Jemma Purfield 2019/2020 – scout report
With Liverpool Women’s relegation from the WSL confirmed when women’s football in England was brought to an early end, it seemed likely that a few players would depart Merseyside for other clubs. One of those that has made the move is Jemma Purfield, a versatile left-sided player. She has joined Bristol City Women, as what appears to be a straight like-for-like replacement for former Bristol left-back Poppy Pattinson, who joined Everton Women this summer.
This scout report will look at whether Purfield will be an able replacement for Pattinson, and whether she will bring anything new to the team. We will begin the analysis by looking at her play last season for Liverpool, then we will move to look briefly at Pattinson’s play, before also examining Bristol’s general defensive tactics last season. The tactical analysis will finish by using data and statistics to directly compare Purfield and Pattinson, so we can see what Purfield will bring to Bristol next season.
We will first look at the positives of Jemma Purfield’s play.
Firstly, we can see in this image how Purfield has lined up in a back four formation with her team. However, whilst this is notable, what we are more interested in is the ball, which is in the air above her. Purfield here is getting underneath it, ready to make a headed clearance. We haven’t seen many defenders who are good in the air in 2019/2020, but it gives the team an added bonus when they have players who can meet the ball early, whereas others may wait for it to come down and try to shield the opposing attacker from reaching it. The fact that Purfield meets it in the air means her team can counter-attack much more quickly, catching some teams out.
Purfield also gets tight to defenders, and doesn’t mind engaging in 1-v-1 duels against her opponents. This slows down those attacks, and, particularly when closing down the wingers, it stops the service into the middle. This can be crucial against teams like Arsenal Women and Manchester City Women, who both rely on the wide players in their respective systems for their tactics to work. This is something that Purfield can bring to Bristol City Women next season, because it could be what gets them a few more points against tougher opponents.
The last few points have looked at Purfield’s defensive strengths, and now we can see in the above two images her attacking strengths.
Firstly, we see how Liverpool had the ball on the far side of the pitch, but have had to come inside slightly because of Birmingham’s defensive setup. Purfield goes beyond the ball’s position, and has now been passed the ball by Niamh Charles (another who has left Liverpool this summer, moving to Chelsea). Therefore, by keeping the width in this attack, she has now opened up a crossing option for her team. You can see how there are players in the middle, waiting to receive the ball from any cross that Purfield could look to make.
In the second image, we see how Purfield has again advanced into an attacking position. She has the ball, and you can see how many options she has opened up for Liverpool from this position. As a left-back, her crossing is expected to be and needs to be at a reasonable level, as does her passing, and so from this position, she can now play the ball into any player who can continue Liverpool’s attack. This is also helped by Birmingham City Women not closing her down, giving her space to make the pass and find a teammate.
If we now turn our attention to the areas she is not so strong in, we can see where she needs to make some improvements.
Firstly, we see how Purfield likes to stand her ground when opposing attackers are advancing up the wings. This comes from her desire to close down the spaces and stop attacks. However, the thing here is that the rest of the defenders have moved backwards, and that has left a gap open between Purfield and the nearest centre back. This is where opposing teams can isolate Purfield and attack through this gap, as Birmingham are looking to do here. This allows teams to get behind the Liverpool defence, crossing the ball into the middle. For those teams that rely on their wing play so much, this is an ideal way of attacking against Liverpool, and stopping Purfield closing the ball down.
Whilst Purfield does like to close down opposing attackers, we can see above what happens when she doesn’t. Rachel Williams, wearing number 11 for Birmingham, who has moved to Tottenham Hotspur Women this summer, now has space to get behind Purfield, and the left-back can’t see her opponent. This means she won’t be able to turn and chase back quick enough when the ball does reach Williams. Therefore, it can prove costly when Purfield does allow opponents behind her.
The final negative of her play is her speed when getting back. For full-backs, it is good to get forward and help the attacks, and we have already seen how Purfield is adept at doing this. However, if they don’t backtrack when the team loses possession, then they risk leaving gaps open to be exploited by the opponents, as we see here. The lines show three Liverpool defenders have formed a line on the far side, containing the counter-attack. However, on the near side, Purfield has not managed to get back, leaving a gap. Tottenham have moved through this, and now pose a threat centrally. This also isolates the three other Liverpool defenders, because they are now being surrounded on all sides, making it harder to defend against Tottenham.
These weaknesses can easily be adjusted, but what we now have is an analysis of Jemma Purfield’s key strengths and weaknesses from last season. We will now turn our attention to Poppy Pattinson, seeing how she fitted into Bristol’s defensive tactics last season.
Firstly, we can see something similar here to the last section.
Here, Pattinson is trying to stop the opposing Chelsea attacker from advancing on the far side of the pitch. Like with Liverpool and Purfield, however, the rest of the defence has moved backwards, again leaving a gap open for Chelsea to move in behind the defence, if they want to.
What we can say, therefore, is that Purfield will replace Pattinson in this sense, because even though it opens up gaps, Bristol clearly like their full-backs keeping their ground, trying to stop opposing attacks before they advance too far forward. This is something they have obviously seen in Purfield, and could be one reason that they brought her in this summer.
