Ebony Salmon at Bristol City Women 2019/2020 – scout report
Bristol City Women may be struggling at the wrong end of the WSL, but they have on their hands one of English football’s brightest young players. Ebony Salmon is a very interesting player to watch, because she can play literally everywhere in attack. In this tactical analysis, we will look at how the former Manchester United Women striker helps her team with her movements around the pitch, and we will also look at how that helps her team’s tactics in attack. The scout report will also illustrate her versatility in her positioning, and point out some improvements that she could make to her play, in order to make her an even better player than she currently is.
The first thing to mention in this analysis is her movement, which is key to helping her team create good attacking opportunities.
In this image, you can see how Ebony Salmon has made a run down the middle of the pitch, in between two defenders. This may seem like a very simple thing to say, but it’s a very clever move from Salmon. By running through the middle of them, she has caused confusion amongst them, because they can’t easily decide which of the two should block her run and tackle her. To make this a bit clearer, if Salmon had run down either wing, then it would have been very easy to stop her run, tackle her and clear the ball, or to block any attempted cross she might have attempted to make. As a general coaching tip, it is much harder to stop someone shooting from in front of goal than it is from the wing, and this is how Salmon has ensured that the defenders won’t be able to tackle her with ease.
Her more notable movements, however, come from her ability to see passes before others do.
Here, Salmon has seen a possible through ball from her teammate, and has created the opportunity for the pass, through the opposing defence, by running into the space. You can see how she has managed to make this move without the Liverpool Women defenders noticing too, which again shows how she can see things before others can. The other thing that her movement leads to is that the ball is in a very congested area in the pitch, whereas when it gets through to Salmon, she is in open space, and behind the defensive lines as well. The arrow shows the path of the ball as this comes about.
This is a similar situation, in that Salmon has again made the run to create the option in space for her team. This is a smaller run to the previous example, but it is still the same point. It is through her movements that Bristol City Women move the ball around the pitch, and through the channels as well, and this shows how important she is to their tactics, particularly in attack.
Here is yet another example of Salmon creating space, but here there is something else to add to what we have already established. By making this run, she has enabled her teammate to play the only pass that is actually available to her.
If Salmon had not been in this position, and had not made this movement, her teammate would still have had to play the pass shown by the arrow, because every other possible pass has been closed down by the Chelsea Women defence. Therefore, with Salmon noticing this, and moving to offer a target for the pass to reach, she has ensured this option is open and has a chance of being successful.
This example also shows how Salmon’s movements can lead to two-v-one situations as well, because if we look at the positioning of Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson, who is between Salmon and the blue arrow, then we can see how Eriksson is unable to defend as she would have liked to.
What this means is that she can’t block the pass in time, and she can’t block Salmon’s run either, so despite seemingly being in a good position to defend against this move, she is actually helpless in stopping Bristol City Women getting the ball behind her and the Chelsea defence. This move ultimately came to nothing, because the pass was overhit, but the intent was there, and that’s what mattered.
The second thing to mention about Ebony Salmon in this scout report is her versatility. This may seem like quite a small thing to mention, but what will be shown is that, through her positioning, and her versatile play, she adds a lot to Bristol City Women’s general attack.
Salmon can play in any position in attack; on either wing, in the central striking role, or she can even play in the no. 10 position, which is where we will begin our analysis in this section of the scout report.
In this example, you can see how, with Bristol City in an attacking phase, Salmon has slowed down her run so that she is in space. She has seen how her teammates have gone forward, and has noticed that if she stays behind them, in the hole, then she can offer a different option to her teammate in possession on the wing. This is very clever thinking and intelligent play from her, and means that, from the Manchester City Women defenders’ point of view, they now can’t just mark the Bristol City forward line, because they will leave Salmon open and available to receive the ball. This means more thought is needed in the split-second that they have to construct their defensive shape, and inevitably a gap will be left for Bristol City to exploit, which is what the attackers want.
So that is Salmon operating in a deeper attacking position; now we will examine how she plays in the wing positions.
When playing as a winger, she is as adept at passing forwards as she is when dribbling with the ball towards the goal line. In the second instance, she often takes defenders with her, which means opposing defences become more out of shape. However, her pace when running often means that she has an advantage over the defenders. You can see in the image how she has dragged two defenders over towards her, which has left gaps in the centre of the defence, thereby illustrating what has just been mentioned.
