Sofie Junge-Pedersen 2019/20: Paris Saint-Germain Feminine midfield options – scout report
Last week I posted the first scout report of the series about Paris Saint-Germain Feminine’s midfield conundrum. This is in an extended series between Gavin Robertson and I identifying and understanding PSG and their flaws. Using this analysis, we sought to find transfer targets that could help alleviate their issues. I initially used data analysis to understand and narrow down a list of potential targets who could replace the veteran midfielder, Formiga. After using a cluster of 14 targets, we had narrowed down our search to three potential players – Sandie Toletti, Sofie Junge-Pedersen, and Lindsay Horan. I analysed Toletti as a player and how she could potentially affect and fit into a strong PSG side in a tactical sense. Having covered Toletti last week, this tactical analysis will focus around the Juventus Women midfielder, Junge-Pedersen.
Sofie Junge-Pedersen & Juventus Women’s play style
As we mentioned earlier, Paris Saint-Germain Feminine require a new central defensive midfield option with Formiga entering the final stages of her career. Her lack of mobility is a real issue that requires PSG to have more mobile central midfielders around her. Scouting targets that can alleviate this issue and bring the same if not better level of passing and defensive discipline will go a long way in helping PSG and closing the gap with Olympique Lyon.
It’s worth looking at how Junge-Pedersen fits in to Juventus Women’s tactics for us to completely understand her role. Juventus often set up in a 4-3-3 (41%) or 4-2-3-1 (25%) formation. While they start off in the aforementioned positions, the team are quite fluid and flexible in their movements and shape with players interchanging positions all whilst remaining defensively compact in midfield. The team looks to play passes between the centre-backs and full-backs trying to find their way into the wide areas. Their main goal is to find the two inside forwards either through direct passes from the centre-backs or full-backs. Junge-Pedersen acts as a passing option from her defensive midfield position.
This is where Junge-Pedersen is crucial due to her ability to play between thirds and cover large distances. She can pick up possession from deep areas and transition them between the thirds to ensure the ball has progressed to the final third. More often than not the Dane uses her late runs to pull players away and always give her teammates passing options and tracks back to provide defensive support.
Junge-Pedersen can be considered a deep-lying box-to-box midfielder or a ‘Segundo Volante’. Being one of the most complete roles in world football today, it is a demanding role that expects a lot from the player’s proficiency as an offensive and defensive midfielder. The player is essentially a hook between attack and defence, being able to transition between the thirds whilst contributing to both ends of the pitch.
A dynamo, the Danish international plays in a similar fashion for Juventus Women with her starting position deep, and depending on the phase of play, will make runs into the final third. Now that we have a better understanding of Junge-Pedersen’s position and role within the team, we can now look at the same two metrics we analysed Toletti in our last scout report.
Being a natural defensive midfielder, Junge-Pedersen is a proficient defensive player. Using her positional awareness and intelligence, the Danish international is able to effectively win back possession. Whether it’s by putting off the opposition player by forcing a misplaced pass or winning back the ball directly, Junge-Pedersen is very capable in a defensive capacity.
Looking at her statistics again, we can see she averages 9.82 defensive duels per 90 minutes, 6.53 interceptions per 90 minutes, and a whopping 14.61 recoveries with 49% being in the opposition half. This is a vital bit of information which gives us a big indication that Junge-Pedersen is as involved in the final third as she is in the middle or defensive third of the pitch.
These maps against Sassuolo and Inter Women indicate to us that Junge-Pedersen indeed does play according to the pace and tempo of the game. On the left, we can see her interceptions made against Sassuolo, where 10 of 13 were made in the middle or defensive third whereas, against Inter, they were all won in the final third. The game against Inter shows their dominance on the ball which can be shown by their 51.63% possession. What makes Junge-Pedersen such an effective player in both boxes is her ability to switch positions quickly and understand where she needs to be at that moment.
As we can see in this example against Roma, Junge-Pedersen is tracking back to defend against the Roman counter-attack. Here we can see the distance and space she has to cover to defend. The Dane recognises that if she does not drop into the space and close down the ball carrier, the centre-back will be exposed and have to press high, leaving the onrushing striker to run in behind. Junge-Pedersen manages to get back in time and not only get behind the ball but dispossess the attacker alleviating pressure off Juventus.
