Lieke Martens 2019/20 – Scout Report
Lieke Martens is a current Dutch international with 113 caps and 45 career goals, making her first appearance for the full national team in 2011. She joined FC Barcelona Femeni in 2017 from Swedish team FC Rosengard.
In 2017 she was awarded both the UEFA women’s player of the year award and the FIFA women’s player of the year award. Martens was part of the Netherlands team that won the European Championships on home soil in 2017, beating Denmark 4-2 in Enschede and was named player of the tournament.
This tactical analysis will provide a scout report on Lieke Martens. The system of play and tactics implemented by Barcelona will be analyzed and discussed as well as Martens’ role & responsibilities. Her main attributes of wide combination play, positional rotations, attacking on the dribble (both running with the ball and attacking 1v1) and crossing will be viewed in-depth.
FC Barcelona Femeni
Barcelona are currently in 1st position of the Primera Division de la Liga de Futbol Femenino with 19 wins in 21 matches. Under head coach Lluis Cortes, they are the highest-scoring team (86), have the highest goal differential (+80) and are currently nine points ahead of second-placed Club Atletico de Madrid Femenino. Barcelona typically employ a variation of the 1-4-3-3 system (41.1%) which includes 1-4-1-4-1 (45%). Martens is a key player for the Catalan team, occupying one of the wide forward positions in Barcelona’s system and positional play tactics. Barcelona look to dominate possession of the ball (67.3%, ranked 1st in league), they have the highest average duration of possession (20.5 seconds), the highest average number of passes per 90 (622.37) and the highest pass completion percentage (86%).
Wyscout has defined ‘attacking contribution’ (xG chain) as “a metric that assigns an xG value of a shot to every player that made any action in the attack that led to the shot”. Martens ranks 8th in the league when comparing this metric (1.33 average per 90). Martens plays a key role in the positional play attacking tactics of Barcelona. Positional play refers to the generation of superiorities in order to progress the ball and eliminate lines of pressure. Barcelona utilize Martens in several ways in order to generate one of three specific superiorities. These are numerical superiority, positional superiority, and qualitative superiority.
In the above example, #11 Martens has been able to receive the ball facing forward against the wide left defender of UD Grandilla Tenerife. She is supported by the left defender of Barcelona, #3 Melanie Serrano to create a 2v1 situation and numerical superiority. Martens dribbles infield to create additional space for the overlapping player and dribbles directly towards the defender in order to provoke pressure (fix). In this situation Martens can select either option, cut further inside on the dribble or find the overlapping wide defender in space, depending on the position of the opposition defender and which option she attempts to eliminate.
The above diagram is the second example of a 2v1 situation created by Martens. Within this example, Barcelona have changed the angle of attack from the right side to the left side due to the numerical superiority in this area of the field. Martens has drifted into the interior channel to receive a horizontal switch pass from #6 Kheira Hamraoui. By moving infield, Martens has created space for herself to receive forward and be able to attack on the dribble. Again, in this situation, Martens attacks the defender in order to provoke pressure and create space for #3 Serrano to overlap.
Barcelona’s system on paper is a 1-4-3-3 but put into action this is tactically implemented in a fluid shape in order to generate receiving space for players and to progress the ball through the thirds of the field. Martens can move into interior zones of the field in order to create space either for herself or for a teammate rotating into the wide zone.
In the above diagram, Andrea Pereira, the #4 of Barcelona is in possession of the ball and has been able to face forward. The opposition left forward of Bilbao is in the central channel, having been drawn infield, this creates a 2v1 on the right side using #7 Martens and #2 Marta Torrejon. Martens has rotated deeper and into the interior channel to create space to receive facing forward. In this example, the left defender of Bilbao has two problems, either allow Martens to receive possession unopposed or risk the #2 Torrejon receiving a direct pass from #4 Pereira in behind the last line of pressure.
