Lucy Staniforth at Birmingham City Women 2019/2020 – scout report
Birmingham City Women might be at the wrong end of the table, struggling to stay in the WSL, but they have a captain in Lucy Staniforth who has shown she has the ability to get them out of trouble, or at least ensure they won’t go down without a fight. This scout report will show through tactical analysis how she assists in both their attacking and defensive moves, as well as highlighting some improvements that Staniforth needs to make to her individual game in order to be a better player than she already is.
In the attacking half
Firstly, Birmingham City Women like to play with two strikers and two wingers, who make up a front four when the Blues are attacking with full force. But what this also means is that the two strikers have the ability to split, stretching the opposing defence apart. This then enables Lucy Staniforth, as the central attacking midfielder, to play in between them at times, offering a different element to their offensive line.
Here, you can see just this. Staniforth is in possession of the ball and is taking it towards Manchester City Women’s goal area. You can see how Manchester City have been caught out by this movement, because they are being overrun by Birmingham, and are unable to get back to block the gaps off, making it easy for the Blues to attack in this situation.
Another example of Staniforth playing in the middle behind the two strikers is shown below, in a different way though.
What we can see here is that Birmingham have formed a kite shape around the Liverpool Women defence. This allows them to increase the area they control in their attacking third, giving them a bigger chance of scoring. We can also see how Birmingham have control of the wide areas, because of Liverpool’s narrow setup, and this ensures that, even if the Blues are unable to play the ball through the opposing defence, they can move the ball around them instead.
Staniforth does not have to be in these central areas in order to be effective though. The team’s front four attacking formation means that they need a player to create opportunities for them, and this is the role that Staniforth takes on.
She is allowed to take up high positions because of Birmingham’s midfield setup. Her usual partner in the central third is Scotland’s Chloe Arthur, who is much more of a defensive midfielder, taking up deeper positions and protecting the defence from any counter-attacks. Therefore, Staniforth doesn’t have to think about defending too often, and can focus on being a creative attacker, like we have shown above.
Here, the former Liverpool Women midfielder has possession of the ball, and is looking to play it forwards. You can also see that there are two Birmingham players in front of her, looking to get on the end of any through ball that Staniforth is able to play. This tactic enables Birmingham to catch out opposing defences, and you can see how Chelsea Women in this example have been caught a little too high, and without the gaps plugged, allowing Birmingham’s two forward players in the image to move behind them, and carry on the attack.
Another example of Lucy Staniforth in the creative playmaker role is shown here.
What we can see here is that, again, Staniforth is in possession, and is looking to set up one of her teammates. The England midfielder is this time in a more advanced position than her teammate, and so she plays a clever back heel pass, allowing her teammate to run onto it and attack (as indicated by the red arrow). This time, it’s Bristol City Women who have been caught out by this movement, and we can see how they have only focused on Staniforth, as she is the one in possession, and not on her teammate who is moving in behind them. Therefore, this shows how Lucy Staniforth is key to her team’s attacking movements, and is central to creating opportunities for their forward line.
Another way in which she is influential in Birmingham City Women’s attack is shown here.
In this example, Lucy Staniforth is moving towards the wing, as we can see from the arrow indicating her run, in order to offer a passing option to her teammate. She has seen that playing the ball through the central channel is not going to be an option, because of the number of players in between her and the goal area, meaning there is more chance of an interception being made. Therefore, Staniforth’s run has ensured her team have more of a chance of keeping the ball, and can continue the attack from the wide areas. Therefore, this shows how Staniforth is important in Birmingham’s attacking tactics.
Linked to this is what we can see in the image below.
This shows a goal that Staniforth scored against Liverpool Women, and she has moved inwards from the wing, finding space to shoot and score from. The blue arrow shows her run whilst the red arrow shows the path of the ball once she has connected with it. This situation comes about because she is already in the space that likes to create, as we saw in the previous image. Therefore, we have seen how she creates passing options for her team, but also what the end product can be when she is in those areas. This movement in her game is why she is hugely important to their attacking tactics.
The final point to make is that she takes charge of her team’s attacks from the midfield, which might seem obvious given that she is their captain, but not always do you see players actually telling their teammates how they want to play football.
