Why young Brighton and Hove Albion Women defender with “professional attitude” is close to the finished article
Brighton and Hove Albion Women have been one of the most difficult teams to play against in the WSL this season, because of their tactics and setup. Managed by former England boss Hope Powell, their focus is on strong defending, using that as a basis to attack forwards with pace, playing through the thirds. Central to this is 18-year-old defender Maya Le Tissier, who has a “professional attitude” on the pitch that you would expect from an experienced player, according to her teammate and fellow defender Victoria Williams. Le Tissier began her career at centre-back, but has this season been morphed into a right-back, making that position her own.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Le Tissier features in Brighton’s tactics both defensively and offensively, and just why she is so highly-rated. The analysis will focus on her anticipation and spatial awareness at the back, as well as how she gets forward to support the attack. We will also look at where she can still improve her game, showing why she can still get better as her career advances.
As she is a defender by trade, it is important that she plays her part in stopping balls entering the box. This is something she does well, as we can see from the image below.
Here, she gets tight to the Tottenham Hotspur Women attacker, preventing her from transferring the ball into the box. We can see how big the gap is between her and her defensive teammates, and this is because she wants to close the ball down as early as possible. By doing so, she allows her teammates to organise themselves in the box, marking any possible crossing options that the ball could find. Therefore, we can see one reason why Le Tissier’s ability to get tight to attackers is an important feature of Brighton and Hove Albion Women’s defensive tactics.
Another aspect of this, which is a regular occurrence in these situations, is that Le Tissier gets her body in the way of the ball, deflecting it out of play. This has happened a lot this season, and it is another factor in Brighton’s strong defensive setup. Le Tissier is not afraid of getting hurt by the ball, and this is an excellent attitude to have as a defender, because it means there is little chance of the opponents posing any threat when forced out to the wings with the ball, as they are here.
Similarly, we see another example here of Le Tissier closing the ball down. This time, it is not when the ball is about to be crossed in, but as it has been passed forwards next to the sideline. Therefore, this highlights Le Tissier’s awareness and anticipation, getting to the ball before the opponent has had time to control it and move it forwards. Chelsea Women in this example now have little choice but to play a sideways or backwards pass, which is what Brighton want them to do, and Le Tissier’s role in this is central. Therefore, we can see how the young defender already has the qualities to be comfortable in top-level women’s football.
The two examples we have looked at so far have shown how Le Tissier closes down and shadows the ball, getting her body in its way. However, she is also not afraid to make the slide tackle either, putting further pressure on the opponents to move the ball around much quicker when around her. Here, we see how Arsenal Women, who like to play with wide attackers, are in a similar position to Tottenham earlier.
With several Arsenal attackers gathering centrally, Le Tissier this time looks to win the ball, rather than tracking it and making a later block. This means that the threat has been averted earlier, meaning Arsenal have more ground to cover to get the ball into the box. Showing how good Le Tissier is at winning these balls is the percentage of defensive duels she has won this season, which is 58.2%, whilst her slide tackle success rate is 44.4%; to be winning around half per game is very impressive at her age. From Brighton’s point of view, this gives them time to get back and prevent Arsenal moving into the box, and so we can see again why Le Tissier is such a crucial player for them in these situations.
We have seen so far how Le Tissier is usually the first one out to the ball, but this is not always the case. Here, against Arsenal, her teammate has closed down Beth Mead, shown in the yellow square, so Le Tissier instead positions herself further inside the box. Arsenal midfielder Danielle Van Der Donk, wearing number seven, is in a good area to receive the ball and shoot at goal, so Le Tissier’s role is now to stop that happening. We can see how, by putting herself where she is in the image above, she can prevent the Netherlands international from having a clear shot at goal if the ball comes to her, making an interception if necessary. On average, she has made 6.25 interceptions per game this season, so is dangerous whenever the ball comes into her range. Therefore, although in a slightly different role here, Le Tissier is still a hugely effective part of Brighton’s defensive tactics.
This image shows us how Le Tissier fits into Brighton’s defensive tactics in a more general sense. We can see how, when the ball is coming into Brighton’s goal area, they instinctively tighten up their structure, playing much more narrowly. This can have positive and negative effects for them. The positive is that the goal area is protected, with a risky ball over the top now the only central option. The negative is that there is more space in the wider areas, leading to a higher chance of the ball going there before being crossed in.
Tottenham here have players looking to get wide and offer that option, but Le Tissier can stop the ball getting out there. We can see how she stays tight to the other Brighton defenders, but also keeps an eye on where the Tottenham attacker behind her is going, getting her body in front of them to ensure that they are no longer a good passing option. Therefore, we again see how, despite still being relatively inexperienced in terms of age, she has the awareness needed on the pitch to play in the WSL.
We have looked at Maya Le Tissier’s defensive qualities, but now we will focus on how she supports her team going forward in this scout report.
