Ingrid Syrstad Engen: Why the Wolfsburg’s midfielder is becoming one of Europe’s most-wanted
Ingrid Syrstad Engen is a 22-year-old Norwegian defensive midfielder who plays for Wolfsburg Women and has been excellent in her two seasons in the Frauen-Bundesliga, where she moved after playing in the Norwegian league for six seasons with Trondheims-Ørn and LSK Kvinner.
She is already garnering a lot of attention from big European clubs thanks to her impressive characteristics and consistent performances, with a closer look now warranted, having recently faced Chelsea Women in the UEFA Women’s Champions League for Wolfsburg.
In this tactical analysis piece, we will provide extensive analysis of this player’s main traits, position and roles within her team, as well as the things that she needs to improve in the future.
It is a scout report that will mainly focus on how Engen fits within Wolfsburg’s tactics and how she can be useful at any other big team in Europe such as Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Lyon, PSG, or any of the big FAWSL teams.
Position and roles
Engen is mainly a defensive midfielder who can play centrally or as a left/right midfielder. Her outstanding physical abilities allow her to be very powerful in aerial duels as well as in defensive duels on the pitch and that’s why she has a success rate of 57.7% for aerial duels per match and 56.4% for duels in general through her career.
However, Engen does not rely only on her physical strength during matches; she also has great vision which allows her to be effective in terms of passing, and this is fundamental for midfielders with offensive roles. In fact, Engen is a modern midfielder who is good in duels and interceptions, as well as effective at shooting from distance, playmaking, and supporting the offensive phase.
As you can see below, this heat map shows how Engen plays mainly in midfield, but with greater intensity in her opponent’s half. She often plays in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Wolfsburg and with Norway’s national team, and her abilities allow her to be a good fit for this system, since the 4-2-3-1 formation relies heavily on both central midfielders to act as a second line of defence, and at the same time link the defence to the attacking midfielders in the build-up phase. Not only does Engen do well here, but she also contributes by scoring goals, making assists and regulating the tempo of her team’s attacks.
Engen has scored six goals for Wolfsburg and five goals for her national team so far, while she also has two assists this season. Overall, she has scored 19 goals and made 10 assists in her career thus far. These numbers are encouraging, even though they are not too high, especially when considering the fact that Engen’s primary role is to intercept passes, win duels and link defence to attack in the build-up phase.
It is therefore encouraging that she is becoming excellent at shooting from distance and at exploiting those times when she finds free space in the final third. Currently, she averages 0.7 shots per match and if she keeps improving her shooting ability, this should increase and fetch her some more goals. This trait can help her teams when they run out of attacking options in the final third against opponents who are sitting deep.
In fact, Engen does not lack precision or power in her shots, and this is exactly why this trait should be exploited even more. You can see, for example, how in this match for Norway against the Faroe Islands, she was able to score a very beautiful goal with a powerful shot from outside the box that the goalkeeper could not save. This goal just shows how can create a lot of dangerous situations when she advances to the final third, either by passing or shooting when she finds a good opportunity.
Being 1.77 meters tall has also helped Engen not only in winning aerial duels in defence but also in attacking set-pieces and scoring goals from them due to her accurate heading and jumping ability. Engen has scored quite a few goals from corners by escaping from her markers and arriving at the near post to flick the ball on, as this example from the same match against the Faroe Islands shows.
This has been exploited at Wolfsburg as well, where she has scored goals from set-pieces in the Women’s Champions League, such as this one against Glasgow City. Engen is becoming more experienced at escaping from marking during set-pieces, and this is helping her a lot in winning aerial duels and managing to score goals despite not being too tall.
Playmaking and assists
Engen is very good at circulating the ball when her team has possession; her pass success rate has averaged 85.3% over her career, with accurate passes to the final third at 77%, which is a good ratio for that kind of riskier passes. Engen has an xA of 0.07 per match, which is matched by her actual assists per match, and this shows how she needs to improve her creative output, as she is not creating too many chances for her teammates at the moment.
However, the Norwegian midfielder has made some very good assists lately, and this leads us to the fact that Engen can be a creative midfielder who plays in front of the defence, but at the same time can do very well higher up the pitch if needed. Having such a creative player in front of the defence can provide teams with an additional player to try and break down opposing defences along with the designated attacking players, and this ability is a big reason why Engen could be in demand across Europe very soon.
In this example, we can see how she positioned herself in the place of an advanced midfielder to receive the ball in a dangerous area and instantly gave a key pass behind the opponent’s defensive line, to create a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper, which led to a goal. Such an action highlights this player’s tactical maturity and vision, as well as her passing accuracy, and these are fundamental traits for modern midfielders.
The quality of her passing can be seen through her attempts at riskier and line-breaking passes that can create chances, and Engen is able to pull these off more often than not, as evidenced by her relatively high success rate for passes to the final third.
In this example, we can see Engen’s pass wide to her left-back; she could have chosen a safer alternative here to keep possession, but she elected to try the riskier option which took out multiple opposition players and put her teammate in behind the opponent’s defensive line.
These kinds of passes differentiate creative midfielders from others, since they can read the game well, find opportunities for creative passes, and crucially, execute them well. If Engen continues to develop her passing skills and use them in this manner, there is no doubt that she will become a key part of her team’s attacking phase. She has already started having an influence here, since she is now getting more freedom in attack and we are seeing her being positioned near the box to supply her teammates or shoot when possible.
Engen is becoming used to playing under pressure, especially when she receives the ball in her team’s half, and this has helped her to usually make the right passing decision when she advances even if she is marked.
We can see in this example, how she was surrounded by Bayern Munich players as soon as she received the ball and yet was still able to pull off an excellent long pass behind her teammate’s marker, despite being pressed. This highlights her impressive passing ability and creativity in the final third.
Being continuously aware of what is happening on the pitch and looking at other players’ movement when she does not have the ball are two other traits that have allowed her to be effective in the final third. This is what makes her good at receiving and passing under pressure, since she already knows where teammates and opponents are positioned and can therefore make her decisions without needing an extra touch on the ball.
Looking at her defensive abilities, Engen wins 67.3% of her defensive duels and makes 3.63 successful interceptions per game, while averaging a 75% success rate for sliding tackles per game. These stats show that Engen is also good in the defensive phase; her physical strength helps her a lot in winning defensive duels and her tactical maturity means that she is good at anticipating the opposition’s actions.
Even though these numbers can be improved over time and with training, it is fair to say that Engen is a balanced player who does well both in defence and in attack. Keeping this balance is fundamental if she wants to be a complete modern midfielder in the coming years.
We have selected this example to highlight Engen’s tactical maturity that allows her to anticipate her opponent’s movements, even against a top-class opponent such as Lucy Bronze. Engen was able to anticipate Bronze’s action and therefore run in front of her to intercept the pass, not giving the England international enough time to control the ball.
Ingrid Syrstad Engen is becoming one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe, not just due to her physical abilities but also thanks to her tactical maturity, vision, playmaking skills and ability to play well under pressure.
These traits are key to any modern midfielder and are beneficial to any team, and the fact that Engen has got all of these qualities means that she will definitely be in demand across Europe soon. She is just 22-years-old, and so has a lot of potential to grow and improve as well, which should benefit Wolfsburg for as long as she stays in Germany.