Has Rachel Furness improved Liverpool Women? – scout report
Liverpool Women have been struggling all season, but in December they made a major signing that seemed to have made some difference to their fortunes. Rachel Furness had been on loan at Tottenham Hotspur Women for the first half of the season from Reading Women, but she made a permanent move to Prenton Park halfway through it. However, the Reds remain at the bottom of the WSL, and are still struggling for consistency.
This scout report aims to answer one question; has Furness’ move been a success for Liverpool Women? The tactical analysis will look at how Liverpool were playing before her arrival, picking out where their weaknesses were, and where their tactics needed to be different. The analysis will then look at what Rachel Furness was doing at Spurs, before comparing that with her performances and Liverpool’s performances since her arrival, with the ultimate aim of seeing if she has made an impact or not.
Liverpool Women before Rachel Furness
To begin with, we need to look at what was going wrong with Liverpool’s attack in the first half of the season. As Rachel Furness is an attacker, and can play in central midfield or attacking midfield, we will only be looking at Liverpool’s attack.
Below, you can see the main issue with what we often see from Liverpool Women.
From all of these examples, what is clear is that Liverpool Women seemed to lack options in central attack. The common denominator for all of them is the box illustrated in the middle, in which there were no attackers ready to receive the ball and shoot at goal. Ultimately, this is one of the big reasons that Liverpool have only scored eight goals all season in the WSL.
The other thing that needs to be pointed out is particularly evident in the last of the three images. You can see how Reds forward Rinsola Babajide, circled, who was playing in the centre forward position, was actually playing as a winger in this situation. This meant that, when Liverpool Women did get the ball into promising positions, they couldn’t make the necessary cross or through ball, and that led to the player being closed down and the ball being stolen from them more often than not.
This is also evident in the first of the images, although in this case the centre forward player had come too deep, which meant that, when Liverpool again had the ball in promising areas, they couldn’t get it forward to attack fully, because there was no player ready to receive the ball.
This is not, however, the only issue that Liverpool Women have with their attack. Sometimes, they did get a player into the central attacking areas, but that player had no support from their teammates.
You can see how this is very clear in the above image. What this meant was that, when a single player made the move forward, they were very quickly surrounded by the opposing defenders. Had the player had the support, or had even one extra player made the run into the same area, then this wouldn’t have happened, because the three defenders in the image would have had to split and mark both of Liverpool’s attackers.
Ultimately, the point being made is that sometimes Liverpool Women didn’t make the run at all, and sometimes they did make the run, but only one player did, and what they actually needed was to get two or three players in those areas, which would have helped to use that space in a better way. Gaps could have been created, or two-v-one situations could have developed, which would have given Liverpool Women more of a chance of scoring.
Sometimes, the Reds did get players into the areas together, such as here, against West Ham United Women.
You can see how, because Liverpool’s attackers are in a strong structural formation, they have managed to get in and around the West Ham defence, and there are gaps appearing amongst the opposing defence for that reason. The ball is also with Melissa Lawley on the right wing, and she has plenty of options to cross the ball to. This is something that had not been possible in the previous situations shown, because the options weren’t there.
The other thing that can be seen from this image is that there are no attackers being surrounded. Instead, the defenders are spread out, ensuring that gaps have appeared, and Liverpool Women have the advantage in this particular situation.
Rachel Furness at Tottenham
So now we have established how Liverpool Women played in the first half of the season, let’s now have a look at Rachel Furness in her time at Tottenham Hotspur Women, to see what her general style of play is.
The first thing to note is that she is an incredibly versatile player, and can play in central midfield, attacking midfield or on either wing, and this means she is a great player to have in the squad.
Her positioning at Spurs tended to see her given freedom to move around in the final third of the pitch.
Here, in the North London derby back in November, you can see how she has passed the ball to her teammate on the left of the image, and has then made a move into the centre of the final third, indicated by the white square. This is the area she likes to operate in the most, and in her time with Spurs, it was evident that she always liked to find the space whenever she could.
Her pace also helped her in these scenarios, because she could run into space before any opposing defenders nearby could catch up with her, and that is something else that was very clear to see. What this meant was that she could be in the middle of the pitch, see the ball on the wing, and run to open up the space and create an option for her teammates, before the opponents had clocked on to what she was doing.
Her eye for space to move into is also shown here.
Again, she is moving into the space ready to receive the ball, but what is important to note in this example is that, despite being very close to her teammate, she is not being drawn towards her, like some players might. Instead, she is keeping enough distance to ensure that it is hard for the Brighton and Hove Albion Women defenders to mark them both. Another reason why they are hard to mark is because they are working together, running together. If you remember when we looked at Liverpool Women’s attacking previously, there was only one player making the run, and they were constantly being surrounded and marked relatively easily.
Her movement, therefore, is one clear positive that she could add to Liverpool Women’s general play.
The second thing that she has, which is also important, is an eye for a good pass. Rachel Furness knows when to play the ball, and when to hold onto it, and where to play the ball when she does. She likes to play behind teammates, rather than in front of them, although she is very capable of being in front of them as the main central target player as well.
Below, you can see her passing ability.
Here, she has positioned herself infield, with Tottenham striker Rianna Dean ahead of her. Furness plays the ball through the defence as shown by the arrow, which allows Tottenham to get in behind the defence, and shoot at goal. This sounds like a very simple thing to say, but there are several things we can make from it.
