Even though Australia’s road to glory this summer in France wasn’t as big of a success as they would have dreamt of, the usual suspects did somewhat live up to the expectations. Of course, Sam Kerr is the name ringing in everyone’s ears but it was actually their right-back, Ellie Carpenter, that could’ve easily slipped under the radar of many spectators.
But she was very much one of the Matildas’ bright spots throughout FIFA Women’s World Cup and this tactical analysis will look into the young full-back and bring you her in-depth player profile alongside the tactics behind her success.
Ellie Carpenter is a 19-year-old right-back that plays her football for the Australian national team and Portland Thorns, the American club playing in the NWSL league. Carpenter is very much the Australian prodigy waiting to be unleashed.
As well as being last year’s W-League Young Footballer of the Year, the right-back is also the youngest player to score in NWSL history. Interestingly enough, she made her debut for the Matildas at the tender age of just 15, becoming Australia’s first international football player (male or female) to be born in the 21st century.
Her play is characterised by her blistering pace, an eye for both finishing and setting up goals and a keen sense for defending. This scout report will now take a closer look at all those qualities and tactics in more detail.
One thing that describes Ellie Carpenter the best would definitely be her aggressiveness. Whether we’re dissecting her attacking or defensive play, this one rule of thumb generally holds true. Whether by design or by accident, both Australia and Portland Thorns do share some similar tactics that suit Carpenter really well.
Her tendency to press the opponent and engage in duels is complementary to the high-tempo style both teams prefer. Notice in the images below how that translates onto the pitch and in two different situations that usually occur.
The first scenario is the high press situation in which Portland Thorns effectively mirror the opposition’s shape in their own half in order to shut down any passing channels bar the blind clearance or risky attempts.
We can see Carpenter leaving her designated position in order to press the ball-carrier as soon as she is in possession. This is emphasised even more when we take into account her seemingly undying stamina resources. Carpenter can keep going up and down the pitch for the whole 90+ minutes if needs be.
What does help, though, in that case, is the fact that both of her teams tend to have more possession than their opposition. On average, Australia have 59.77% of the ball while Portland sit on 50.46% so Carpenter can rest while the opposition is pinned down in their own half.
But once they do get on the ball, and the high press is either bypassed or fails to yield any results, the 19-year-old will still stay positioned more as a right-wing-back than a straight up right-back.
Notice Portland’s defensive shape as the opposition tries to advance up the pitch. The defensive line pulls back while Carpenter effectively assumes the role of a midfielder as she confronts the ball-carrier.
If we take a closer look at her statistics, though, we can see that she is quite effective when defending. What stands out the most are her 8.15 recoveries attempted on average and the fact that 43.1% happen in the opposition’s half. This also confirms what we’ve noted before in this scout report and that’s Carpenter’s aggressive nature.
With her positioning putting her extremely high up the pitch, she is more likely to intercept the ball and turn defence into attack within seconds. That’s when her speed and stamina also come quite in handy as she can then burst forward and become an imminent threat to the opposition’s net.
Her venture during the FIFA Women’s World Cup was no exception to this rule. If we take a look at her recoveries in the game against Norway, we can see how that was in full effect. Carpenter made 11 recoveries in that single game, five of which were in Norway’s half of the pitch.
Her 4.24 interceptions on average, in all competitions, further solidify that particular quality as her dominant one. Alongside her stamina and aggressive tendencies, Carpenter is an extremely important piece of both Australia’s and Portland’s defensive structure.
The below example shows her essence with just a single defensive action. Carpenter starts off extremely high up the pitch, as she usually does, but sprints all the way back in order to intercept the ball and regain possession for the Matildas, turning defence into attack.
Even though Ellie Carpenter is first and foremost a defender, her qualities don’t come into light as much until she’s given enough freedom to express herself in the attacking spectre of the game. Being a modern full-back through and through, she excels at progressive runs, overlaps and 1v1 situations that enable her to create and finish actions.
If we take a look at her offensive statistics, we can see that she makes 2.14 progressive runs per 90 minutes and combines it with 2.9 dribblings and 3.11 crosses per game. That tells us that she often bursts into the opposition’s half, beats her marker and then proceeds to bombard the box with crosses and line-breaking passes.
