Chloe Kelly at Manchester City 2019/20 – scout report
After losing the FAWSL title to Chelsea Women based on expected points after the FA decided not to continue the season, Manchester City Women were expected to head into the summer for a fresh start. Not only did they lose the title, Tessa Wulleart and Pauline Bremer both decided to leave the club after their contracts expired. A critical summer ahead, the recruitment under new manager Gareth Taylor would be imperative for City to maintain and challenge Chelsea for the title again next season.
With rumours of a triple swoop of Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, and Chloe Kelly shows focus and a willingness to go all in this summer. Kelly, in particular, is a smart, shrewd signing as she was one of the few top players playing outside of the top three clubs. This scout report will examine Kelly’s attributes and how she can fit into Manchester City’s squad.
Chloe Kelly is a young, 22-year-old winger who can also play as a centre-forward. Having started her career at Arsenal, she moved to Everton in 2016, on loan for two seasons before making a permanent move in 2018. The winger is also a capped England international having made four senior appearances so far. Naturally, a winger, the traits associated with Kelly is her pace, dribbling, and shooting ability. Kelly is more of an inside-forward that prefers to cut inside off the left-hand side to dribble into space before finding a shooting opportunity.
In possession, Kelly knows how to find her way out of tight spaces and progress the ball forward. Alternatively, her off the ball intelligence is another bright aspect of her play. The winger is able to find space to run into which makes her lethal in front of goal. This has been a notable change in her game that is reflected in the nine goals she’s scored this season compared to her solitary strike in the 2018-19 season. Through tactical analysis, we will now understand these traits in a little more detail before we investigate her role at Manchester City Women.
Kelly’s game revolves around her on the ball work with her dribbling her main strength. Playing as a left-sided winger, Kelly likes to cut inside to either shoot or find another teammate. Everton heavily relied on Kelly’s dribbling ability to help them find ways through opposition defences and be a source of goals for the side. Her nine goals this season has led to a 6th place finish after a disappointing 10th place finish in the previous season.
Supported by her heat map, we can see Kelly majorly residing on the left-hand side coming inside and rarely going down the flank, allowing the full-back to overload. Everton were able to find an alternate route of attacking if Kelly was blocked with the full-backs going forward. Upon reaching the final third and specifically zone 14, Kelly will look to take on her man and try and find a shooting opportunity.
Even if the chance is slightly further out, Kelly isn’t afraid to take a shot. This can be reflected in her 3.71 shots per 90 minutes with an impressive 34% accuracy rate. Trying to bypass opposition teams whose tactics revolve around stopping Kelly is tough but the winger has great skill on the ball to manoeuvre through.
As the example shows, Kelly is in a 1 vs 1 position against the full-back where she seems to have shown the defender where she wants to go. The 22-year-old ends up cutting across the full-back, catching her off guard and giving the defender no chance to recover. The Everton winger’s smart and quick movement and intelligence are shown here to be able to expertly manoeuvre away from defenders in isolated battles.
Kelly is extremely good at getting out of tight spaces especially when being pressed by multiple players. This is an effective tool to not only progress play but create space.
Another example of her dribbling can be seen here where Kelly weaves her way through a couple of players from her starting position on left-wing. The movement inside has shown her excellent dribbling ability. Kelly still has one more player to take on and does this by giving the defender a chance to retain possession but her quick pace allows her to take a touch away from where she has a clear path to shoot. From here, Kelly takes a shot, catching the goalkeeper off guard.
Out of possession
Off the ball, Kelly isn’t much of a defender, however, her intelligence in finding space and understanding when to make moves to get into goal scoring positions is excellent. Kelly can often be found running into the 18-yard box, making smart movements to find space. From here, she sets herself into goal scoring positions. Kelly’s off the ball movement is dependant on the position she’s played in.
Her versatility of being able to play both as a wide forward and centre-forward determines how she moves into the box. Kelly’s 2.84 touches in the box come from her interchange between positions.
This Everton shot graph shows 54 of Everton’s shots taken this season and what is interesting to note is three of Kelly’s (#11) four goals have come from three different spots inside the 18-yard box. One from the left, right, and centre which illustrates Kelly’s constant movement across the forward line coming in from different starting positions.
This pass map against Manchester United (R) and Arsenal (L) illustrates Kelly playing in two different positions, highlighting her versatility and her ability to comfortably play in different areas of the pitch. This demonstrates that she understands how different positions are played both on and off the ball, improving her tactical intelligence. The movement required to play as a centre-forward is different from that of a winger and Kelly playing both positions gives her that understanding. The examples below show us this.
In this example, we can see Kelly making a move across towards the 18-yard box to try and get ahead of the highlighted Brighton & Hove Albion defender. Even though the ball is being contested on the left, Kelly sees the vacant space and moves towards it early. This movement enables Everton to quickly pass forward instead of holding the ball waiting for support in which time Brighton can regroup.
Once Kelly moves into position and receives the pass, she uses her 1 vs 1 skill to make space and shoot to score. This goal was borne of her ability to understand space and intelligently time her run and set herself up to score.