Paris Saint-Germain Feminine may be a more possession dominant team against a number of teams in Division 1 Feminine, however, the teams in the latter stages of the Champions League and Lyon will keep the majority of possession. Junge-Pedersen’s movement and positioning will become a key factor in both scenarios. Having a player of her skillset alongside a more attacking Nadia Nadim and mobile Grace Geyoro gives their midfield balance.
Most importantly, Junge-Pedersen is a statistical improvement on Formiga from a defensive aspect. Formiga averaged 8.50 defensive duels per 90 minutes and 12.25 recoveries per 90 minutes. The Dane’s numbers are higher which means she would provide better defensive cover making PSG much more solid at the back. Given the central defenders’ preference to step into midfield to attack aerial duels, Junge-Pedersen’s presence should make them feel much safer to step forward.
Another metric we’ve been looking at is the player’ ability to create goal-scoring chances through their running, dribbling, and passing ability. For Junge-Pedersen though, making runs with the ball is not her strongest asset. She is more reliant on excellent positioning, anticipation, and passing. Looking back at her statistics, the Dane only averages 0.60 progressive runs per 90 minutes which means she isn’t one to make too many on the ball runs. However, where she is most effective is her off the ball running and acting as a link player between defence and attack.
This can be seen through her forward passes per 90 minutes of 17.33 of which 12.53 are successful with her received passes per 90 minutes at 29. This section will focus on her passing and linkup play and see how it can benefit PSG. From her defensive midfield position, Junge-Pedersen usually acts as a passing option for the centre-backs and more often than not will release a pass forward. She doesn’t dwell on the ball longer than she needs to because her strengths lie in running between the lines.
Depending on the opposition and situation of the game, Junge-Pedersen will position herself in different areas of midfield. If we take the game against Inter, in the first half, Junge-Pedersen positioned herself in a deeper midfield position, staying close to her central defenders and midfielders, allowing her teammates to press high whilst she provided defensive cover. However, the second half saw a tactical change with the Dane being pushed further up the pitch and was tasked with providing a link and provide support in pressing Inter’s defenders.
Inter focused their build-up play by playing passes out to the central midfielders and full-backs. Juventus wanted to push two to three players to press Inter high and catch them on the counter-attack. From here they could take advantage of two strengths: Junge-Pedersen’s box-to-box ability and her passing ability.
As we mentioned earlier, she’ll pick up possession smartly and keep the ball for as long as she needs to. In 14 Serie A matches, Junge-Pedersen has averaged 11.8 losses per 90 minutes, however, looking closer at the data, she has lost possession more than her average in just five of those matches. The rest of her games has seen lose less. What is even more important is that the losses in her own half equate to just 32.1%.
Through this, she was able to have an effect on both boxes. While the graph above is the number of recoveries the Dane made against Inter, it still implies the desired effect of showing her influence on both sides of the pitch.
This example comes from the recent match against Sassuolo, where we can see Junge-Pedersen in a smart midfield possession in space. The midfielder is in acres of space with no opposition player in close to press her. Notice Juventus’ lone striker occupied by the Sassuolo central defender. Junge-Pedersen’s aim is to try and find a way to move possession towards her.
Junge-Pedersen’s first touch is excellent and is what makes her forward movement efficient and possible. The touch takes the ball away from the onrushing defender and forces the other players to try and close her down quickly. The centre-back’s attention is now occupied by the Danish midfielder which allows the Juve centre-forward to make a run in behind. Junge-Pedersen doesn’t linger on the ball for long and manages to play an acute through pass behind Sassuolo’s defensive line.
Is Sofie Junge-Pedersen the answer?
Based on the analysis above, I think it’s safe to conclude that Junge-Pedersen is much more mobile and excellent in a defensive capacity. She has an effect in the final third through her effective running and passing but is defensively stronger than Toletti. Junge-Pedersen has the ability to improve and I think playing in a more competitive league with better quality players will give the Dane a platform to grow into one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world.
An apt comparison I can make is one to Tiemoue Bakayoko, who provided quality, thrust, and energy into Monaco’s midfield during their semi-final run in the Champions League and Ligue 1 title. The French midfielder played in a defensive midfield role but used his excellent running and power to act as a nuisance in both boxes. Junge-Pedersen has similar qualities and looks to be even better on the ball than Bakayoko.
Lindsay Horan had a stint at Paris Saint-Germain Feminine for a number of years and will unlikely move the French capital again. Thus looking at the two options, my choice would be the Junge-Pedersen. She is 27-years-old, experienced, and the type of midfielder that could provide PSG with what they need in midfield as shown in this tactical analysis.