Ella Mastrantonio 2019/20 – scout report
Despite the EPL and EFL Championship seasons continuing after the lockdown, women’s football was ended prematurely. This has allowed teams to announce departures and new signings. Last week, Bristol City Women announced the signing of Australia midfielder Ella Mastrantonio, and in this scout report, we will look at her tactical play for Western Sydney Wanderers in 2019/2020, before seeing how she could fit into Bristol’s tactics next season.
Firstly, in this tactical analysis, we will establish the role she plays in the team.
Mastrantonio’s heat map from this season shows us that she covers the central areas, between the defensive and attacking thirds. Therefore, we can identify her as a box-to-box player, who helps to switch the ball from defence to attack. This is the role she plays in the team.
Now, we have established her positioning, the analysis will begin with the defensive side of Mastrantonio’s game.
Here, we see her running towards the ball whilst in front of the defensive line. This is the first thing we will analyse; how she protects the back line by stopping opposing attacks reaching it.
Mastrantonio knows that Brisbane Roar’s attackers are behind her. It is evident how she protects the defence by sitting in front of it, because the ball is now unable to reach the opposing attackers behind her. This role is important, because there are gaps in the defensive line, showing that it wasn’t the most solid defence in the W-League last season. The fact that they conceded 20 goals in the league last season, the most out of the top four, demonstrates this.
If Mastrantonio wasn’t protecting the defence, then it seems likely that Western Sydney Wanderers would have conceded a lot more goals than they did, because, defensively, they are not the best team in the league. Therefore, this is an important characteristic of her play, and one which she will surely take to Bristol next season.
The next point to make about Mastrantonio’s defensive play is her role in the transition of defence to attack. She does this in two ways.
Here, the Australian has moved towards her goal area, aiming to receive the ball from her teammate. With the Canberra United attackers circling the area, Mastrantonio’s movement means that the ball has less area to cover to reach her. This increases the chances that she will be able to then move it forward to the attackers without too much resistance from the opposition.
Once she has received the ball in these areas, she can look up to see where to play a long pass into, just as she does here against Adelaide United.
This is another reason why she is such an important player to have on the field. If this didn’t happen, and the ball was played along the ground, Adelaide’s players would have been able to gain possession, and attack from inside Wanderers’ own half. Therefore, the long ball is the best option here, and that is why Mastrantonio is so key to her team’s play. She can make these passes from her usual position on the pitch, rather than leaving spaces open, due to her aforementioned positioning. However, the key point is that this allows the defence to be relieved of any sustained pressure from opposing attacks through her long-range passing, and without her moving out of position to do so.
Another positive of this is that Wanderers can counter-attack as well. If the opposition has poured forward, then there are gaps in behind them, where Wanderers’ attackers can look to exploit the defence, attacking with no real opposition. You can see in the second image how many of Adelaide’s players have already been taken out of the game, proving how effective the passing is.
As well as her positioning and passing abilities, Mastrantonio’s movements are as important, as they help to ensure that Western Sydney Wanderers have the best possible chance of making their attacks successful.
Here, we see how Wanderers have the ball, and are looking to move forwards against Adelaide. The circled player has the ball, but Mastrantonio is going forwards, as shown by the arrow. Mastrantonio moves ahead of the ball, rather than level with it, offering the passing option forward for her teammate.
You might be wondering why this point is being made. The answer is that Mastrantonio has moved from a deep position into this higher one, and that shows us again how eager she is to get on the ball and to make things happen for her team. The purpose of her run is also to ensure that the ball can keep moving forwards, and doesn’t get stuck, breaking the attack down. Again, this is how she plays the box-to-box role, transitioning from defence to attack as needed.
The final point to make about her defensive play is that she sees passes before others do. In the image below, you can see how she cuts out an opponent’s pass, putting her team on the attack from it.
Here, we see how she has come from her role as defensive protector, and is looking to intercept the ball mid-pass. The black arrow shows the intended path of the ball, and the red arrow shows Mastrantonio’s movement to take possession. We see how the interception is made in the space between two players, rather than as a tackle once the second Melbourne City player has it. This shows us just how early Mastrantonio sees the opportunities to get her team moving forwards. Therefore, her excellent pitch awareness has been another reason why she has been integral to Western Sydney Wanderers’ play in 2019/2020.
The other thing that we can see is that she has come a long way from the defensive line. Therefore, she has instinctively switched her mentality from the player who must protect the defence to the player who chases down the ball to get her team on the front foot. These different qualities that she has, and the ability to know when to use each one, will be crucial when she plays for Bristol next season.
The box-to-box role means that a player must be comfortable playing in defence or in attack. We have seen how she plays in defence, and how she helps in the transition from defence to attack; now we will see what happens when she reaches the final third.
In both of these images, we see how Western Sydney Wanderers are in attack, and the ball is in a good area. Ella Mastrantonio is circled, and you can see how she has taken up the same position in each image, just outside the area. This is a good position for the attacking midfielder to be in, because it means that, should the box become too congested, or the shot unable to happen, the ball can come out to the space on the edge of the box for Mastrantonio to shoot from. We know that she can play long passes, so we expect that she will be effective with the ball from this distance too.
