Everton FC have made steady progress through the first thirteen games of the 2019/20 FAWSL season, currently occupying the sixth position. They have won six and lost six of these thirteen games but have achieved only one win in their last six outings. One key player who is having a prolific goal-scoring season is twenty-two-year-old Chloe Kelly. Kelly has scored a total of nine goals from eleven appearances this season, at an average of 0.81 goals per game or a goal during every 108 minutes of play. This tactical analysis will provide a scouting report of Kelly’s role and responsibilities within Willie Kirk‘s Everton team.
Kelly began her career at Arsenal WFC, making her debut in 2015 before initially joining Everton during two loan spells in 2016 and 2017 before making the full transition in 2018.
Everton FC tactical approach
Everton Women traditionally adopt a 4-3-3 system, the tactics translate this to a 4-1-4-1 approach when out of possession and a 2-3-2-3 approach when in possession. Everton have employed a defensive four, single number six pivot, two attacking central midfielders, and three forwards. Depending on the opposition and in order to provide the most productive match-ups and effective tactical approach, Everton Women have also utilised a double six central pivot. The switch is generally to counter an opposition implementing 4-3-3 vs. a 4-4-2 approach.
Kelly’s role is one of the wide forward positions, as evident in the territorial coverage map below. She clearly occupies and looks to influence the wide zones. Everton utilise ‘loose’ initial positioning, in that specific principles of play are implemented, but which specific player occupies which role is interchangeable. Kelly can switch between the right and left wide areas in order to have a higher impact on the team’s final third play. Discussed later will also be Everton’s interesting interchange play in these wide zones between the wide forward, wide defender, and central attacking midfielder.
Out of possession, Everton attempt to pressure the oppositions central defenders using one central forward. The responsibility of the wide forwards when defending in the middle and final thirds is to deny the vertical passing lane forward/behind and deny the opponent’s wide defender the ability to receive behind them, facing forward. Kelly, within Everton’s tactical pressing approach, is often required to drop deeper and form part of the defensive line of four in the middle third.
The three diagrams below highlight Kelly’s role without the ball in Everton’s defensive tactical approach. The first two demonstrate the midfield line of four, with the two wide forwards dropping deeper to form a midfield block with the two central attacking midfielders. The third diagram in this sequence shows how deep Kelly is required to defend 1 v 1 against Tottenham’s right defender, Ashleigh Neville. Everton also can apply higher pressure, utilising Kelly’s speed. Situationally this could be versus opponents that are less adept at building out possession or do so in certain ways or during specific moments in the game, for example, being a goal down.
Goal scoring threat
As mentioned previously, Kelly is currently in excellent goal scoring form and is the 4th leading goal scorer in the FAWSL. She offers a multi-faceted attacking threat including both receiving through passes, scoring from within the penalty area, and is also a danger from direct attacking set-pieces.
Kelly’s main attacking strength is that she looks to receive through balls by utilising timing, the direction of movement and speed to stretch behind the opposition’s defensive line. When Everton are attacking in the middle to final thirds, Kelly looks to play on the back shoulder of the opposition’s defensive line and provide a through ball passing option to run onto. She often uses her ability to cut inside from the wide zone exploits spaces vacated by the central forward. The angled runs that are implemented, offers an opportunity for straighter pass options between and behind the defensive line.
Below are four examples which show Kelly’s danger when Everton have a player in possession, facing forward, in the middle to final thirds, with space behind the defensive line. In the first example, Everton’s central attacking midfielder has space to face forward, Tottenham’s defensive line is stretched wide. Kelly has timed her run to be both onside due to the positioning of the central defender and able to be behind Tottenham’s wide defender.
The second diagram is of a transitional moment, Everton have won possession of the ball in the middle to final thirds. Kelly’s first thought is forward and due to her speed and curved run, the unorganised Reading defensive line can be exploited. The final two diagrams in this sequence are more examples of Kelly’s positive diagonal running behind the opposition to receive vertical passes.
Kelly is also a danger as a finisher within the penalty area. The shot distribution chart below shows that Kelly has taken 22.4% from the left, 69% central and only 8.6% of her shots from the right-hand side. This shows her tendency to cut inside from the left-hand side in order to utilise her dominant foot when striking on goal. Kelly is also a more consistent and accurate finisher from inside the penalty area, scoring on 29% of shots inside the area vs. only 4.2% when shooting from outside the penalty area.
Lastly, Kelly is also a goal threat as Everton’s set-piece taker. She takes both corners and attacking free kicks. She has scored directly from a corner kick vs. Reading this season, the second goal of her hat trick in this game.
Interchanging positional play
During non-transition moments, Everton implement interesting positional rotations in order to generate a free player in the middle third of the field and progress the ball through the thirds. Three main patterns of play are evident involving Kelly as one of the wide forwards. These patterns are generated by giving the front five less positional restrictions and involve rotations primarily between the wide forward, the central attacking midfielder, and the wide defender.
Option 1 is for Kelly to drop deeper, in between the opponent’s midfield and defensive line, attempt to receive a vertical ball, face forward on reception and attack towards the opponent’s goal. This option is implemented when the opponents pressing strategy denies the wide pass into Everton’s wide defender and space is created centrally for Kelly to move into.
For this to occur, Everton’s central attacking midfielder has two options and roles. These are a) maintain the diamond shape by occupying central spaces or b) drawing the opposition central midfielder into the wide channel by rotating into this space. The second option is particularly effective when playing against a 4-4-2 system which has only two players defending the central zone. When Everton move a central midfielder into the wide zone, Kelly can then rotate inside, effectively creating a potential 2 v 1 situation. Both these examples can be seen within the diagrams below.
Option 2 is for Kelly to maintain height and move into the half-space zone in order to ‘fix’ the oppositions wide defender high and inside, thus creating space in the wide channel for Everton’s wide defender to exploit. This specific tactical strategy is implemented when Everton have a free player with the ability to face forward in the central zone and the wide defender, in this example, Danielle Turner can move into an advanced position that is in line or past the oppositions wide forward.
During option 3, Kelly maintains height in order to ‘fix’ the opposition’s wide defender both wider and higher in order to create space for the central attacking midfielder to receive between the opponent’s defensive and midfield lines. This has the added benefit of stretching the opposition’s defensive line horizontally and creating through ball options.
Only occasionally utilised, but another tactical approach is to ‘free’ Kelly when occupying the wide zone is to invert the wide defender. In the diagram below, Taylor Hinds, the Everton right defender has moved into the central attacking space, leaving Kelly space to rotate wide and deeper. In this specific example, Brighton remained compact and were not drawn out the 4-4-2 defensive shape, forcing Everton to play a direct pass into a 2 v 4 numbers down situation.
In summary, this article and analysis has highlighted the key importance of Chloe Kelly within Everton’s system of play and tactical approach. By understanding initially how Everton attempt to impact play in and out of position, Chloe Kelly’s roles and responsibilities within the tactical approach are evident and clear.
By being a multi-faceted attacking threat, especially in transition and threatening the space behind the defensive line, but also within the penalty area and combining this with an important role during build-up play, Kelly is an integral player for Everton. The opposition during scouting and match preparation will need to implement specific strategies to minimize the danger she provides.