Kyah Simon: why Man Utd Women should swoop for PSV and Matildas star this summer – scout report
The WSL has already seen many comings and goings this summer, with many names being linked with moves to the top flight of English women’s football. One team whose squad has been depleted this summer is Manchester United Women, with four of their forwards from last season (Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Jessica Sigsworth and Jane Ross) leaving the club. Another, Lauren James, is also reportedly set to depart, having been heavily linked with a move to league champions Chelsea Women, so there is a definite need for attacking signings at Leigh Sports Village.
One player rumoured to interest them is experienced Australia international Kyah Simon, who currently plays for PSV Vrouwen in the Eredivisie Vrouwen. However, the question is if she is what Manchester United need. In this tactical analysis, we will look in greater detail at how she would fit into their tactics, focusing on her ability to operate in different roles, find space around the pitch and her confidence in possession.
Playing in different roles
The first aspect of her play to look at in this analysis is her versatility, filling different roles as required by her team.
Here, Kyah Simon is in a wider position on the pitch, meaning that teammate and Lyon Feminin midfielder Ellie Carpenter now has two different ways of transferring the ball behind the Denmark defence. She can either pass to Simon, who can then make a run behind the defence, or wait for Denmark to stretch out towards Simon, before playing through the gap that will inevitably appear. Therefore, the first point to make about Simon’s positioning is that she gives her team different options, able to play in different systems, and this versatility and adaptability makes her the type of player that managers like.
This is something that Manchester United will really benefit from if they bring her to the club this summer, because Tobin Heath and Christen Press tended to occupy the wider attacking positions last season. However, now they have moved back to the USA, Manchester United only have former Bayern Munich winger Leah Galton and Scotland forward Kirsty Hanson as options for those roles, so Simon will give them another player who can slot into those tactics if needed. However, her crossing accuracy of 34.3% per game, expected assists (xA) value of 0.23 and actual assist rate of 0.2 imply that getting balls into the box from the wings is not her biggest strength.
Another common sight is to see Simon playing slightly further back, behind the front three, making late runs into the box and getting on the end of crosses. This image shows how she waits for the ball to leave her teammate’s foot before running into the space ahead of her, demonstrating her patience and ability to read the game. This makes it harder for Vietnam’s defenders to mark her, as they don’t know where she will go and when she will make her move.
What also makes it hard for them is that Simon is not in the box when the ball is crossed in, so they cannot surround and close her down as easily. When playing for Australia, Simon is given a freer role, trying to make movements that cause the opposing defenders to second-guess themselves, and that allows players like Chelsea striker Sam Kerr to pose more of a threat, as the defenders’ focus is not on them.
Whilst this is definitely something that Manchester United like, it is unlikely that Simon will be asked to perform this role on a regular basis, as England midfielder Ella Toone already occupies the creative attacking role in the team. Therefore, it is more likely that Simon would start in a forward role, staying high up the pitch and receiving the ball from Toone when Manchester United are attacking.
With that last point in mind, this image shows Simon as a centre forward for Melbourne City Women in the W-League, and we can see how she has an opportunity to shoot at Brisbane Roar Women’s goal. When in this role, she always looks to get behind defences and find open spaces, which is why she is dangerous to play against.
However, converting these chances is something she can still improve on, even at the age of 30. Her efforts in these situations are often weaker than required, and so are saved easily by the opposing goalkeeper. She has an expected goals (xG) value of 0.48, scoring 0.49 times per game, whilst she has got 36.7% of her shots on target per game, but Manchester United will need more from her in the final third if she does join them, as they struggled to break down opposing defences at times last season.
We have looked at Kyah Simon’s ability to play in different roles, but it is her ability to constantly find or create space that causes problems for defenders, and this is what we will now turn to in this scout report.
Here, you can see one PSV player with the ball on the far side wing, whilst Simon is in the middle, running to meet the ball when it arrives in the central channel. One of her key strengths is providing options for her teammates, and her excellent spatial awareness is a key factor in this. She also has her hand up here, pointing forwards, and that demonstrates her confidence to call for the ball, directing play and using her experience to aid her teammates.
The fact that her run here is between two FC Twente Vrouwen players again shows her spatial awareness, finding the gaps and punishing defences that leave them open. These are more qualities that Manchester United will approve of, and could be the difference against teams that are tough to break down next season.
This image shows a different type of attacking opportunity, with Simon this time in the box. However, what is clever about her movement here is that she makes a small run away from the Heerenveen Vrouwen defender in front of her. This positional adjustment gives her more time and space to control the ball, again helping to create a goalscoring opportunity. PSV always look to find her when she is in the box, knowing that she will be in space and waiting for the ball to reach her. Therefore, this will give Manchester United plenty of tactical options next season, perhaps helping them to find ways past opponents that they struggled against last season.
When we analysed Simon’s versatility, we mentioned how she tends to play in an attacking midfield role for Australia, being given the freedom to move around and find open areas where she can affect the play. Here, she has positioned herself between Sweden’s defensive and midfield lines, providing Australia with a way of linking up the midfield and attack. Her positioning also prevents the Swedish defence from moving towards the midfield, as that would leave Simon with open space behind them to attack into. Therefore, Simon has affected their play by dropping into this gap.
When in these spaces, she often looks to pick up short passes and then pass forwards, setting up chances for teammates. She has an accuracy for passes to the penalty area of 39.8%, so, whilst it is not high, it is still the case that over one in three of her passes reach the intended target. We have already mentioned how Manchester United have Ella Toone in this role, but Simon would be an able understudy if she ever missed a match.
Confidence in possession
We have examined Kyah Simon’s ability to play in different roles in the team, and her ability to find spaces around the pitch, but what makes her a really attractive transfer target is her confidence with the ball.
When she is the furthest player forwards during counter-attacks, Simon doesn’t necessarily run at pace towards her opponents’ goal. Instead, her intention is generally to hold play up, giving her teammates time to get into the attack and outnumber the opponents. Here, she has two Heerenveen players around her, but hasn’t panicked, instead remaining composed and playing a sideways pass into the space alongside her, where a teammate meets it. She has a passing accuracy per game of 66.2%, proving how this is one of her key strengths on the pitch, and something her teammates really rely on.
This ability to maintain focus under pressure is another reason Manchester United would gain a lot from signing her, as Lauren James was the player they turned to last season when they needed to create an opportunity in tight games. With James likely to move on, Simon would be an able replacement in this regard.
Another thing that makes Simon a confident player is her ability to shoot from different areas of the pitch. Here, she knows the angle is tight, but has a go at goal anyway. This again comes from her confidence and experience, knowing where she realistically has a chance of scoring from, and her ability to shoot and pass with equal quality in these situations again makes her unpredictable to play against. Sweden are looking to close her down here, forcing her to make a decision quickly. Whilst the opportunity is missed, the fact that she took the shot put a doubt in the Swedish players’ minds, and that is the important thing to take from this.
In conclusion, this scout report has shown that PSV Vrouwen and Australia forward Kyah Simon would be a good addition for Manchester United Women this summer. If she were to move to the English club, she would bring tactical versatility, meaning Manchester United could use different tactics and systems, as well as an ability to find spaces, creating more problems for opposing defences. Finally, and most importantly, Manchester United have a relatively young team, so adding international experience would help them to continue their development, and could be what they need to break into the top three next season.
Whilst it remains to be seen whether she follows defender Aniek Nouwen to the WSL (Nouwen moved to Chelsea earlier on this summer), PSV seem to be preparing for her departure, with Denmark duo Amalie Thestrup and Caroline Rask both joining the Dutch team from Liverpool Women and AC Milan Femminile respectively, so a move may happen.