What we can see is Staniforth gesturing towards her teammate to play the ball into the area marked by the red square. This is because she knows that if they attack into that area, they can push right up to Tottenham Hotspur Women’s defence, and that will give them more of a chance of getting through to score. This kind of leadership is what Birmingham City Women need, because they are in a difficult position, struggling to stay in the WSL, and have already lost their manager, Marta Tejedor, who left the club by mutual consent halfway through the season. Therefore, it is important that players like Staniforth step up to take on-field leadership on the field, which is what we see her doing here.
It is not just in attack where she is influential though, because there are points we need to make about her work in the defensive areas, which is what this analysis now moves onto.
In the defensive half
Firstly, we need to mention how she drops back at times to play in the middle of the two centre-backs when Birmingham City Women have a goal kick.
This allows Birmingham to split their defence and play in very wide positions, forming a line that stretches as far across as it will go. Here, against Arsenal Women, it has forced the Arsenal attack to split, and to try and cover as much ground as they can, but they already have the immediate disadvantage here because of Birmingham’s tactic. Their wide formation means Birmingham, and in particular Lucy Staniforth, in possession here, have more time on the ball; time that allows Staniforth to perform her most important role on the pitch.
Here, we see Staniforth in the defensive third again, with plenty of space around her. This means she has time to pick out the right pass to the right player; something Birmingham City Women rely on her for. You can see in this image how her teammates are in front of her, spread around so that she has a mix of passing options, and Arsenal are also trying to mark as many of these options as possible.
Staniforth doesn’t need to be offered any short passing options though, because she likes to play passes long and high, bypassing all of the opponents’ midfielders and defenders where possible. This means that her team can move the ball from defence to attack instantaneously, and also get the ball behind the opposing defence quickly as well, often while the opposing defence is in a higher area on the pitch. This enables her team to use their front four to maximum effect, although the fact that they are second-bottom of the league at time of writing shows that they need to work on making these opportunities count more often.
Both of these examples show Lucy Staniforth’s long passes, and we can see how in both examples, she is passing from her own half. This means that, as we said, she can cut out the midfield and defence of Birmingham’s opponents. This is a crucial role to play and, as mentioned, it is something Birmingham seemingly rely on her for.
It is particularly useful when Birmingham are in good attacking positions, but the opposing defence is well-organised, as shown below.
We have seen how Staniforth’s long passes start, when she picks up the ball in her own third, and how they happen, and now this completes the picture by showing how they affect her team. In this image, we see how she is playing a long pass in behind the Tottenham defence, and her teammates move into the box, as shown by the red arrow, providing her with a target to aim for. Therefore, we can see very clearly how she is influential in her team’s defensive areas.
Whilst you may think that these long passes are more to do with her influence in attack, here’s why it links to the defence. These long-range passes only come about because Staniforth is able to move backwards into the defensive areas, in order to pick up the ball. Therefore, in order to help the attack using these passes, she has to work with the defence to get the ball and have enough space to set herself up to make the passes, and to get them into the right areas. Therefore, although this links with the attack, it comes from her work with the defence.
Improvements for her passing
The final point to make is that her general passing sometimes lets her team down, and we can see in the next couple of examples why this is.
What this image shows is the position of the ball when Lucy Staniforth has played it, and it has gone over the whole of her team and out of play. Therefore, this attack has been wasted.
In this example, we can see an overhit pass from Staniforth, which has also now rolled out of play.
Both of these show Birmingham in good attacking areas, but where they have not made the most of those attacks. This is where Birmingham as a team have slipped up at times this season, but this is where Staniforth needs to improve her game. We have seen how she is very capable of playing long passes and getting the majority of them correct, but we also see here that her passing is at times the weakest part of her game. It could be the pressure of where the Blues are in the league, and the need to make every opportunity count, but they need to make their chances count, and if Staniforth can improve her pass and cross success rate so that these types of passes hit their targets more often, then Birmingham will have a good chance of surviving.
To conclude, this has been a scout report of Birmingham City Women and England midfielder Lucy Staniforth, analysing her strengths and weaknesses on the field. We have seen how she likes to play the ball over the top of defences, in order to give her teams the best opportunity of scoring goals, and we have also see how she is the playmaker when it comes to attacking and playing her teammates through to goal. She is a very good and very important player for them, as well as being their captain, and this tactical analysis has shown this through many different analytical points.