Caitlin Foord 2019/2020 – scout report
December of last year saw Arsenal Women make a significant signing, in their bid to continue the fight at the WSL’s summit, with Australia international forward Caitlin Foord joining the Gunners. The 25-year-old had previously played for Portland Thorns in the NWSL, the women’s equivalent of the MLS, and Sydney in her home country. She arrived at Meadow Park with a reputation for being a quick and direct attacker, capable of scoring goals. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of her play, looking at how she fits into Arsenal’s system, and how she helps their tactics in attacking phases of play. We will look at how she has adapted to Arsenal’s tactics as well.
However, because she has only played twice for Arsenal Women, and never in the WSL (her appearances came in the FA Cup win over Lewes and the Continental Cup loss to Chelsea Women), this analysis will take a different shape to the usual format. First, we will look at Foord’s time with Portland, Sydney and with Australia in international matches, before moving to her time at Arsenal, first seeing how she is continuing to do the same things there, before analysing how she is adapting her play to fit Arsenal’s tactics.
Before Arsenal Women
The first thing to mention about Caitlin Foord’s play at Portland was that she wore the No. 9 shirt. This is significant to mention because it shows that her natural position was as a centre forward. If we look at the image below, we can see her in this position.
We can see that she is ready to receive the ball in the box, having already closed down the goalkeeper. If we look at her body position, she is facing away from goal completely. This tells us that she is demanding the ball and is confident in her own abilities because she knows that if she does get the ball, she can turn and shoot without needing to think too much about it. This breeds confidence into her teammates because they know that they can give her the ball in high-pressure situations, which is a good thing to have in a team.
What the image also shows us, perhaps more obviously, is that Foord likes to operate in the central attacking role, and you can see how there are no players surrounding her. However, she can play just as well when she has help in that area, as you can see in the next image below.
What this image shows us is that she works well in a team as well as on her own. This example is Foord’s goal for Portland Thorns against Orlando Pride in the NWSL last April. Foord did not receive the ball initially, but you can see by the arrows how the situation has been worked. Portland striker Tobin Heath has played the ball back for Foord to shoot, whilst also moving to take some of the defenders away from her. The black arrow shows Heath’s movement, whilst the yellow shows Foord’s as she moves in to shoot first time. It wasn’t a difficult goal, but what we can see is that, similar to the first example, Foord is playing in the central role, and is ensuring she makes chances count when she gets them.
The second thing that she does is to play on the shoulder of the opposing defenders. This is what enables her to almost gain a head start when reaching the ball before the defenders get it.
What we can see here is that she is in a situation where, again playing alongside Heath, there is a third teammate behind them, ready to thread the ball through to either player. Heath is in the circle, but if we look at Foord, we can see how she plays on the shoulder of the last defender. The yellow triangle shows you just how this tactic works, and how Foord is central to ensuring it benefits the team.
If we look at the image below, we can see even more clearly how this situation developed into a goal scoring opportunity.
The ball is now with Foord on the right side of the box, but Tobin Heath has continued her run on the left. This means that Portland now have two strikers happy to shoot at goal, whilst Orlando have a problem in trying to defend against them. This is what comes from Foord playing on the shoulder of the defence, and how those defenders struggle to get back and block her shots or crosses. This is why she is such a dangerous player in the final third of the pitch.
The image below shows us another example of this.
This time, Foord is playing for Sydney in the W-League, but we can again see the same thing happening. She has positioned herself just in front of the defender, not so that she is offside, but so that her teammate can thread the ball behind the defensive line for her to get on the end of, just like the previous example. If we look at her body position again, she is ready to go when the pass comes through, so again, we can see the danger she poses when the team is in this setup.
The final example of this is below.
This is a slightly different situation because it’s not a central attack. Instead, Foord has moved across and is now positioned ready to get on the end of a through ball from her teammate. We can see where the ball is in the image, and how she is now perfectly positioned to take control of it and move it towards Brisbane Roar’s goal.
The main thing to draw from all of these examples is that Caitlin Foord likes to play in these positions, and when she is deployed as a central striker, she does it well. The positives for her team are that she actually creates more space and more passing opportunities for them, which is important because it leads to more goal-scoring chances. If we look at the last two examples in particular, we can see how she has space in front of her, behind the opponents’ defensive lines. This has now been opened up simply by Foord demanding that the ball be passed into those areas.
This is what she adds to the team, and is how she influences their attacking tactics. In the example for Portland, this space isn’t available, but she has the help of a teammate, which makes the attacking move succeed. With two players making the run forwards, the defenders are unsure of which one to mark, and this creates confusion and enables Portland to take full advantage of the situation.
