Lisa Evans 2019/2020 – scout report
Arsenal Women have one of the best all-round squads in the WSL; that is just a simple fact. However, whilst the likes of Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema, fellow Dutch international Danielle Van De Donk and England star Jordan Nobbs are those who mostly get the headlines, it really is an ensemble cast that makes Arsenal Women one of the league’s best. Scotland’s Lisa Evans is a very important part of that ensemble cast. This scout report will focus on how she is integral to Arsenal’s tactics, and how she is central to everything they do. The tactical analysis will also show how her versatility is key to Arsenal’s style of play, and we will also give some analysis to the way that she can adapt personally to each position she is asked to play with relative ease.
Firstly, Lisa Evans‘ positioning on the pitch is essential to the way Arsenal play. Here’s why:
Lisa Evans is constantly found in wide areas, which seems obvious given that she primarily plays as a winger. However, because she is in these areas, she is Arsenal Women’s main source of crosses into the box. She often goes beyond the defensive line in her movements too, which is even better because she can gain better angles from which to cross into the box from.
Her pace and acceleration make it even easier for her to do this.
When in these areas, because she is so quick, often quicker than the defenders running back to try and catch her, she opens up plenty of different options for passing or dribbling. The image above shows firstly how much space she has by running forwards in this manner, and then also the different things she could do with the ball once in this space. One option is to dribble towards the goal line, before finding a cross and creating an opportunity for a teammate, and another is to take the ball into the box and have a shot herself. She is equally adept at doing both of these.
The second point to make about her on-pitch positioning is that she can see the spaces to move into. This is different from the point above because in this case, it is when Arsenal are facing a strong opposing defensive line.
In this example, against Manchester United Women, Evans has managed to move in behind the United defence, whilst the defenders have yet to see her movement. The arrow shows her intended run.
This is what came directly after Evans had received the ball in the space, and you can see how Arsenal now have full control of the situation. The Gunners have managed to create a wide attacking structure, which has enabled them to keep the ball and move it into the box much more easily, in order to get a shot away. Manchester United, meanwhile, have been caught inside the box, defending very narrowly. This has all come about because of Lisa Evans’ intelligence in seeing the space and running into it, which again highlights her importance in this Arsenal Women team.
Again, when Arsenal have the ball, and are in front of a well-organised defence, Evans makes the run in behind to open up the space.
By starting in the wide areas, and then coming inside, she makes herself harder to defend against, and becomes a sort of stealth attacker, because the defence don’t notice her. In this particular situation, she scores after Vivianne Miedema does find her (Miedema is in possession in this image). This just highlights once again her importance to the Arsenal side, and also how much she does that is unnoticed and almost “behind the scenes”, in order to make life easier for the likes of Miedema and Nobbs in the central channels. It also shows her ability to read the game and make decisions on how she can turn a difficult situation, like the one above, into one that is in the Gunners’ favour.
There is more to her positioning though. It is not just when in these attacking situations that she makes runs inside to help her team out.
In this image, Miedema again has the ball, but due to her opponent’s tight defending, the Dutch striker is forced to run to the outside, as shown by the arrow. Lisa Evans sees this and crosses her path to become the inside option, and the central attacker in this move – again shown by the arrow. The Scotland international gets a goal from this attack, which just shows how she is just as crucial for their goals as she is for their crosses and assists.
The final thing to mention about her attacking is that she has a natural instinct to move inside and get into the box whenever she can. This becomes particularly important when the likes of Miedema and Nobbs are out of position.
Evans did score from this opportunity, which again shows her potency in front of goal, but below, you can see how it was much more important that she was in this area in the first place.
The circles mark the position of Miedema and Nobbs, normally the two in the box, and you can see how Lisa Evans sees they are not in a position to score, so she does that job herself and positions herself in such a way that she can get on the end of a cross, as she does here.
Another example of this is shown here.
The fact that these are two different examples of this proves that this is not just a one-off and a lucky run; Evans has that natural ability to read the game, seeing where the space is, and that is why her positioning is so important to Arsenal Women’s style of play.
The effect on her Arsenal Women teammates
If we explore how all of this impacts on Arsenal’s other players, we can see just how valuable she is to them.