Since transitioning to the right-back role, a lot more is expected of her in attack. Modern full-backs need to be good both in defence and attack, and so this is something she needed to adapt to this season. As we can see from the image above, she has looked to support her teammates when they move the ball forward, getting into spaces that lead to more pressure on opposing defences. Her aforementioned spatial awareness also comes into play here, because we can see how she looks to run into the wider space ahead, where she can then get behind the Tottenham defence. Therefore, as well as being a solid defender, she also has a good attacking sense, and that will also help her to develop as she gets more experienced.
This partnership between Le Tissier and whichever teammate is playing on the right ahead of her is something we have seen a lot of this season. The image above shows an example of the tactic we have seen them frequently use. Le Tissier firstly passes the ball forwards, and then runs inside to receive it again, thereby creating a one-two with her teammate. It is on-loan Manchester City Women and South Korea forward Lee Geum-min who links up with her here; the yellow arrow shows Lee’s pass back inside the pitch to Le Tissier, whilst the blue arrow indicates the defender’s movement forward to meet the return pass.
The purpose of this tactic is to create space for Brighton and Hove Albion Women to attack from. We can see here against Chelsea how, by Lee passing and then running forward, they create the forward passing option in the space ahead, and Le Tissier coming forward to meet the ball then allows them to move the ball into that space. The defender has a general passing accuracy of 68.9% so far this season, and a specifically forward passing accuracy of 61.4%, showing how she plays a key role in these tactics, setting many attacks going for Brighton. This is not a one-off either, because we have seen several examples of Le Tissier drifting inside to link up with her teammates in this way. Therefore, again, we can see how Le Tissier helps to create space further up the pitch.
She doesn’t just advance up the pitch to support teammates, but does so on her own as well, as these images both show. By making these runs forward, she offers the longer passing option for her team, and also acts as a backstop if an attempted cross is hit too hard and rolls across the pitch.
The main thing this brings to the team is that it allows the wider forwards to move more centrally, increasing the threat there. This is because they don’t need to stay as wide as normal, as that is what Le Tissier is now covering. We can see in the first image how Brighton have looked to dominate the central and left sides of the pitch, so Le Tissier’s runs forward help to support these attacks.
The second image shows us another aspect of this, in that it helps Brighton to stretch across the pitch. To indicate how much of a difference it makes, there are two colours of lines here. The yellow lines show the width that Brighton would have if Le Tissier had not been there, and you can see how the attack would have been very tight, and it would have been difficult to move the ball into the space available on the nearside. Particularly against Arsenal, who defend very compactly, this would make it almost impossible to make the attack count.
The blue lines show how much width is added to the attack by Le Tissier taking up her position on the nearside wing, and it almost doubles the area Brighton occupy in this attack. Now, if the central passing options are not available, Brighton can move the ball out to the right-back, and she would then have space to advance into. The effect on opposing defences of stretching the attack out is that it forces the defence to stretch as well, because they need to close off the wider spaces to prevent Brighton transferring the ball into the box behind the defence. This will then lead to gaps in between the defenders, which the central attackers can then run through to offer central passing options.
Therefore, we can see from both images how much of a difference it makes having Le Tissier advancing up the pitch, and this is again something she has needed to adapt to, having only changed to right-back from centre-back at the start of this season. Therefore, again, we see why she is such a promising player for the future.
We have praised Maya Le Tissier’s ability to get up the pitch and occupy wider spaces for her team, but what she needs to work on is her crossing. It is her ambition to be in the England team, but this is perhaps where she falls down compared to current first-choice international right-back Lucy Bronze. In the image below, we can see how she gets into good positions, but then doesn’t have the accuracy to find teammates in the box.
Here, she has got behind the Tottenham defence, and has teammates ready in the middle to receive the ball from her. However, the cross is too close to goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, who catches it easily. Therefore, we can see how the young defender gets herself into the right areas, but just lacks the composure to angle the cross into where her teammates can get on the end of it.
In this image, she has again looked to get up the field to support the attack. This time, when she is passed the ball, she immediately looks to cross it into the box, and you can see how she has teammates calling for it in the goal area. However, the cross is again inaccurate, and the threat is therefore ended. Given Brighton have only scored seven goals in ten games this season, the second-lowest in the WSL, it is therefore the case that, if they can work on their crossing accuracy, they may create and score more in the central areas.
Focusing on Le Tissier with this, her intent and positioning are good, but the accuracy is missing; in fact, this season, it is just 35.5% per game, so around one in three, and, for a right-back, it needs to be higher to create opportunities for her teammates. This will then lead to more goalscoring chances for her team. This statistic will improve as she gets older and even more used to the position, so it isn’t a criticism, but a focus point for her to look at as the season goes on.
In conclusion, we have seen in this analysis how Maya Le Tissier is a definite future star of the English women’s game. We have analysed how she has adapted to the positional change over last summer, making the right-back position her own. We have also looked at how, as a right-back, she gets forward to support her team’s attacks, playing her part in creating space and opportunities. We finished the scout report by highlighting an area where she can still improve her game, showing that she is not yet the finished article, but is definitely going in the right direction. There is no doubting, though, that Brighton and Hove Albion Women and Hope Powell have a really special young player on their hands.