Jordan Nobbs at Arsenal Women 2019/2020 – scout report
Arsenal Women have plenty of star names in their team, but one that has been consistently good has been England midfielder Jordan Nobbs. In this scout report, we will look at Nobbs’ role in the Arsenal team. The tactical analysis will examine how she creates and uses space in Arsenal’s main tactical approaches, as well as looking at how she plays as part of the forward line, and will finish up with a look at her on-field partnership with star Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema.
Creating and using space
We can see in the image below how Jordan Nobbs has positioned herself on the outside of the goal area.
Here, against Liverpool Women, the space Arsenal have created is because of how they set up when in attack.
The reason they play like this is because they know how teams set up defensively against them. Arsenal’s star player is Vivianne Miedema, and so naturally opposing defences want to ensure she is unable to affect the play. This is why Liverpool’s defence is organised more narrowly, around Miedema’s position. However, that leaves space open on the wings, where Nobbs is in this image, and therefore Arsenal can play around those defensive tactics, taking full advantage of the space. Nobbs here is the player who is using that space.
Another way that Arsenal create space is by moving around the pitch, offering passing options.
Here, we can see how Nobbs knows where her teammate could play the ball, and as the red arrow shows, she moves into that space to provide that passing option. You can see how the majority of Brighton and Hove Albion Women’s players are in front of her, and so Nobbs is using her eye for space to unlock areas behind them.
Nobbs’ movement also provides a route for the ball to get to Miedema. You can see how the Netherlands international is on the far left of the image, ready to attack forwards. However, currently she can’t get the ball, because it would take a very good pass to find her from its current location, without it being intercepted along the way. Therefore, Nobbs’ movement is crucial, because she can move the ball to Miedema from the space she is running into.
As well as moving into space to offer a passing option, Nobbs also does this when she is in good shooting positions too. You can see below how she looks to run between two Brighton defenders.
Here, Nobbs looks to fill the space in the middle of the box, giving Brighton something else to think about. You can see how Arsenal have left the space open, ensuring Nobbs can make the run. Again, the majority of Brighton’s defenders have their backs to Nobbs, so she can run mostly undetected, and in fact here she does score, so it is a perfect example of how Arsenal use space to gain an advantage in attacking areas of the pitch.
If we move the analysis on now, we will see how Nobbs is an integral part of Arsenal Women’s main tactic in attack.
To explain, Arsenal create space by drawing opposing players away from where they want to move the ball to. This comes from players making forward runs, forcing defenders to run with them, and leaving gaps in the middle. You can see how this comes about below.
In both images, Nobbs is creating the space, because she takes the defenders away from where Arsenal want to play the ball. You can also see the effect of this tactic in both images, with Arsenal driving into newly opened space.
If we look at the first example, Nobbs is running away from the goal area. Her role here is to take the two Liverpool Women defenders near her away from where her teammate is looking to play the ball into. This then creates the space for Arsenal to attack into, and there is no resistance to that attack, because Liverpool have been split due to Nobbs’ run. Again, this now gives Arsenal a route through to Miedema, which is what they want. Without the movement of Nobbs, Miedema would have been cut off from the rest of the team, as you can see in the image.
In the second example, we see a similar thing. This time, against Chelsea Women, whilst there is a chance of Nobbs receiving the ball, as she is in the goal area and is the player furthest forward, space has been opened up behind her. Look at where Vivianne Miedema is, in the black square, and she now has so much space to control the ball if it reaches her, and she can then do what she does best; take a shot at goal. There is still some defensive pressure, but because Nobbs has made the forward run, that has been lessened. The Chelsea defence has been split, and Miedema has been allowed into the spaces between them, and this has all come because of Nobbs’ movement.
In the final example of this section, we see how something similar has come about.
Here, whilst not a deliberate move to take the defenders away from the space, it has the same effect. Arsenal winger Lisa Evans is positioned on the wing, and the Liverpool defenders have been drawn towards her, as you can see from the image. That has left the central space open for Nobbs to run through on goal, as the red arrow shows. Arsenal’s space-clearing tactics have given her this route to goal.
Playing in the forward line
We will now look at how Nobbs plays in the Arsenal forward line, combining with the other attacking players in the Gunners’ team.
In this example, we see how Arsenal Women are attacking against Brighton and Hove Albion Women with four in one line. This gives their attack a greater potency because they cover more area.
If we look, we see how they have cut off the Brighton defence from the rest of the team, and we also see how Brighton’s defence is narrowly structured, focusing primarily on the centre of this Arsenal attacking line. This leaves Lisa Evans (nearside, wearing number 17) free, therefore linking in with the first example of the last section, when we mentioned how Jordan Nobbs was positioned on the outside of the box, where the space was, because the opposing defence was concentrating on the middle.
In a similar way, we see below how Nobbs acts as the central attacker when she needs to.