Here Kelly is in a more central position waiting on the shoulder of the defenders. Everton are on a counter-attack and Kelly is trying to both create space for herself and her teammates. By running in behind, she takes the attention of her marker allowing the far sided Everton players to make a run in behind. Whether the ball is passed through to her or in behind, Kelly’ movement can open up chances for Everton.
How does Chloe Kelly fit into Manchester City?
So, with a move to Manchester City mooted, how does Kelly fit into their system? With Gareth Taylor replacing Nick Cushing, it will be tough to predict how City will line up and play next season. Looking at the players they are rumoured to bring in, we can hypothesise their new style of play. Bronze and Greenwood are two attacking full-backs being linked with City and this could see a shift in the way they play.
At the moment, Manchester City are heavily focused on attacking down the right flank through Janine Beckie. As the graphic below shows, the team play a very lopsided 4-4-2 with Jill Scott tucking inside to create a three in midfield whilst the width comes from Beckie and at times Lauren Hemp on the left. The inclusion of Bronze and Greenwood at full-back will see the faux back three be changed with two flying full-backs and change the make-up of the attackers.
Kelly’s inclusion can open up a variety of different tactical options for Taylor and his decision on where to play her will be based on the tactics he wants to employ. This analysis will assume they continue with the tried and tested 4-4-2 formation. The first option is playing on the flanks, specifically at left-wing. From here, Kelly can cut inside and shoot utilising her on the ball skills. From City’s style of play last season this would give City an alternative source of attack, not making them predictable. The over-reliance of using Beckie as an attacking wide option can be negated by teams overloading their left side. Kelly’s inclusion would give them balance and a chance to switch play and take advantage of the space available.
This graphic illustrates the potential space and movements the team could have with Kelly at left-wing. The dropping Stanway from centre-forward could help pull players out of position allowing Kelly the space needed to drive in. If City played with two out and out centre-forwards then Kelly’s space would be limited. Having a player in Greenwood paired at left-back would also see her marauding overlapping runs if Kelly decides to play a reverse pass into the left-back.
Taking this cross map from Machester City’s game against Chelsea into consideration, we can see that the majority of City’s crosses originated from the right-side, specifically from Beckie. This focus of coming in off the right will also take advantage of Kelly’s out of possession movement that we spoke about earlier. Hemp makes a lot of runs into the 18-yard box to get on the end of crosses and become an extra player in support. Kelly’s smart use of space combined with Beckie’s accuracy in crossing can be a lethal combination. City average 18.29 crosses/90 with a 40% success rate which shows their preference to cross.
Kelly brings a different dynamic to Ellen White and Georgia Stanway through her style of play. Kelly, in essence, would be replacing one of White or Stanway as the second striker with the question being which partner would suit her play style and the style of the team. At the moment, White plays as a true number ‘9’ alongside attacking midfielder cum striker Stanway. The midfielder plays a more withdrawn role complimenting White making late runs into the box. A lot of her role includes linking midfield with the forward line through quick interchangeable passes. There are times when White will drop deep to connect play and allow Stanway to make runs into the box, though it is Stanway who does this most.
Kelly will offer a more dynamic presence in the box, where she would position herself around the last defender looking for space in behind. This combination with White could see the White play a bit more of a target-man type role. This would give City an alternative mode of attack and invite more floated crosses or balls into White’s feet who can hold, turn, and play in Kelly. Even when Pauline Bremer played next to White, we could see how effective White was in quickly shifting the ball and bringing other players into play. Though she was not very consistent, the game against Tottenham Hotspur stands out where she was involved throughout the 90 minutes.
On the other hand, the Kelly/Stanway combination could prove to be very effective. With Stanway’s link-up and Kelly’s sense of space, speed, and finishing ability, City could possess a very pacy attacking line. Having a player drop into space deep and bring Hemp and Beckie who would flank the two forwards gives them a chance to play closer to the box creating overloads either side. Stanway would be involved in build-up while Kelly could move across to either side and create the aforementioned overloads alongside the wingers/inside forwards. On the assumption that Bronze and Greenwood are signed and involved, the below tactics board could be a possible way to get the best out of the Stanway/Kelly combination. Stanway (player between the lines) would drop into this position and spread the ball out to the right-back who in turn would progress play forward. The yellow arrows show Kelly (central position) running into space to create an overload with Beckie (ball carrier) and Hemp making a late off the ball run in off the left.
Kelly moving to Manchester City brings a number of tactical benefits and add to their squad depth. The departure of Bremer and Wulleart means City need reinforcements given Chelsea and Arsenal’s moves in the transfer market and Kelly represents a very shrewd and smart signing. The tactical possibilities available to Taylor with her arrival alongside the potential arrival of Bronze and Greenwood could bring about even more attacking potential than they were able to output last season. Kelly has a high ceiling and playing in a more established team could propel Kelly to another level in her development making her a valuable asset for both Manchester City and England for years to come.