have left the middle open, and that is where Mead is now moving into. We can see how Mead’s pace means that she can get into the box before Miedema is closed down, and that allows the ball to be passed into this space before it is cut off completely.
In the second image, Miedema is not in possession but is outside of the box. However, the partnership element here is that, because she is not able to get into the box, Mead is in a good position to do so in her place. She does have a Tottenham Hotspur Women defender in front of her, but runs behind her, as the red arrow shows. This means she can get into the right area to receive the ball before it is cut off. Mead also weaves a little before going behind the defender, just to pull her opponent slightly out of position, and create the few centimetres of space that she needs to get behind her.
Another way that Mead and Miedema work together is to cover spaces. In this image, Miedema is running into her usual central position to receive the ball in the box and get a shot away, but it will need to travel a long way to reach her from its current location on the wing. Therefore, Mead runs behind Miedema’s path to offer a passing option closer to the ball, which then bridges this gap. It also creates a 2-v-3 in the central channel, as you can see, and that gives Arsenal more of a chance of scoring. This demonstrates how both of Arsenal’s attackers work together to create the chance to score, but also shows how Mead’s pace and spatial awareness gives her the best opportunity of being effective in the final third.
In this image, we see how Mead, circled, and Miedema have worked together to form a front two partnership, increasing their potency. You can see how, like with the previous example, there is a 2-v-3 situation that has emerged, with Arsenal’s two forwards in between the Tottenham defenders. They are positioned very close together too, which ensures that the defence stays narrow, and that means there’s more space for Arsenal to use the ball in wider areas if they want to. Mead’s role here is clearly as more of an inside forward than a winger, helping Miedema out, and this again shows her versatility and ability to play wherever is needed for her team.
Finally, we need to have a look at Beth Mead’s heat map and statistics from this season.
Here, we see how Mead tends to stay mostly in the wider areas of the pitch, very close to the side lines. We have seen this already, because Arsenal like to play with a 4-3-3 formation, using Mead as one of the two wingers. She does cut inside quite a lot, but by keeping the wingers wide, Arsenal force their opponents’ defences to stretch apart, creating gaps in the middle for the attackers to run through. Therefore, Mead’s heat map reflects Arsenal’s tactics in attack.
If we examine the data from her season, we can make some interesting conclusions. In all competitions, she scored three goals and made five assists, and these came from the 38.2% of her shots that were on target. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but then we need to remember that she is a winger now, so even though we have seen how she cuts inside a lot, her expected goal value (xG) was only 2.71, and her expected assist value (xA) was 4.13, so she managed to exceed expectations on both.
Mead also had a 75% passing accuracy, which shows how good she is with the ball in her possession. She won 51.1% of her duels, which suggests perhaps one thing she can improve on. Wingers are often required to take on opposing full-backs and wingers, and therefore Arsenal might have liked this number to have been higher, even though it is highly respectable. The one area where she can definitely improve her game is in her crossing into the box. She only had a crossing accuracy from last season of 23.7%, and there were times when she was in good areas, but her cross was too powerful or went out of play behind the goal. Therefore, if she could improve this, then she would pose even more of a threat than she does already.
To conclude, Beth Mead is a very important player for Arsenal Women to have in the team. We have seen how much she offers them, from creating passing options to her transformation from a striker to a winger, finishing off with an analysis of her apparent partnership with Netherlands international Vivianne Miedema. Her statistics support our findings, with her crossing accuracy standing out as the one part of her game which she can work on ahead of next season. Having taken the no. 9 shirt at Meadow Park next season, it is obvious that she is more than up to the added expectation that comes with having a major shirt number at one of the league’s most high profile teams.