In this example, she has taken up her usual wide position, but what is important to note here is that because she is there, and because Miedema has moved to the other wide area (in the square), the Liverpool Women defence has been stretched apart. This has allowed Jordan Nobbs to make the run forward in the central channel from a long way out, and the England international scores from this chance. The arrow marks Nobbs’ advance. The positioning of Evans, Nobbs and Miedema in this example is very important to explain, because it is this that makes the goal possible.
However, whilst Miedema and Nobbs will get the headlines because they are perhaps the two best-known players in the Gunners side, Lisa Evans has also played a big role in this, which is why she also deserves credit.
The underlying point to take from this then is that Evans’ wide positioning constantly tears the opposing defence apart, and that is what allows Arsenal to play their attacking style of play so effectively. Arsenal Women also like to play non-complicated football, which sees everyone perform their usual roles, and no players are out of position or asked to do something they are not used to. This is something that manager Joe Montemurro must take credit for because it enables the team to work the ball much more effectively and to use the spaces that are there to be used.
Another example is shown below.
Like before, Evans has taken up a wide position on the right of the box, with club captain and fellow Scotland international Kim Little’s and Miedema’s movements shown by the arrows. Both of these players are able to operate in these ways because Evans has taken some of the defenders away from the central areas, leaving the gaps available for them to exploit. In this way, it is very much like the previous example.
Finally, in this section of her effect on the team, we shall look at how Evans is happy to engage in “one v one” duels, in order to win the ball back once it has been lost.
You can see here how she is not afraid of putting her body in the way of opponents in order to win back the ball, and this is always something that should be encouraged. This determination is what makes players both respected by their teammates but also invaluable to their coaches. Close combat play is obviously something that Evans loves engaging in.
The final theme in this scout report is to mention Lisa Evans’ versatility on the pitch. Whilst normally a right-winger, as shown, she can also operate as a right-back.
This versatility is another reason she is important to the Arsenal Women team. In this image, you can see how she can make long-range passes as well as crosses, and can still create opportunities from these deeper positions. She has an eye for finding space, as has already been established, and this is what makes her such a weapon for them.
The other thing that can be taken from this image is that she knows to hold back much more when playing in the right-back position. She knows that she can’t go too far forward, and join in the attacks as much as normal because she has to be ready to help defend against any opposing attacks. This is also something she does incredibly well.
When defending, her ability to read the play really comes into its own, because she can close down attacks quickly, and in their early stages.
Often, she is the last player at the back, which means she can see the danger and move to cover it. In this example, Manchester City Women have played a through-ball, as the arrow indicates, but Evans has run to meet the ball, and clears it from danger. Again, this all comes because she is able to read the play before most others can on the pitch.
Finally, she is able to slot in well into a defensive line when asked to play there. When doing so, you forget that it isn’t necessarily her primary position.
The way that she is in line with the other defenders, to form a strong defensive structure, shows how comfortable she is playing as a defender as she is on the wing. She is indistinguishable from the other defenders in this sense. Also, you can see by way of the marked circle how she is engaging in another “one v one” duel, in order to block the opposing attack.
A possible improvement suggestion
Something that she could do a little more often is to perhaps look to use her pace to get further forward and join the attack. We have already established that she likes to play her position, and this she does well, but we have also shown that she has the pace necessary to get further forward and join the attacks, and then to get back and stop any possible counter-attacks.
In the theme of how this would help her team, it would simply give a knock-on effect that could help their attacks to be even more successful. If Evans were to make even more runs forward from right-back, then that would allow the Arsenal Women’s player deployed on the wing to cut inside and play a little more in the central channels. That would then mean that Vivianne Miedema would have a little more support in the attacking positions because there have been some matches this season when she has been found a little wanting.
This is not necessarily a weakness of Lisa Evans, because as we have already seen, she does a lot of things very well. If we were to be really picky, then this might be something she could do a little more, which would also benefit her team as well.
In conclusion, Lisa Evans is one of the most important players in the Arsenal Women team, and yet is one of those who sometimes don’t get as much notice as they deserve. There is no doubt that Vivianne Miedema and Jordan Nobbs are players to shout about, and they are the ones who tend to get the goals for Arsenal. However, there is also no doubt that they wouldn’t be able to play the way they do without Lisa Evans being on the pitch, providing them with their goalscoring chances. This scout report has shown this exact point, through three different points, highlighting in each one just how Evans is central to Arsenal’s general play.