This example shows Arsenal again attacking in a forward line, this time with just three players. Liverpool Women’s defence is spread apart, with gaps in between. Nobbs is positioned in the middle of this attack, as shown, and there is also space available on the wing.
What this shows about Nobbs’ contribution to Arsenal’s attacks is that she can play wherever she needs to be. Her usual position is attacking midfielder, or a more advanced central midfielder if Arsenal are playing with three in the midfield. This flexibility and licence to affect the play from the front is what we are seeing here. We will examine this even more in the final section of the tactical analysis, but for now we can see how she moves into the middle to fill the gaps left when Vivianne Miedema is elsewhere.
The same thing can be seen here, because Nobbs has moved into the middle to fill the gap left by Miedema moving to the wing. This is something that constantly happens, because whilst Miedema is the central striker, she does like to drift over to the left side a lot, and this allows Nobbs to move into the middle and affect the play.
You can see how Miedema has also run across to stretch the Liverpool Women defence apart, creating gaps for Nobbs to run through, as the arrow shows. However, because Arsenal also have a player on the far side too, it means they are pulling Liverpool apart in both directions, and that is why there is such a huge gap for Nobbs to run through.
We have seen how Nobbs plays as part of a front four, and a front three. Now we will see how she plays when she is the furthest player forwards.
In both of these examples, we can see how Nobbs is looking to gain possession of the ball in advanced areas of the pitch. In the first, she has made a run beyond the defence, in order to offer her side a passing option behind the Manchester City Women defensive line. In the second, she is chasing down a pass which has been taken back by Manchester City in the same area. Both show us Nobbs’ threat in the final third, and her ability to constantly find spaces or chase balls down.
In the first image in particular, although the pass to her doesn’t come, the fact that she has made the run is significant. It puts a doubt in the minds of the Manchester City defenders, and they now know that they have to watch her run next time in case the pass does come off. This means that they may lose sight of another key Arsenal player; that is why this run is effective. For Arsenal, however, it means that they don’t have to worry when Miedema drifts over to the wings, because they know the space she leaves in the middle will be filled by Nobbs.
Partnership with Miedema
The final section of this piece will examine how Jordan Nobbs forms an on-field partnership with Vivianne Miedema. In this section, we will relate some of the ideas we have already analysed into how Miedema and Nobbs play together in the attacking third.
This first example relates to how Arsenal Women take defenders away from the space, creating areas to move the ball into. We can see how Vivianne Miedema has run towards the wing (black arrow), taking the Manchester City Women defenders with her (yellow arrows), and that allows Nobbs to then drive towards the centre of the defence, where the space has now appeared. Therefore, this shows perfectly how Arsenal make this tactic work.
Another example of this tactic in action is below.
Here, the main thing to point out is that Miedema has moved across to the wing, because that is where she is likely to get the ball. However, because she has done that, look at where Nobbs is now moving to. The Manchester City defence is now being stretched apart, because, as the yellow arrow shows, one player is moving over to where Miedema is heading, and the other is looking to stop the other Arsenal players in the centre and on the right from getting into the box. Therefore, the gap between the two defenders, as marked by the blue line, becomes larger; that is where Nobbs makes her run to take advantage of this situation. Whilst more unintentional, it is another example of Miedema and Nobbs working together create space in the middle of the final third.
Both of these examples show the same thing, with Miedema on the wing and Nobbs attacking through the middle. We have seen previously that Miedema likes to drift freely around the pitch, and these are yet more examples of this.
In the first example, Miedema is running on the wing, rather than coming at a diagonal angle towards it from the centre. Nobbs is the player most forward in the centre, which links in with our previous analysis of how she moves into the central positions. Like Miedema, she is allowed to float around the pitch to wherever she needs and wants to be. Chelsea Women like to play with a high defensive line too, which is the reason that both Nobbs and Miedema have been able to get behind them as they have.
The second example shows Miedema on the left wing this time, and she is crossing the ball into the middle of the goal area. Again, look at where the Bristol City Women defence is most focused; on her. That has created a gap in the middle of the defence, where, as indicated, Nobbs makes her run through to get on the end of the cross.
Therefore, we can finish this section by saying that both Miedema and Nobbs are aware of each other’s positioning on the pitch, and that is a key thing for the team to have. It allows head coach Joe Montemurro to build the team around that ethic, and the points we have tactically analysed have all shown how Arsenal play to their strengths. Jordan Nobbs is a big part of that.
To conclude, Arsenal Women and England midfielder Jordan Nobbs is a key player in the Gunners’ tactical setups. We have seen in this scout report how she creates and uses space, allowing her team to attack even when the opposing defence is initially cutting off their key players. We have also seen how she slots into the forward line when she needs to, in order to increase the potency of those attacks. Finally, we have analysed how she and Vivianne Miedema have a partnership, allowing them to fill spaces and create opportunities that benefit the team. There is little doubt that not much of this would be possible without Nobbs pulling the strings as their playmaker.