Another reason could be because of her positioning. Here, we see how Pattinson has moved into a more central defensive position, whilst her teammate has got tight to Chelsea’s player on the wing. Going back to what we saw in the previous section, we know that Jemma Purfield can drift inside, rather than staying on the wing, and this is perhaps something Bristol can use to their advantage in these situations. Purfield can drift inside, as we have seen she can, but instead of leaving the space open behind, a winger can ensure that the opponent is pressured on the ball. Therefore, this gives Bristol and Purfield some flexibility in their defensive tactics, which could be important next season.
Poppy Pattinson was an attacking left-back for Bristol last season, and this image shows the areas that she got into when advancing forwards. She is crossing the ball into the box here, in a move that leads to a goal. Therefore, any replacement of hers needed to have an attacking quality to their play, and we know already that Purfield has this, because we have seen already how she helped Liverpool’s attack last season.
Therefore, what we can say is that Bristol have lost one attacking left-back and brought in another to replace her, and Purfield appears to have all the right qualities to fit into Bristol’s tactics.
Bristol City Women
If we now look at Bristol’s more general defensive play, we can identify some areas where Purfield may fit in or improve their tactical play.
Here, against Chelsea, we see how Pattinson is looking to block a cross into the area. She is not defending too tightly, but is just tracking Blues striker Beth England. However, with Pattinson having departed, Bristol will need Purfield to do this role instead. We have already seen how the new Bristol defender gets close to the attacker, maybe even closer than Pattinson, which may improve Bristol’s defence a little. Last season, they conceded 38 goals, the most in the league, so by bringing in a defender who can close down their opponents much better, this number may decrease next season.
Here, we see how Bristol have been surrounded by Reading Women’s attack, and Reading are in a good position to cross the ball into the box. The amount of space that Reading are in with the ball is due to Bristol not getting out and closing down the ball, and again, this is a big reason why they conceded so many goals last season. We have already seen how Purfield stands her ground, and ensures that, when she is in line with the rest of the defence, no opponent can get past her. Therefore, by playing her in these situations, they could ensure that this space is not available for attackers to use. This is another way that Purfield will help to improve Bristol’s defence next season.
Even if the former Liverpool left-back does drift inside when in these positions, she will still be close enough to close down the attack, or at least to track it, and therefore we will end up in a situation like Pattinson against Beth England in the previous image. Therefore, it is clear how Purfield will fit in to Bristol in 2020/2021.
We have now seen how Jemma Purfield played for Liverpool Women last season, how Poppy Pattinson played for Bristol City Women last season, and how Purfield can improve Bristol’s defence. However, the question we have been trying to answer throughout has been whether Purfield will be an adequate replacement for Pattinson. The only true way we can do that is by making a direct comparison between the two players, using their data and statistics from last season.
Here, we see how Purfield and Pattinson compare to each other in the key statistics that the left-back is likely to be involved in. The red value is the higher value for that statistic. We can see immediately that, overall, Pattinson seems to be the better player, with higher values for aerial duels won, touches in the penalty area, and passing and crossing accuracy. Therefore, it seems from these that Purfield does need to adapt her game, especially in that she didn’t put in any crosses per 90 last season. However, what we need to remember is that Purfield only played two games, both at the start of the 2019/2020 season, and so her statistics won’t be as high.
The fact that Purfield won just 5% less aerial duels per 90 than Pattinson shows us that she will be an adequate replacement, and will be able to challenge in the air. This is a point we have already established. Where she might improve Bristol’s defence is in duels won, where she won 10% more than Pattinson. This proves that Purfield gets closer to her opponents more often than Pattinson. The advantage of this on Bristol might be that they will concede less goals, as opponents’ space when attacking will be closed down much more, and crosses will not come into the box as often. Defensively, Purfield is happy to challenge in 1-v-1 duels too, which is another way the space will not be as open and the number of conceded goals could come down.
We should also mention that the reason why Purfield had a 100% value for dribble success rate is because she only had one dribble in each of her two games, both of which were successful.
We can suggest that one area she will need to adapt to is crossing the ball into the box. We have already seen how she advances into attacking areas and helps her team, but we need to remember that Purfield only played two games last season, so had she played more, there is a chance she might have a higher value as she would have attempted some. Therefore, from what we have seen, this could be just down to the number of games she played last season, and not a poor crossing ability. However, Bristol rely on balls into the box from the full-backs, so she will be encouraged to attempt them as often as possible.
If we look at both of their heat maps for this season, we will see how their on-pitch positioning compares.
We can see here how similar their positioning is, but the only difference is that Pattinson plays a little further forward on average. This is perhaps expected, given that, whilst both are attacking left-backs, Pattinson engages more in her team’s attacking play, putting crosses into the box and getting touches in the penalty area. Purfield instead looks to stay back a little more, ensuring that opponents can’t break through her team’s defensive line.
In conclusion, this extensive analysis has shown how, in a large part, Jemma Purfield will be an adequate replacement for Poppy Pattinson at Bristol City Women. We have looked at a number of different areas, seeking to compare both players, and also to see how Purfield will be different to Pattinson, helping to improve Bristol’s leaky defence. The best way to make a direct comparison is through the data, which showed us that Purfield is happier to engage in duels and get closer to her opponents. Overall, we have to conclude that, whilst she is not likely to attack as often or with the same quality, defensively she could help to shore up the gaps of last season.