Kit Graham is one of the rising talents of the FA Women’s Super League, having forged a path from the lower divisions. Her prolific goal-scoring exploits for Charlton Athletic resulted in her netting a remarkable 47 goals in the 2017/18 season, helped the Addicks to promotion to the Championship.
She impressed again in her first season at a higher level, scoring 16 goals in 19 games and being named Championship Player of the Year.
The 24-year-old signed for newly promoted Tottenham Hotspur in August 2019 as part of an influx of players to strengthen Karen Hills’ and Juan Amoros’ squad for their first season in the FAWSL.
This tactical analysis shows adaptability has been a hallmark of Graham’s game this season, switching between centre forward, right- and left-sided forward, and central midfield roles throughout the 2019/20 FAWSL campaign.
Graham’s combination of physicality, technique, and determination allows her to play across the midfield and forward line, with Tottenham using her ability to play a range of positions to meet their changing tactical requirements for different opponents.
Here she is pictured playing on the right of an attacking central midfield duo in the fixture against Birmingham.
Meanwhile in the footage against Reading, she can be seen playing on the right of midfield.
Although she has the all-round game to play in this wide variety of roles, one wonders if Graham could excel further if Spurs allowed her to make one position her own, particularly given her prolific scoring record when played in the forward line at Charlton.
Technical ability and chance creation
A scout report of Graham demonstrates a range of abilities and movements that make her a threat in the attacking third.
An exceptional striker of the ball with her favoured left foot, Graham has already established herself as a ‘go-to’ set-piece option for Spurs, particularly with her delivery of accurate, whipped inswinging corners from the right.
This ability also allows her to switch play, especially when playing in central midfield or wide areas. Graham has the awareness to get her head up and notice when the opposition defence has become over compact and drive the ball to teammates positioned in space. This image from the match against Birmingham demonstrates one such driven switch to the opposite flank.
Graham’s fierce ball-striking also makes her a shooting threat from range. She scored a brace from outside the box against Bristol City and certainly isn’t afraid to shoot at goal, with data analysis showing an average of 3.51 shots per 90: putting her among the league’s leading performers in this metric. The image shows the first of her goals in the Bristol game, hit with exceptional power into the top corner of the net.
There is perhaps an argument that Graham can develop her judgement around when she takes shots on, given this large number of attempts resulted in an expected goals tally of just 0.18 xG – ranking 39th in the league. This reflects her willingness to shoot from range, but given the low-value nature of these strikes in terms of how often they are expected to go in, if she can somehow find a balance between taking on long shots and getting herself into more goal-scoring positions in the penalty area, we would expect to see Graham’s goal tally increase.
Nevertheless, her ability to hit a ball from distance is a valuable weapon against teams who would look to play in a low block against Spurs.
Nor should it be overlooked that Graham has netted three times in the FAWSL, second only in the Tottenham squad to Rianna Dean (4). The team has certainly found goals harder to come by in the top-flight: Spurs have scored 15 times in 2019/20 FAWSL with an Expected Goals total of 16.3 xG, which is roughly in line with their sixth-place league position.
A combination of a low centre of gravity, athleticism, and strong technique means that Graham is particularly adept at retaining the ball in tight spaces.
This ability to deal with the football when under pressure from multiple opponents and then work herself into a position to play forwards, allows her to fashion shooting opportunities for herself and teammates.
The scatter graph, made using data from FBref, demonstrates Graham’s dribbling is often part of shot-creating actions (the two offensive actions leading directly to a shot) for Tottenham. Analysis shows nine of her dribbles in the 2019/20 FAWSL season have directly led to shots for either Graham or her teammates, ranking fifth in the league for this metric per 90 minutes played.
We can see this ability from the footage against Arsenal: Graham receives the ball under pressure on the edge of the box, but retains possession before turning and dancing around opponents to unleash a strike that goes narrowly wide.
This image against Reading offers a further example of Graham’s technical prowess and balance. The series of images below shows Graham controlling a high clearance with her chest as the Reading player closes in on her.
She then flicks the ball over the oncoming defender as it drops, controlling the ball with her chest again on the other side and releasing the Spurs’ attack with a cushioned pass on the volley. The ball did not touch the floor from her first touch to her last.
Graham also possesses imagination and creative ability which allows her to trouble defenders when she is in a 1 v 1. Graham missed a chance to give Tottenham the lead in the derby against Arsenal when through on goal, but we should acknowledge the skill with which she created the opportunity for herself.
The picture below shows Graham coming short to receive a pass 40 yards from the Arsenal goal, with seemingly little danger to the Gunner’s backline. Graham though dummies to let the pass run behind her, spinning to meet the ball on the other side of Arsenal’s Jennifer Beattie and accelerating through. This was an exceptional piece of invention and awareness, despite the aid of a slight ricochet off the defender.
Another feature of Graham’s 1 v 1 game is her ability to ‘pin’ opponents, allowing the ball to be fired into her with her back to goal, where Graham’s combination of strength and a good first touch allows her to keep her body between the defender and the ball, before rolling her marker and setting off towards goal, as demonstrated in the image below from the game against Reading.
Graham is a burgeoning talent within the FAWSL. Although she has yet to produce the outstanding goal return she did in the Championship and lower divisions, Tottenham clearly see her as an important player for the future, extending her deal in January until 2021.
She is a hugely adaptable footballer who has the technical ability and athleticism to play in a range of roles.
Graham combines technical ability with strength and a low centre of gravity, enabling her ‘to stay on the ball’ and evade markers. This allows her to set up shots for herself and teammates, even in situations where opponents have numerical superiority. Graham can deliver accurate set-pieces and hit powerful shots from range, which she is never afraid to take on.
She is what coaches would term a ‘1 v 1 dominant’ player, adept at retaining the ball and evading pressure to play forwards, whether her marker is tight behind, approaching from the side or facing her.
If Tottenham can improve their creative play, and if Graham can work at getting herself closer to goal more often, as well being judicious about when to use her long-range shooting skills and when to look to progress the ball to a teammate, she has the tools to feature at the top of the FAWSL scoring charts.