Again, in this example, Salmon is in possession of the ball, and is in the wide channel, and has driven forwards into this area. You can see again how she has dragged a defender over towards her, leaving space available in the middle, and you can also see in the square how two of her teammates are ready to receive the ball from her. Again, like in the previous example, Salmon’s pace has meant that she has not been closed down quickly either, and because of all of these factors, Bristol City Women have the advantage in this situation against Liverpool Women. All of this has come about because of Salmon’s move on the wing to open up these opportunities for her team.
This is perhaps the clearest example of how Salmon can operate as a winger or a wide forward, and you can see again how her pace is being used to open up the passing and crossing options for her teammates in the central and other wide channels.
To recap what we have seen so far, we can see how she operates when deployed on the wings, and how her positioning helps to create spaces in the middle of the pitch for her teammates to exploit in the opposition’s defence. Ultimately, the thing that allows her to play like this is her natural pace when running forwards. Now, we will look at her as a central striker.
In this situation, the three-player formation, similar to the last image, had Salmon in the middle of the attacking third. Her teammate, this time Yana Daniels, is in possession of the ball on the wing, and Salmon is attempting to create a passing option with her movement, trying to throw off the Reading Women defender in the process. The similarities between this example and the previous one show that, in these three-player attacks, Bristol City Women carry a threat, and Ebony Salmon is very much a part of that.
When she plays in the middle of the attack, she likes to use her trickery and skill with the ball to force her way into gaps, and get through opposing defences. This is what has happened in this image, in Bristol City’s match against Chelsea Women.
It isn’t clear in the image itself, but what has happened is that Salmon collected the ball on the left of the defensive block, and is now on the right of it, and she has got there by dribbling calmly around the defenders. Bearing in mind that this is the Chelsea defence, which we know is one of the best in the WSL, it shows just how good Salmon is, and how good a player she will be in the future. Given her obvious ability to get into these positions, both with and without the ball, it’s not hard to see why she is Bristol City’s Women’s top scorer in the league so far, with five goals to her name at the time of writing.
Finally on this theme, as well as playing in the central striker’s role as part of a front three, she can at times operate in that position on her own. However, this is not her most natural or most comfortable position to be in.
You can see here how, whilst her teammates have been unable to get away from the defenders, Salmon has found some space ahead of them, and she is also in a position to run through the middle of the last two defenders too, which links back to the first point we made at the beginning of this article, regarding her movements to confuse the opposing defence.
However, as mentioned, she plays much more naturally when she has support around her, as shown here.
Here, Salmon has wingers outside of her, who are making movements as shown by the arrows, and this means she has more space available in front of her. This comes because defenders are being pulled across to stop her teammates advancing, which leaves Salmon’s path relatively clear. This is where she thrives, and why she needs support to help her play at her best. Notice again how she is in the middle of the two defenders marking her, which is allowing her to catch those defenders out with her darting moves.
What all of this together shows, with her positioning varying from the central role to the wings, and occasionally to the no. 10 position, is that she is a defender’s nightmare, because she just moves around so often that they just don’t know where she is going to be next.
Whilst we have already seen what Ebony Salmon does well, with her movements and her versatile positioning, there are some things that she could improve upon, in order to become an even better player.
The first thing to mention is that, when playing as a lone striker, she sometimes drifts into wider areas, but that in turn leaves space open in the middle, where there are no options.
In this example, she is being tackled, but had she been able to keep the ball, she wouldn’t have been able to move it into the box very easily, because no-one is available in the marked area to cross it to. We have already mentioned how she seems much more comfortable when playing alongside two other wingers, because she can then stay in the middle channel, where the box is.
The second improvement to suggest for Salmon is to improve her finishing, because whilst she does have five goals for Bristol City Women already, and is the club’s top scorer in the WSL this season, sometimes her shots are tame or wayward. With her quality, which has been shown throughout this article, Salmon is very capable of getting 10 goals a season. Her pace and eye for space allow her to get into good areas, but then she sometimes undoes all of that good work by firing in a slightly weaker shot than perhaps she could do. Salmon is good enough to score more than she does, and sometimes it seems like she lacks a bit of confidence when in the attacking third.
To conclude, we know already that Ebony Salmon is a very exciting player to watch, and has plenty of pace, skill, ability and an eye for space, which have all helped her to be one of the best up-and-coming players in English women’s football. We have shown in this scout report how there is a lot that is good about her game, but we have also highlighted some areas in the tactical analysis where she can improve, and become an even better player. However, this is no doubt about her talent when on a football pitch.