This idea leads us nicely onto the final theme of her play, before moving to look at her and Arsenal Women. This theme is her working as part of a front line. This is something she does equally as well, and we can see it below.
We can see how, similar to the Portland example, Foord has found herself working with a teammate in a front line again. What is especially crucial to note here is that, whilst her opponent has the ball and is drawing the defenders towards her, Foord, who is circled, has space to ensure she is in the right position to score from this situation, which she does. This introduces the way that her team ensure she has the space she needs in order to do what she does best; finding spaces and shooting at goal. If her teammates didn’t move to draw defenders away from her, she may find this more difficult than she has done in her career.
Another example of her working as part of a front line is shown below, this time in an international match.
This time, there are four players in the forward line, and they are all connected by the lines in between, with Foord circled in the middle of the formation. We can draw a couple of points together from this because as well as playing in the forward line, she is also positioned centrally, so it links in with our previous point about how she is comfortable operating in the central channels when her team need her to.
We have seen how she has played before her time at Arsenal Women. Now we will look at Foord following her move to the Gunners, analysing both the similarities and the differences.
With Arsenal Women – similarities
The first similarity is that she has continued to play on the shoulder, as can be seen below.
Caitlin Foord is playing in amongst the defence, ready to get on the end of the through ball marked by the yellow arrow. This is in the FA Cup game with Lewes, which was Foord’s debut, and so proves that she was signed to offer Arsenal Women this extra attacking threat in the final third. Given this, one possible formation Arsenal could use is to play her alongside Vivianne Miedema in the Arsenal team, which would give the Gunners some flexibility in the final third. It would also allow Arsenal to unlock defences much more easily, because of Foord’s pace, which we have spoken about already.
We can also see how she is in line with Danielle Van De Donk, and so this brings us onto how she works in a forward line with others in her team.
In this example, from this year’s Continental Cup final, we can see how Foord has positioned herself in line with two other Arsenal attackers. This is the usual formation that Arsenal like to play, although in the WSL this season it has usually been Miedema, Van De Donk and Lisa Evans who have been the front three. We will see later how Evans and Foord could work together, but for now we can say that Foord obviously fits Arsenal’s tactics in the way they set up in attack.
Again, here we see how Foord is working with another Arsenal teammate in attack, and has also slipped inside from the wing, where she started the game, and this brings us onto how she has been given freedom to move around to where she needs to be.
We can see from this image that Foord has seen the space, drifting into that area to receive the ball. This is particularly important because, in this situation, Miedema is in a wider position, so Foord has filled the gap. This gives Arsenal Women more flexibility and means they could potentially use Foord as a strike partner for Miedema, especially as the Netherlands forward has shown a couple of times this season that she could benefit from having someone else alongside her.
We can see in this image something similar to the very first example in the article when we looked at how she closes down the goalkeeper and takes up positions in the space behind the defence. What we can see is that Arsenal clearly intended to sign Foord to be a versatile player, allowing her to play as she has done at her previous clubs.
With Arsenal Women – differences
There are some differences to her play since her move though, which we shall now look at.
Firstly, she likes to create attacking opportunities for other teammates, as can be seen below.
Here, Miedema has again been caught in the wide areas. Foord has noticed this, moving forwards to offer a passing option for her new teammate. The arrow shows her movement to do this, and it is her pace in attack that allows her to constantly find these spaces. Again, she is causing problems for the defenders, which is what she had been doing before joining Arsenal.
The final point to make is that she has adapted her play to suit the way the Gunners play.
We can see here how she has dropped back, rather than joining in the attack, and this is important to note because it means she is working within Arsenal’s current tactical systems. Lisa Evans is playing at right-back in this game, but she likes to get forward and play in attack whenever she can. Foord has seen this, dropping back to allow Evans the space to help the attack.
Therefore, we can see an example here of how Foord is not only a good player, but a team player, and will do whatever is necessary to help her team win matches.
To conclude, we have seen in detail Caitlin Foord’s style of play, both before and then with Arsenal. Whilst we have only seen her in the red shirt twice, and never in the WSL, we can say several things. Firstly, she is quick, and that helps her team to create passing and goal scoring opportunities. Secondly, she knows when to go forward and when to drop back, and having her and Lisa Evans on the right side of the pitch seems to be a good combination based on what we have seen. Thirdly, Arsenal Women haven’t changed her playing style too much, and have allowed her to keep playing as she was beforehand.
One thing she could do to improve is to perhaps work on her crossing, because whilst it is already at a good level, Arsenal’s wingers tend not to cut inside so much, and the likes of Evans tend to stay out wide and cross the ball in. If Foord wants to mould herself even more into the Arsenal style, then that is perhaps something she could do. But there is no doubt that, based on what we have seen, she has a big future with Arsenal Women.