Barcelona Femini have come flying out of the gates to start the new campaign. Wins against Sevilla, CD Tacon, and defending champions Atletico Madrid – in dominant fashion – have put Barcelona on top of the Primera Division going into the international break. One player who has started this season brightly for the Catalonians and will be relied upon heavily is Jennifer Hermoso.
Jennifer Hermoso makes her return to the club she scored 77 goals for in 90 matches between 2013 and 2017. Barcelona won both the league and the Copa de la Reina twice in that period. Since then, Hermoso has been moving clubs each year. In 2017/18, she helped Paris Saint-Germain finish second in France’s Division 1 while winning the Coupe de France. In 2018/19, she moved to Atletico Madrid, scoring 24 goals in 28 matches en route to the league title.
Now, Hermoso makes her return to Barcelona. The club are looking for their first league title in 5 years. They will also be trying to win their first Champions League following their defeat in the final at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais last campaign. So, how has Hermoso’s return aided Barcelona’s tactics?
This scout report will involve a detailed tactical analysis on why the Catalonian side brought back the proficient attacker. We will look at Hermoso’s style of play, and how it will work alongside Barcelona’s plethora of other attacking talent.
Hermoso is best described as a complete forward. One of the most impressive facets of her game is the ability to play in just about any attacking position. Typically, Hermoso is deployed as a centre-forward, but during matches, you will often see her take up positions all across the forward line. Below you can see her average heatmap.
The former Atletico Madrid forward does her best work dropping deeper into the half-spaces. In these areas she can combine with teammates and also look to attack herself should the opportunity present itself. On average, she completes 48.24 passes per match, with an 84.7% completion rate. In comparison to this, Toni Duggan, who Atletico Madrid signed from Barcelona to replace Hermoso, averages 29.32 passes per match at 77% completion. This statistic shows the Spaniard’s higher focus on combining with teammates rather than consistently looking to get on the end of moves.
Hermoso is very selective when she makes her runs forward. Playing deeper than a traditional number nine, she makes fewer attempts to get behind the defence. However, she is very efficient in making these types of runs. The Spaniard gets called for offside .26 times per match on average. Comparing her to Duggan once again, the English striker is called for offside .75 times a match, almost three times her replacement.
Hermoso’s versatility is undoubtedly her biggest asset. Along with her ability dropping deeper, she is equally adept at playing out on the wing. Herself and Mariona have found large success in the early weeks floating in between the left-wing and striker position. While Hermoso is naturally left-footed, she is almost as dangerous on her right. In the 9-1 victory of CD Tacon, Hermoso rounded off her hat-trick by cutting in from the left half-space. About 19-yards from goal, she used her right foot to curl an effort into the opposite corner.
Movement & positioning
Hermoso tries to get into the space between the centre-half and full-back. She prefers this area for two main reasons. When play is moved into a wide position, getting into this area on the opposite side presents her with an ability to be a threat on crosses. The full-back must remain honest with their positioning due to the wide player in Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation. So she is normally isolated on the blind-side of the centre-half. This gives her every option of where to make her run into and forces the defender to be reactionary to her movement rather than dictating where she has room to move.
As you can see above, Barcelona are switching possession from the right side of the pitch to the left. As the wide player receives this pass, Hermoso adjusts her positioning. While the defenders are focusing on adjusting their shape for the new position of the ball, the Spanish striker is drifting into her preferred space. Below you can see Hermoso has found the blind side of the centre-half to use to make her run for a cross.
This area is also her favoured place to receive possession to feet. Moving into the half-space creates separation between her and the defensive markers. The wingers will keep the full-backs from moving inside to defend her. This leaves the centre-halves with a difficult decision to make: follow her and break the defensive line or allow her time to receive possession.
If the centre-half follows her, Hermoso’s ability to hold up play and distribute to teammates allows her midfielders and wingers to move forward to expose the vacant space. If the striker is given room to receive possession and turn, she can use her dangerous finishing ability to finish moves herself from this position.
Hermoso’s ability to drop deep in possession is a perfect fit for Barcelona. The Catalonian side have an array of attacking threats that can get forward and score goals. Spanish attacker Mariona scored 9 goals in 20 matches last campaign. She has played mostly out on the left so far this season and has shown a great understanding with Hermoso to float in between the wing and up top as we mentioned above.
Aitana Bonmati and Alexia Putellas are two of the most lethal midfielders in the women’s game. They combined for 28 goals last season, and already have three so far this season. When you look at the tactics Barcelona use to get this output from these deeper positions, Hermoso’s positioning works perfectly with this. She constantly moves around the pitch, creating and finding space in different areas. This helps make it almost impossible to man-mark Barcelona’s attacking players.
Above you can see an example of this in Barcelona’s first leg match against Juventus. Hermoso drops deep on the right side of play to provide support to the winger and full-back. As she moves into this position, the central midfielder steps forward into the space that has opened up due to the striker’s movement. The centre-halves have over-committed to this side of the field to track Hermoso, which leaves space in behind. Hermoso uses her passing ability to lift the ball over the defender to her teammate.
Hermoso averages 5.58 passes into the final third. This high number for a forward is indicative of her tending to play as a centre-forward rather than a traditional number nine. The truly remarkable part about this statistic, however, is the completion rate of 85.1%. In comparison, Bonmati averages 6.04 passes into the final third with 77.9% success.
Ability to find space
A key attribute Hermoso possesses that separates her from other centre-forwards is the ability to find space. If she is not involved in the play, she is scanning her surroundings as it progresses. She uses this analysis to find where the best opportunity for a goal will come from. From there, she figures out where she needs to be to help the attack.
A tactic Hermoso likes to use is working in an offside position. This typically occurs when she is set up on the opposite side of the field as the possession is being held. Hermoso makes a run in behind the defensive line presenting an option as an outlet. When she does not receive this pass, she waits. If the attack continues forward, the striker stays offside to try and expose the defence.
Left alone, she has the time and vision to find an area to jump back into an onside position and punish them immediately. However, if they move back to track her, it opens the field and makes it easier for Barcelona to move forward.
She will also look to create space when she drops back to assist in Barcelona’s buildup. As she leaves her marker in the centre of defence, typically another attacking player will move into this position. As a centre-midfielder, Hermoso’s intelligence as a striker makes her extremely dangerous in this position.
When the attack is moved forward, normally down one of the wings, Hermoso uses this intelligence to find space in the box. Her late runs can be used as the crossing option for her to have a chance to score. This also forces the defence to react quickly. If she is allowed to run into space unmarked, she is easily capable of finishing from any angle on a cross. As well, if the defence tries to step forward to cover her it opens up space for a teammate to run into.
These are just two of the many ways Jennifer Hermoso attempts to find space. She is constantly moving during a match and causing trouble for any defence she comes up against. This is a major asset for the Barcelona team. Lluis Cortes will be able to find countless ways to use Hermoso’s ability to generate opportunities in his tactics.
Hermoso’s signing was a major statement of intent for Barcelona following their defeat to Lyon in Budapest. The striker will provide the team with guaranteed goals and help in the buildup that will undoubtedly lead to even more output. If she can replicate her scoring rate with Atletico Madrid, the Catalonian side will be looking to win every competition they are involved in.
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