Firstly, as mentioned, Furness likes to play in the attacking third of the pitch and plays at her best when she is in the no. 10 position. This allows her to get into situations like the one above, and to help be a creative force in whichever team she is in.
Secondly, she needs to have players in front of her, because she is much more of a creator than a goalscorer. That is not to say that she has a bad record in front of goal, because she doesn’t, but she always seems to be much more comfortable when playing in a slightly deeper attacking role.
Finally, she is capable of adding what Liverpool Women were missing in the first half of the season; a player who likes to operate in the middle of the final third. Liverpool’s strikers, particularly, but not only, Rinsola Babajide, tended to drift a little into the wider areas, as previously shown, and that left the space open. But as we have seen, this is where Rachel Furness likes to be, so it fills that hole adequately.
Her ability to play in a creative manner behind the forward line, supplying them with passes, is shown even more in this example.
Again, this is from the North London derby, but you can see in the image how Furness has the ball, and her teammates are naturally running in front of her, creating passing options for her to choose from. Therefore, we can see even more how important she is when in attack.
We can also analyse how the two Arsenal Women defenders caught in the middle of the area don’t know which side to go to, and in fact they can’t stop everything. If they move to either side, then Furness has a free pass to the other player. If the defenders stay as they are, then Furness still has passing options on either side. If the defenders split, then Furness can run straight through the middle of them, which we know she can and will do because of her previously mentioned pace. So, this situation may seem very ordinary, but when we dissect it, we can clearly see just what she brings to the team.
Rachel Furness at Liverpool
So, having looked at Liverpool Women, and Rachel Furness at Tottenham Hotspur Women, lets now combine the two, and see if she has been able to bring any of those skills to Liverpool.
Her movement into attacking areas is as evident at Liverpool Women as it was at Tottenham Hotspur Women.
In both of these images, you can see how Rachel Furness is looking to make the forward run, creating the option for her Liverpool teammates to pass the ball to. In the second example in particular, you can see how her movement is into the central channel of the final third, which is where Liverpool previously had no runners, and that was what was causing them so many problems in attack. Therefore, this has already added an improvement to Liverpool’s attack.
Another example of her movement is here.
What is interesting and notable about this example is where she has run from. You can see from the arrow that she runs from a very deep position into the box, in order to offer herself as an option to her teammate. Again, this is something we saw quite a lot of at Tottenham Hotspur Women, and its because of her raw pace that she is able to do this. Also, again, she is running into the centre of the box, rather than staying back or running to the wing, which again is what Liverpool Women were missing in the first half of the season.
So far, in addressing the title of this article, Rachel Furness has helped Liverpool Women, with her pace and ability to move into the areas that Liverpool previously had no player in.
In a similar point, her ability to see spaces to move into is even more evident in the image below.
To explain what is going on, Furness has positioned herself in the central channel, playing the ball into Rinsola Babajide (shown by the black arrow), and has then run into the space in the white box. Nothing comes of this move, but it is perhaps the most significant example so far, because it combines everything Furness does well.
With this in mind, let’s have a closer look at this image. Rachel Furness’ movement and eye for a pass is what has allowed her to play the ball through to Babajide. Her pace, and eye for space, is what has allowed her to move into the space indicated in the middle of the final third. The final point to make about this image is that, again, Liverpool’s attackers have split, leaving that space in the middle open. Therefore, Furness filling this area shows that her signing has been a positive for them.
Another thing that we have mentioned a lot is her preference for playing in the forward line, or just behind it. Below, you can see her doing this in Liverpool colours.
Previously, Liverpool Women may have had no player in the central areas of this team, especially since Rinsola Babajide, in the square, has again taken up a wide position. This was a problem beforehand; now it isn’t, because of Furness’ addition to the team.
So overall we can say that Rachel Furness has added what Liverpool were missing in the first half of the season. However, the fact that we are addressing her move is because Liverpool Women, despite showing some initial positive signs after her move, remain at the bottom of the WSL table. Obviously, that then points to the fact that something needs to change to help Liverpool and Furness get the best out of each other.
What needs to change is where the Reds deploy Furness. It has been mentioned how she is versatile, and can play in central midfield, attacking midfield, or on the wings. At Tottenham, she was mainly playing in attacking midfield, whilst at Liverpool, she has mainly been used in central midfield so far. This has sometimes restricted her ability to get as far forward as she likes to do, and it is possible that if she were played in the same role as she was at Tottenham, then Liverpool may find they have more creativity in attack, and may even score more goals as a result.
The other positive that Furness playing in the no. 10 position would bring would be that it would help Liverpool’s other attackers too. Rinsola Babajide seems to drift to the wings a fair amount; she will be able to do this much more with Furness in the team, and the images in this piece have shown this in action. Melissa Lawley has been trying to cross balls into the box, but often there has been no player ready to receive the ball; Furness being present in the middle and making runs into the middle would provide her with a target. Liverpool have struggled to score goals; Furness has an ability to score or to set up shots when playing in the attacking midfield position.
Therefore, as a suggested improvement for how it could get better, the point being made is that Liverpool maybe need to have a re-think about how they use Furness’ abilities, and it may bring them more joy in the future.
To conclude, Rachel Furness has been a success for Liverpool Women overall, but the reason that the Reds are not making any progress in the table is because of the way they are using Furness in the team. She has brought everything that she was displaying at Tottenham to Liverpool, and that has been shown and explained in this article. We have also looked at where things are going wrong for the Reds, and how they can improve their current situation.