This second example of positional fluidity vs Atletico is a different scenario from the previous example vs. Bilbao. Here, when Mapi Leon the #5 of Barcelona is in possession, the wide forward from Atletico is denying the pass into the wide defender #3 Leila Ouahabi. Thus, a more vertical passing line is available into Martens. The Atletico wide right defender has chosen not to follow Martens into this deeper zone in midfield in order to remain compact with the defensive group and deny passes in behind the last line of pressure. By moving into this zone, Martens has created both positional superiority and numerical superiority (4v3 in central midfield) and can receive the ball unopposed and facing forward.
Above is another example where the opposition are not compact horizontally. Martens has recognized the open passing lines from #5 Mapi Leon. By moving into this zone she can a) receive and face forward (if the opponent is not marking tightly), b) combine with the #3 Serrano behind the opposition forward or c) #5 Mapi Leon can find #3 Serrano directly, behind the opposition right defender of Rayo.
Here Barcelona have rotated Alexia Putellas the #8 into the wide channel, this has successfully moved the central midfielder of Atletico into the wide channel in order to provide pressure. #11 Martens has rotated into the central channel, however, Atletico have been able to shift across and remain compact with no ‘free’ players. This was achieved by utilizing the weak side central midfielder who has been able to mark Martens tightly. The central forward of Atletico has denied numerical superiority by dropping onto the #6 of Barcelona. This is a situation in which Barcelona would change the angle of attack through the defensive line due to the lack of superiorities on the left side of the field.
Attacking on the dribble
Martens ranks 1st in the league for the average number of dribbles attempted per 90 (12.76, completing 63%) and 1st in the league in average number of progressive runs per 90 (6.82). Wyscout has defined a progressive run as “a pass or run which moves the ball considerably forward”. To be classified as a progressive run the minimal requirements are progressing the ball 30 meters if starting/ending on own half, 15 meters if starting in own half and ending in the opponents half or 10 meters if starting and finishing in the opponents half.
Martens ranks second in the average number of crosses per 90 (8.12). In the diagram above, Barcelona have created qualitative superiority. This is a description of a moment when the team in possession have been able to find one of their best attacking players in a 1v1 situation. On this occasion, Martens faced the right defender of Rayo 1v1, was able to cut inside onto her right foot and create a crossing opportunity.
In the example above, Martens has received a pass from the central midfielder. She is positioned in the outside channel, but the defender has good positioning and is demonstrating patience. Leila Ouahabi, the #3 of Barcelona makes an underlapping run, this opens the potential for a pass from Martens behind the defender. However, Atletico defend this underlapping run, thus players are drawn from the left half-space zone where Martens can attack on the dribble. The result of this particular action was a blocked shot on the edge of the penalty area.
The following two diagrams show the variety of ways in which Martens can cross the ball, using both right and left feet, cutting inside for a deeper far post cross or driving to the end line for a cutback cross. In the first diagram Vs. Rayo, Martens recognizes the numerical inferiority around the ball 2v3, she also recognizes the lack of space behind the wide right defender. Therefore, a far-post cross is selected using the right foot in order to provide an in-swinging direction. The second diagram is of Barcelona Vs. CD Tacon, who were acquired by Real Madrid in 2019, here Martens sees space behind the isolated 1v1 defender and drives with the ball towards the end line. From this position, due to the positioning of the opposition central defenders, a cut back cross using the left foot is selected.
In conclusion to this article and tactical analysis, Lieke Martens has been identified as a key player within the system and positional play tactics of FC Barcelona Femeni. Playing as predominately a #7 or #11 (wide forward), she creates opportunities for 1v1 attacking vs. the opposition wide defender and for combinations in the form of 2v1 or 3v2. Martens is also able to rotate into midfield to create numerical superiority and to provide a passing option for deeper positioned players. Not only is Martens able to thrive within the Barcelona team but the tactics implemented play to her strengths which makes her a dangerous player for all opposition.