Everton Women 2019/20: How Izzy Christiansen & Hayley Raso fit in at Everton Women – scout report
Everton Women have had a decent start to the season and at the halfway point find themselves fifth in the FAWSL standings keeping pace with Manchester United Women. The Blues have been inconsistent with five losses to their name having conceded 15 goals an scoring 17 in the process across 11 games. It’s been over a year since Willie Kirk was announced as the new manager of Everton, leaving his role as an assistant coach at Manchester United. The Scotsman has completely transformed his Everton side from a team who were fighting relegation last season to a team competing for top four this season.
However, Everton were in need of reinforcements during the January transfer window and were looking for players to make an instant impact. The signing of Izzy Christiansen from Olympique Lyon and Hayley Raso from W-League team Brisbane Roar could give Everton a lift and what they need to cement a place in the top four.
This tactical analysis scout report will understand and detail the strengths the new signings bring to the team and how they fit into the tactics at Everton Women. We will use analysis to determine whether or not they can make an impact and if they are a good long term fit for the club.
Everton Women’s Style of Play
Everton’s style of play has been interesting to watch over the course of the season. Kirk has set the side up in a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation throughout the season. Chloe Kelly has been Everton’s star player and top scorer with her energetic wide play a highlight of the side so far this season.
Everton out of possession are a well-drilled outfit who use their midfield dominant shape to press semi aggressively. Depending on the opposition they will look to slightly alter their tactics which is indicative of their pressing strategy. Against more possession dominant sides, they will look to sit deeper and press as the opposition move into their defensive third. Against teams they feel they can match or are favourites against, they try setting the press high up the pitch. Their pressing system is based around a man-oriented press which is triggered based on the player on the ball at the time.
From front to back, the team works hard to ensure the opposition can’t easily penetrate through by holding a compact shape. Midfield plays a critical role in keeping Everton’s structure by remaining disciplined when their strikers look to press further forward. The opposition full-backs are put under immense pressure by the wingers which causes the opposition wingers to track back and provide extra cover and support. The defenders maintain their line and usually stay in their shape to track any runners that could run in behind and allow the midfield to provide the first line of protection centrally.
In possession, Everton’s main source of attack comes from the wide areas. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Kelly is the team’s key player and getting the ball to her becomes their primary objective when trying to attack and score goals. Her ability to cut inside or stay out wide is what makes her such a talismanic figure. While Kelly has been consistent in her performances for Everton, Kirk needs more from his team and strengthening an area that is his strongest point of attack makes sense.
The signing of Raso signals their intent to make a push for the top four and strengthens their wide options. They have a number of methods to try and get the wingers into attacking positions primarily through their striker. Possession starts with the full-backs whose task is to find the forward players. They are supported by at least one central midfielder who acts as a link and passing option for the full-back when transitioning into the final third.
The midfielders – usually Maéva Clemaron and a mixture of Abbey-Leigh Stringer and Molly Pike – will try to gather possession and play passing triangles in the wide areas to find and create space for the winger. While in some instances the winger will make a straight run across the opposition full-back, the centre-forward will look to drop into spaces between the central defender and full-backs. This results in two openings: the winger finding space to make an overlapping run and two central midfielders making late attacking runs into the box to meet the winger’s eventual cross.
The problem, however, lies wherein Everton do not possess the passing quality to make penetrative or pin-point accurate passes into the final third. The arrival of Christiansen helps to alleviate the issue by being able to bring a calm presence in the middle of the park where she can use her exquisite passing range and intelligence both in offensive and defensive scenarios. Everton average 349.82 (73.4%) passes per 90 whilst their opponents out pass them by averaging 434.09 passes per 90 (78%). This can signify two results: Everton pass the ball in a more direct style to the forwards or they aren’t able to hold enough possession against opponents because they need a tempo controller in midfield.
If we analyse and look at pass maps from two of Everton’s recent games, it is clear to see there isn’t too much focus around the central areas when in possession. The numbers of passing links aren’t situated in the central areas and this is clearly an area that needs improvement. The signing of Christiansen could go a long way to helping the issue. While we will elaborate on the former Lyon midfielder’s strengths, her biggest asset is in her strength in passing and recycling possession. Bringing that passing and calmness in the centre of the pitch will give Everton the control they may have lacked before.
Christiansen’s move to Everton comes after a start-stop career at serial winners Lyon. Even though she picked up a Champions League medal, she has only managed six appearances off the bench so far this season. Her move to Everton will be seen as a fresh start and showcase her immense talent.
Christiansen plays a deep-lying, creative central midfielder capable of controlling play from the middle of the park. Using her creativity and immense ball control, the former Manchester United player is able to receive passes and create opportunities for her more attack-minded teammates. Taking advantage of her eye for a pass, Christiansen is able to play defence-splitting passes that can penetrate stubborn low block systems. While she can play a range of exquisite passes, her ability to receive possession under pressure is another useful asset especially against high pressing teams. Off the ball, she is a hardworking player who doesn’t mind putting in a challenge albeit not consistently.
