With the transfer window in full swing and the dust settled from this summers Women’s World Cup, clubs are now looking to strengthen their squads off the back of the tournament. One such team looking to build on their successive Primera Division titles is Atletico Madrid. With Barcelona signing Jennifer Hermoso and CD Tacon (Real Madrid’s newly formed women’s team) signing Kosovore Aslani, Atletico Madrid needed to look for striking reinforcements.
They announced the signing of Toni Duggan on a free transfer after she chose not to extend her contract with Barcelona at the end of last season. Of the available players this summer, Duggan represents a shrewd signing given her experience around Europe and experience in Spain. But, what kind of player is Toni Duggan and how can her attributes compliment Atletico Madrid’s tactics?
Toni Duggan – Manchester’s very own
Toni Duggan is a 27-year-old versatile centre-forward who has played for Manchester City, Barcelona and has numerous caps for England. Duggan is a poacher style forward who’s main strength includes intricate movements, smart positioning and, clinical shooting inside the penalty area.
Her pace and work rate make her an ideal candidate to press players playing at either left-wing or centre-forward, though she isn’t as polished in that department. Duggan, however, possesses decent link-up play for both England and Barcelona giving her another edge to her game.
Tactical Analysis – Positioning & movement
Atletico Madrid signed Duggan for her goal-scoring prowess and that she brings in abundance. Her strongest quality is her ability to find the smallest of spaces inside the penalty area and work on the smallest of margins. The Madrid side scored 64+ goals in the 2018/19 season with Hermoso scoring 24, those goals needed to be replaced. Even though Duggan hasn’t been able to hit the heights of Hermoso in either season with Barcelona, she can improve with the high pressing game tactics employed by Jose Sanchez Vera.
The striker’s two seasons in Spain yielded 29 goals with an identical record of 14 and 15 goals per season. Tricking defenders with her pace and intelligence in short spaces amounts to her incredible goal-scoring ability. If we look at her statistics, an xG of 0.38 per 90, Duggan has surpassed her expected goals ratio by actually scoring at a rate of 0.40 per 90.
Duggan’s build-up and movement involves very short movements in and around the 18-yard area. The majority of her goals for Barcelona has seen Duggan take up smart positions making late darts across defenders gaining a slight advantage over them. She averages 2.96 touches in the box which makes her extremely efficient.
As the heat map above shows, Duggan stations herself around the penalty area, preferring to play off the left side. What you may notice is her incredible activity on the left-wing, which stems from her versatility as a left winger. Duggan’s movement stems from her anticipation of the balls coming through to her. She is able to accurately predict the trajectory of her teammates passes and move precisely where she needs to be. Effective strikers are able to anticipate the whereabouts of the ball and knowing when they need to move is an innate ability that separates them from other strikers. Javier Hernandez was a proficient poacher for Manchester United, who time and time again was able to effectively get on the end of through balls and crosses with precision timing.
As the graphics below indicate, we can see Duggan making a move away from the closest defender trying to maintain the gap between the two centre-backs.
Once the ball is crossed into the box, the English striker makes a quick dash across the centre-back undetected and is able to collect possession to score. The two defenders are both slow to react and are caught up aware. This is how Duggan is able to manipulate space around her, moving defenders at her pace, making them react rather than anticipate.
Part of striking repertoire is her ability to play against teams that look to defend in compact blocks. Poachers rely on space in behind opposition backlines to be able to fully utilise their immense pace to create one versus one opportunities. Her ability to adjust her position yet still find space makes her contributions to Atletico Madrid much more valuable.
As the graphics highlight, Duggan is sandwiched between two defenders, who hold a compact, low line. There are several defenders between the ball carrier and Duggan, but holds her position till the winger crosses the ball in and runs forward just as the defenders think they have dealt with the delivery. It bypasses everyone and Duggan’s gamble pays off as she scores a simple tap in.
On the ball ability
Many modern forwards are usually proficient in all aspects of forward play but Duggan’s play is reminiscent of a straight forward speedy number nine. Duggan is not only a proficient goal scorer but has the potential to play in her teammates whilst creating space around her when in possession. Her versatility by playing left wing for England has enabled her to adapt to a new position and soak up the attributes required to play there. Being able to link up with teammates, creating space for the overlapping full-back or underlapping midfielder has benefited her spatial awareness. The following examples will display her effectiveness in different areas and how she’s been able to create the play.
As the above example highlights, Barcelona look to seize upon a ball they won high up the pitch through the interception. Duggan recognises this and looks to drive into the space in front of her pulling her marker with her. The image indicates the two players she could potentially play in on either side. She uses her movement to create space for her two wingers by pulling one into another, whilst the third defender is busy ball watching.
Another example of Duggan creating space is through her hold up play. While she doesn’t play with her back to goal very often as is seen in her 10.22 offensive duels per 90. She looks to attract multiple defenders and allow runners off her. At Barcelona, she played alongside two incredibly quick wingers who made runs in and out of possession.
As the graphics below show, Duggan backs into the defender and patiently waits for possession. As the ball is received, Duggan attracts the attention of three defenders, giving her teammate a free run into the penalty area. Duggan’s slightly weak pass just evades the onrushing winger but it showed the potential the England striker has when it comes to evolving her game.
English players have been much more open to moving abroad and succeeding in the women’s game. Earlier this week Alex Greenwood was announced as Olympique Lyon’s latest signing challenging Amel Majri for the left-back position. Duggan has shown an incredible ability to settle and improve Barcelona with the number of goals she scored. Her decision to stay in Spain is great for the league and with Hermoso leaving Atletico Madrid for Barcelona, she comes in as a more than adequate replacement.
It will be interesting to see if she can replicate Hermoso’s goal record this season. With Real Madrid’s women’s team being established this season signing a number of world-class players, the league can become very competitive this season.
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