A closer look at how that translates onto the pitch further emphasises that point. Australia have their opposition pinned down and Carpenter is positioned high and wide in Jamaica’s half. She proceeds to beat her marker and then sends the ball into the box for a great link-up with her teammate.
As soon as the ball leaves her feet, she continues with her darting run and offers a passing channel that would put her in essentially a 1v1 scenario with the goalie. Unfortunately, the attack breaks down as the Matildas decide to pursue a different path but Carpenter did her fair share of the work nonetheless.
Another prototype situation from the FIFA Women’s World Cup came in the same game against Jamaica. Carpenter regains possession after sprinting all the way back into her own half and starts a quick transition.
A swift one-two with her teammate is followed by another burst of speed that sees her beat multiple markers and advance into the free space on the flank. She finishes it off with a ball into the box that ultimately yields no palpable results but still proves the point.
Finally, when we take a look at her heatmap, we can see that she spends equal amounts of time in her own half of the pitch and the opposition’s. She is constantly offering herself as a passing option and adds extra bodies in the final third almost at all times.
This, however, can sometimes hurt her and the team when she is caught out of position but more on that a bit later when we delve more into her weaknesses.
Link-up and build-up play
A big part of his arsenal is definitely her ability to fuel the build-up play for her team and also provide her teammates with deadly passes and through balls. The latter might not always be that emphasised because she is an extremely direct type of player who will do the work herself and then either cross the ball or lay it off for someone else but the former is emphasised in almost every single game she plays.
During the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, Carpenter had a distinct role within the Matildas’ team. Australia would constantly try and build from the back and their right-back was very much their core link into the more advanced positions.
Below, we can see a couple of key pass-maps and Carpenter’s most emphasised links in those specific games. Notice the two patterns repeating: Kennedy (14) – Carpenter (21) and Carpenter (21) – Gielnik (15).
This clearly indicates that Carpenter was used as a channel through which Australia would advance into the final third. Her strongest links indicate a clear path from defence to attack as the build-up is constructed through their young right-back.
It also indicates how Australia do have a preferred side through which they like to attack but while that is a different aspect of their tactics, it also shows how significant Carpenter is for their team.
Still, her passing statistics do show that there is still room for improvement despite her 82.3% passing accuracy during the FIFA Women’s World Cup and 6.78 average passes into the final third and 4.66 into the box.
The things she should be looking to improve the most, however, are the through balls (0.21) and long passes (2.96) even though those are at a decent level already. Bear in mind she is still 19 with a lot of room for improvement.
When she’s assisting the slow and methodical build-up, she is mostly relying on short passes in tight spaces but she’s best utilised when she’s given the freedom to combine her pace and skill with an eye for a good pass.
Below, you can see her first beating her marker and then proceeding to send a deadly through ball, setting her teammate up in a 1v1 scenario with the goalkeeper.
But even when she has to slow down the tempo and approach the action with a cool head, she can still impress. Being one of the key pieces of the build-up, she is used to finding solutions under pressure and keeping it simple in order to bypass the opposition’s press and advance the ball.
We can see an example of that in the image below when Carpenter gets the ball and is immediately pressurised by Norway’s forward. She feints ever so slightly, getting away from her marker with a single touch before circulating the ball back to an open teammate.
Since Ellie Carpenter is still very much a work in progress, her player profile and tactics are not yet fully set in stone. So far, however, she has shown certain weak spots in her overall play.
One is definitely her 1v1 defending as she was beaten numerous times in those scenarios during the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer. She does, however, compensate that with her pace and stamina since she often has the speed to catch up to her opponent once she does get beaten in a direct duel.
This leads us to the second point which is positioning. This could also be put down to the overall tactics both Australia and Portland like to utilise but Carpenter is sometimes caught out of position since she tends to stay so high up the pitch when attacking.
But this particular weakness is also somewhat dampened by her pace since she usually gets back in time to patch up the pockets of space that remain behind her back once she advances up the pitch.
Ellie Carpenter is without a doubt a rising star and a talent only waiting to be unleashed and hopefully, this scout report will help you understand the tactics behind her play and her overall player profile.
It’s difficult to confidently say what the future holds for her but Australia certainly have the right-back position well covered and if all goes well, only sky is the limit.
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