With a preference of playing as a left-sided central midfielder, we can see that Christiansen can play across midfield and prefers to get into forward positions to create opportunities and do her best work. She is best partnered with a more defensive-minded midfielder to support her during her forays further forward. We weren’t able to see the best of Christiansen at Lyon due to her limited play time and the form of Saki Kumagai and Amandine Henry.
Her positional understanding is one of her most valuable assets. Being able to pick up possession in dangerous, high-pressure areas can help Everton transition better against teams that press high up the pitch. Christiansen is able to dictate the tempo of the game and calm pressure situations by playing simple passes to available players around her. This season she has averaged 62.27 received passes per 90, showing how play runs through her when transitioning from defence to attack. One of the issues we highlighted earlier was Everton’s apparent lack of play through midfield but Christiansen’s positional awareness coupled with her passing range will give Everton a focal point in midfield and someone who can distribute possession well.
You can see in the image above how Christiansen finds space for herself to create a passing option. As Delphine Cascarino drives down the right flank, she looks infield for a pass and finds Christiansen in space with two opposition players wanting to close her down quickly. She interchanges passes with Eugénie Le Sommer to keep the opposition’s focus on her.
As a result, we can see Nikita Parris in space on the left who is found once Christiansen receives the ball. Her perfectly weighted pass finds her England teammate who manages to release a shot on goal. Having a player with this sort of ability can breakdown the most stubborn of defences can give Everton another source of attack.
The signing of Raso was more than just adding strength in depth but adding extra quality in the attacking areas to compliment the talented Chloe Kelly. Having seen her in the NWSL for Portland Thorns last season, Raso was a menace whenever she played and tormented defences with her direct running and old school play style. A versatile winger, Raso is reminiscent of a traditional winger who prefers to drive down the flanks and deliver crosses into the box for her centre-forwards. Able to play on both wings, Raso can interchange positions and seamlessly slot into any setup that includes wingers.
Statistically, Raso averages 4.19 crosses, 6.63 dribbles, and 0.35 goals per 90 making her an effective presence on the wing. In comparison, Kelly attempts 2.81 crosses, 9.98 dribbles, and 0.83 goals per 90 making her slightly more productive. However, this is a result of Kelly drifting into more central areas from her wide starting position taking more shots. Playing both Raso and Kelly on both flanks will bring a balance and something new for opponents to deal with. With both players able to interchange positions, it makes for a dangerous combination and one that Laura Graham and Hannah Cain can thrive on.
One of Raso’s most dangerous qualities is her movement in the final third. Sitting on the shoulder of the defensive line, Raso waits patiently for her midfielders to play long passes over the top or deep penetrative passes into the final third where she puts herself in a 1v1 positions as seen in the image above. Her starting position is often wide drifting into a more central position when she’s running in behind alone, however, she makes wide runs when there is support in the box.
This example shows how Raso is a goal threat that can give Everton another source of goals. As I mentioned earlier, Raso’s starting position is on the shoulder of the centre-backs and receives a through ball from midfield. Her good positioning has put her in a place to run in behind the defence using her incredible pace. This already puts her at an advantage because she’s able to dictate the defender’s movement if they catch up to her.
Once Raso gets in behind we can see the defender’s momentum is almost taking her past Raso. The Australian winger intelligently cuts inside and is able to create a clear path to take a shot on goal.
Another added quality that Raso brings to the table is her ability to track back and defend. Her incredible work rate doesn’t just translate going forward but in defensive situations too. Using her pace and positional awareness, Raso is able to gauge dangerous moments and aid her full-back in creating defensive overloads. She averages 7.68 defensive duels per 90 winning a respectable 60%. Her 2.86 interceptions and 5.38 recoveries per 90 with 71.4% coming in the opposition half also emphasises her defensive work rate.
Most wingers rely on defensive full-backs and midfielders to come across and fill in gaps whilst putting in some work defensively. However, Raso positions herself in good positions to ensure she has given her defence sufficient cover as she awaits the ball carriers decision to pass out wide or forwards. As is evidenced here, Raso is keeping one eye on the ball and the other on the winger out wide.
The ball-carrier chooses the latter option and provides the player in the box with the ball. Raso quickly moves from her position to creep up behind the player to dispossess her and put Portland Thorns out of danger. The FAWSL is a fast-paced league with teams putting a lot of pressure on defences. This makes the defensive contributions of their attacking players much more vital. Unless a team is set up to defend from midfield, the attackers are required to track back and provide supporting cover.
The above line up is how Kirk could line up his team going into the rest of the season. Continuing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the presence of both Raso and Christiansen will give Everton Women the impetus and quality to play against the better sides. With Raso’s pace and crossing ability, the forwards will benefit from more consistent service from both sides of the pitch. Christiansen’s creative passing ability and calmness in the centre of the part will give Everton the ability to control matches when put under relentless pressure.
Everton Women have made some smart purchases between the last two transfer windows and picking up two of January’s perceived best signings is a signal of intent from the Blues. It highlights their ambitions for the rest of the season but it will all depend on whether the two new players can make an instant impact. Indeed, they are now a genuine threat to Machester United Women’s fourth position and could very well end up being the fourth-best team in the league come the end of the season. Only time will tell if Everton can build on their shrewd transfer policy this January.