In the second image, we see how she is actually calling for the ball, which shows you just how confident she feels in these positions. Therefore, whilst it may seem like she is not affecting the play by staying outside the box, really, she is actually very much involved.
As far as the effect on the opponents goes, Mastrantonio’s positioning means they have to take notice of her. They know about her ability with the ball when in spaces like this, and so they have to leave players around her to close her down, should she ever get the ball. This decreases the number of defenders in the box, or in wide areas, and therefore spaces will open up on the pitch for her teammates. Mastrantonio’s attacking impact, therefore, cannot be underestimated.
The reason that she is a threat in and around the box is because she can set goals up, like below.
Here, we see illustrated how she gets the ball and crosses it in, which results in a goal. This brings together everything that we mentioned with the previous two examples; she takes up the position outside of the box, gains possession of the ball, and puts it into the danger area. You can see here how this ensures she poses a threat to the opposition’s defence.
We will finish our analysis of her attacking play by looking at how she starts attacks from spaces further back.
Here, we see how she has taken the ball and is moving it forwards. Due to the nature of the break, she has become the number 10 in this situation, behind the striker, who is moving forwards towards the goal. You can see how the striker is behind Perth Glory’s defensive line, which is now caught in two minds. They don’t know whether to go with the striker or to close down Mastrantonio to stop the pass coming through them. What actually happened is irrelevant in a way, because it’s the fact that Mastrantonio got into this position that matters. It ties several of our points together from this scout report, in that she has closed down the ball and has seen where the space is, moving into it.
The final image in this section shows us how, even when in deeper areas, Mastrantonio’s passing ability and spatial awareness provides a threat. Here, we see how she has opened up her body when in possession, and this has given her two clear passing options, both of which will allow Western Sydney Wanderers to get the ball forward. Making either pass will also take the two Brisbane players nearest to her out of the game, because once the ball is played through, they will be in front of it, meaning they will be unable to affect the play. Therefore, even if she is not near the opposing box, most attacks will involve her, because she will be the one to pass the ball into dangerous areas.
At Bristol City Women
So now we have seen how she affects the play in defence and attack, let’s see how she will fit in tactically at Bristol City Women.
Firstly, looking at Bristol City Women’s defence in their game against Chelsea Women, we see how Ji So-Yun (circled) has space outside of the box, and is looking to move into the space indicated by the red square. This is where Bristol’s defence is not willing to move into, because they want to stop Chelsea from getting the ball in behind them, and into the box. They need a defensive-minded midfielder to sit in front of them and protect them, which they didn’t have last season. As we have seen in this tactical analysis, Ella Mastrantonio can do this, and so would stop Chelsea using this space, especially since she would likely intercept the ball before it reached Ji.
Here, Bristol are defending again, and the defence is organised in the box, but Yana Daniels has come back to protect them. However, Daniels is much more of an attacking player, and so this is not her speciality. Therefore, this is the reason why there is a gap between her and the defence, meaning Chelsea have a player in between them. Mastrantonio would solve this problem by filling in and protecting the defence better. This would also allow Daniels to stay further up the field, helping Bristol’s forward line to create space, in case Mastrantonio looks to play a long ball up the field towards them.
If we look at Bristol’s attack now, we see how that striker Ebony Salmon has taken the ball into a position wide of the goal, and is looking to cut the ball back to where New Zealand attacking midfielder Olivia Chance is, with the aim of getting a shot away centrally. The black arrow shows Salmon’s pass, and the red arrow Chance’s run. This is not a problem that needs solving, but the thing here is that Chance has departed Bristol this summer, and so they will need someone to fill that gap and play this role. We have already seen how Mastrantonio plays in the attacking midfield role, and so she could fill this gap and help the forward line as Chance did.
Before we finish, we need to have a look at the data that shows why Bristol City Women have signed Ella Mastrantonio.
Here, we see how she compares to Bristol City Women last season. The values in red are where either Mastrantonio or Bristol’s values beat the other in that statistic.
We don’t need to look too far before seeing where Mastrantonio will help Bristol. She has a higher value in all the passing statistics, but a lower one in the goals and shots statistics. Her passing is what we have explained and analysed throughout this article, but her goals is perhaps one area where she can improve her play. In 2019/2020, she didn’t score at all in the league, so this is a definite improvement she can make to her own individual game.
However, if she can improve Bristol’s passing, and their midfield play, then the goals can come from other players like Salmon and Charlie Wellings. This is something she should be able to do, as she had an average passing accuracy per match that was over 10% higher than the whole of Bristol’s last season.
Therefore, it is clear that she has been signed for this, and it was definitely something they needed to improve, particularly going forward, as this was what let them down last season.
In conclusion, why have Bristol City Women signed Ella Mastrantonio? Well, whilst goals may not be what she will bring, her passing statistics show that she will have a massive impact on them in those areas, and will help to transfer the ball from defence to attack much more easily. Last season, their main issue in defence was protection and gapping, and in attack it was the final pass or shot. The signs are that Ella Mastrantonio will improve both of these. Therefore, it appears that Bristol have made an excellent decision to bring her to the Stoke Gifford Stadium for next season.