Niamh Charles 2019/2020 – scout report
In a season that has proven to be disappointing overall for Liverpool Women, there has been one particular aspect that has been pleasing. This scout report will look at forward Niamh Charles, who has proven to be one of their most important players this season. Liverpool Women’s tactics have been influenced by her style of play, and she has become central to most of the positives that the Reds have had. This tactical analysis will look at how Niamh Charles’ movement and positioning help both her and her team, and how she gets in the right areas to ensure that she is constantly able to receive the ball from her teammates through her movements into open spaces. The analysis will also show how this, combined with her natural desire to score goals, helps her to be effective in the final third when given the opportunities to do so.
When moving, she often tries to control the wide channel, ensuring that she offers an option there.
This particular run might seem like Charles wants the ball, but this is where she is particularly clever. She does this as a way of helping to take opponents away from her teammates. The arrow in the image shows how players are drawn towards her, leaving gaps in the middle of the pitch for her teammates to attack through, and this ultimately is a very selfless action that benefits her team.
However, it isn’t just Charles who is creating the space; sometimes, the roles are reversed, and she is the one being given the space, thanks to a teammate making the run to the outside, as shown below.
In this example, Kirsty Linnett (circled) has made the move to the wing area, allowing Niamh Charles to dribble the ball inside (as shown by the arrow), and she is now in a better position to influence Liverpool Women’s play. She works best when playing in the middle behind the striker, which is not to say that she is a bad winger because she isn’t. It’s just that Liverpool’s play is much more positive, and seems to have better quality when Charles is the one pulling the strings, and opening up the defence from the middle of the attack, rather than from the side of it.
This movement means nothing and leads to nothing unless it is aided by a player being quick, and this is something Niamh Charles also possesses in her locker.
She has a good eye for seeing what is happening in the game and moving into the areas where she can influence the match. Her pace helps in this too. In the above images, you can see the same thing. A teammate has the ball, and Charles is already moving to where she can see the space, and where she can make an impact on the game. This is especially clear when Liverpool Women are attacking, as both of the above images show. The arrows show her movements, so you can see how she has spotted where the space is and is running into it to create an option.
Again though, this would not be possible without sheer raw pace. This is something else that Charles has in abundance.
She has an obvious love of dribbling and is one of those players who wants to keep the ball when she gets it. A lot of players, and coaches for that matter, prefer to play quick football, which gets the ball up the field quickly, but Niamh Charles likes to take it through the opposition’s defence herself. In the image above, you can see this point mapped out; the red arrow shows her movement from the wing into the centre of the pitch, whilst the yellow arrows show the options for passing the ball that she has now created with that run.
The final point to make, with regards to this first theme, is her ability to adjust her runs in order to create space for others. It links to the previous idea about how she can make movements to create space for others.
This is a very specific way of showing this, because Charles has passed the ball to her teammate, in this case, Melissa Lawley, and then moved to the outside of the Brighton and Hove Women defender, whilst Lawley runs inside to help in the attack. What this does to the opponents is it forces the individual defender to stay still, because they can’t move with Charles, as it will leave Lawley free to shoot at goal, and they can’t go with Lawley, because we will see in the next point how much of a threat Charles is when positioned in the wider areas.
This, therefore, shows very clearly how Niamh Charles’ movement can help to influence her side’s attacking play.
Her positioning is being discussed separately because we will look much more at the areas she occupies on the pitch, rather than her runs, passes and movements.
We have seen how she likes to take up positions in wider areas and more central areas, and this is shown more in the images below.
However, a new idea to introduce here is overlapping players. When Charles is playing on the wing, she occasionally works with a teammate to give cause opposing defenders to leave space open. What this overlap entails is, as seen in the first of the two images above, one player has the ball, and draws the defenders towards her, whilst a second player makes the run into the space beyond them, in order to get the ball forwards and attack with it.
In the second image, Charles is the player who is running inside to create the option, and this is only possible because of her pace.
Something that has already been established in this analysis is that Niamh Charles is a versatile player, able to operate in different areas of the pitch. Earlier, it was mentioned that opposing defenders can’t leave her unguarded on the wings, which is what we will come back to now.
You can see how much space she has been given by the opposition, and this is where she becomes a dangerous player. She has a great ability with crosses, which is why it benefits Liverpool Women that she can find these spaces, and why opponents can’t let her run in behind them.
Aside from the space, it creates, allowing her to make crosses into the box, it also helps to stretch the opposing defence. This creates gaps in between the defenders, which her teammates can then exploit, in order to try to get on the end of her crosses.
The second thing to mention with her positioning is to do with Liverpool Women’s formation. Usually, they set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Niamh Charles playing on either the right or left-wing. This allows her to find the spaces and make the passes that we have already spoken about. It is this passing ability that is one of her strengths.
In the above image, you can see the 3-1 part of the formation clearly, and also how much space Charles has to work with, because of her position on the wide area of this setup.
Niamh Charles is however also able to adapt and play in the no. 10 position, behind the striker, and often finds herself in this position anyway. This is where the part about her being versatile comes in.
Liverpool Women play much more freely when Charles is located behind the striker, or strikers, as these images show. You can see how there are two different passing options in the first image and three in the second image, and this is what Liverpool gain when Charles has the ball. Often these situations are set up by her simply dribbling with the ball, again highlighting her importance to this team.
The fact that this is evident in both of these images, and has happened many other times too, shows just how Charles has a natural ability to adapt to different situations and is confident in her work to get on the ball, get it forwards, and move it into the attacking areas.
That is her positioning in attack, but she can also drop back into defence and play her part there too.
You can see how she has slotted into the defensive line, and again her ability to read the play and get several moves ahead means she can see the danger before other players can. The blue arrow shows the pass that was made by the Chelsea Women player, and it would have unlocked the Liverpool Women defence, except for Niamh Charles backpedalling into the space, as illustrated by the red arrow.
So far, we have looked in detail at how her movement on and off the ball, and her skill of positioning herself in good locations on the pitch, add to both her game and to Liverpool’s Now, we can bring them together, to see how she is able to be one of Liverpool’s most important attackers.
Being on the wing doesn’t restrict her positioning, like with any winger, and she has the freedom and pace to run and shoot at goal. There are many reasons why she is able to do this with so much ease. Firstly, her ability to take the ball and dribble with it. Secondly, her positioning to be in that area in the first place. Finally, her pace to ensure she gets away from the defenders chasing her.
The last point to make about her shooting is that she doesn’t just do it from the wider areas.
In both of these images, you can see again how, with Liverpool Women’s striker out of position, Charles has slotted into the box, and has got on the end of the cross put in by her teammate. She can play as a striker, but that would then restrict her movement, and would put an end to some of the things we have talked about in this scout report.
The first image is her goal against West Ham United Women back in December, whilst the second image is taken from the Merseyside derby at Anfield when she collected the ball and fired over. In both situations though, it is everything we have discussed in this tactical analysis that has helped her to be in this position.
In conclusion, whilst Charles is not the oldest player at Liverpool Women, she is undoubtedly one of the most important. Whilst, at the moment at least, it does look like the Reds will be moving to the Women’s Premier League for next season, there is no doubt that Niamh Charles could be one to watch, and is one of the more noticeable up-and-coming stars of English women’s football.