Mexico’s first female professional football league, the Liga MX Feminil, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity since its creation in 2017/18. The league has flourished with fans showing support for their female Liga MX counterparts, filling stadiums by the thousands. The 2019 Liga MX Feminil final-played between Monterrey and Tigres UANL, broke the league’s attendance record with a total of 41,615 fans packed into the Estadio Universitario.
Playing in that Liga MX Femeni final for Tigres, was none other than the promising Mexican international striker: Katty Martinez. The 22-year-old from Nuevo Leon has taken the league by storm, scoring a total of 41 goals in 57 appearances. Her performances have recently sparked rumors of a transfer to the NWSL, with the Houston Dash being cited as notable suitors.
Martinez is continuing to uphold her goalscoring prowess in the 2020 Clausura, scoring five goals in 551 minutes so far this season. In this scout report, we will view why the talents of Martinez are essential to Tigres formidable attack in Liga MX feminil. A comprehensive tactical analysis will also provide factual evidence as to why she is so successful in Tigres attacking play, and how her abilities can be translated with other dynamic tactics.
Martinez has primarily been used by Roberto Medina’s side as a central striker in a flexible 1-4-2-3-1 formation. When viewing Martinez’s heatmap one can see that she operates primarily in central areas of the pitch, but also has a tendency to drop into deeper positions on the left side. This is a typical trend, as her positioning complements the movement of Tigres creative left-winger, Lizbeth Ovalle.
Tigres can rely on Martinez to always be an outlet when playing the ball to her feet. She can be classified as a typical back-to-goal striker that is able to drop into space in front of the backline in order to receive possession. Once in these areas, she is able to bring her teammates into play and also combine to get behind the oppositions defensive lines herself. This can be seen in her simple passing accuracy rating of 78.9%, which shows how consistent she is in the teams build up.
Roberto Medina’s style of play runs largely through the use of Ovalle, Mayor, Navarette, and Martinez. Tigres often look to build from the back methodically and then either look to play forward to Martinez immediately or switch the ball across the backline in order to open up another forward passing lane.
Martinez is especially good at helping Tigres build in the attack by ranking second in Liga MX for attacking contributions with 1.04 average per 90mins. Attacking contributions can be defined as a metric that assigns the xG value of a shot to every player that made any action in the attack that led to the shot. This indicates that Martinez is particularly adept at creating shot chances for herself and the team.
Tigres UANL utilise Martinez as a central striker and even as an occasional #10 in the midfield three. This tactic is traditionally seen when Stephany Mayor is in the lineup, as the two have very good role relationships with who checks into space underneath and who stretches the opposition vertically. These actions are particularly important to Tigres who typically utilise Mayor and Martinez as outlets to build off of going forward. Martinez and Mayor have excellent back to goal abilities which allow them to hold up play for many of the midfielders underneath like Rangel and Antonio. Tigres generally implement many up-back-through patterns of play that place a high demand on the quality of pass being made into the wings for Ovalle and Navarette to receive. This is particularly evident in Tigres play as they lead the league in average crosses per 90 (17.82) and average touches in the penalty area per 90 (17.69).
Martinez’s skillset as a target forward and how they fit into Roberto Medina’s tactics can be viewed through the rosy lens of Marcelo Bielsa’s, “Advanced Area Actions” philosophy. This philosophy highlights the concept of verticality and the idea to penetrate with possession through the opposition’s lines. The use of “Advanced Area Actions” is a term used in certain training exercises to help classify dangerous areas of the pitch that can draw defenders out of space. The spaces in behind the backline and inbetween the midfield/defensive lines are where Martinez is particularly good.
She is very good with her back to goal and often positions herself in areas that are difficult for defenders to engage in. By dropping deep in between the midfield/defensive line, she places many defenders in tough situations to either follow her and apply pressure, or let her receive and turn in a dangerous area. These “mixed positions” are particularly difficult for defenders to deal with as it forces them to cover more ground diagonally in order to apply pressure.
By pulling defenders out of their defensive zones, this opens up more space for players like Ovalle, Mayor, and Navarette to run into. This is particularly evident with the movement of Ovalle, who is a very creative winger who can cut inside and also get in behind defenders in tandem with Martinez’s movement.
Martinez’s positioning is often dependent on where she is receiving service from. Typically Tigres look to methodically rotate the ball across the back before a passing lane opens up vertically. This can be seen from the pass maps of Tigres centre-backs Ferral and Espinoza, who often look to play Martinez’s feet in Tigres build-up.
This indicates how often Martinez is used as a direct outlet for Tigres to penetrate and build off of. This encompasses the goal of Bielsa’s “Advanced Area Actions” which looks to emphasise forward penetration in spaces that the ball may be played into. It is safe to say that Martinez is an integral piece of Roberto Medina’s attacking build-up.
Being a central striker, Martinez’s main duty is to finish opportunities. She finished the 2019 Clausura as Tigres top scorer with 17 goals scored combined with a season accumulated xG of 17.31, placing her in 3rd place in the Liga MX goalscoring charts. Although she is placed 3rd in the league for goals scored, her total minutes played must be acknowledged.
Martinez played a total of 1,845 minutes in last years Clausura, placing her at 9th overall for minutes played out of the Liga MX Feminil’s top ten scorers showing an impressive goalscoring prowess with limited minutes. Monterrey’s Monca Monsivais played a total of 2,517 minutes and scored 23 goals which is 672 more minutes than Martinez. This information can be used to compare Martinez’s impressive goal tally in relationship to minutes played. She accumulated 17 goals over the course of 1,845 minutes in the league and if she played in 600+ more minutes, she could very well be in the 25+ goals range.
After evaluating Martinez’s performance further one can note that her average xG of 0.75 ranks 1st out of all Liga MX strikers. This statistic is particularly telling of her abilities to get into dangerous areas and to finish as she scored a total of 17 goals over the course of the year with a season accumulated xG of 17.31. Clearly, Martinez is able to get into very dangerous attacking scenarios, but her finishing ability can be improved to match the season xG quota.
Out of all the players in Liga MX Feminl, Martinez ranks 6th overall for touches in the penalty area with a rating of 4.63 per 90- which coincides with her goal-scoring prowess. Many of Martinez’s chances come from within the penalty area, which often varies from crossing chances, through balls, and penalty kicks. In the shot map below we can see that many of her chances are created in and around the penalty spot where xG is typically the highest. Martinez’s ability to poach effectively in these dangerous areas can be a reason why her xG is so high as well as her average SOG accuracy, which is ranked 4th out of the league’s top ten scoring strikers with a 49% SOG average.
Martinez is particularly good at arriving late to the box and making near post runs for crossing opportunities. The near post-run is arguably the most fundamental concept that a goal-scoring striker can learn in order to open up space in the box, challenge the keeper, and force defenders out of position. Martinez has almost perfected this skill due to her deceptive ability in the build-up play. As a central striker, she often initiates attacks by combining with midfielders and wide players to get forward underneath.
Any time she senses the ball going into a wide area or any dangerous space in the attacking third, she places herself in “mixed positions” often in between the two centre-backs. This positioning often creates confusion for defenders by questioning who has to mark her. Martinez then uses this to her advantage by flashing in between both markers to make a hard near post-run. The tactic essentially “pins” defenders in the box who are ball watching and not paying attention to Martinez’s movements which focuses on getting into the area between the near post and the edge of the six-yard box.
This ability has been made famous by her fellow Mexican compatriot, Javier Hernandez, who flourished in the EPL and La Liga as a poaching striker for some of the world’s best teams(Manchester United and Real Madrid to name a few). Hernandez almost always had a knack for being in the box at the right time, which was contributed to his proactive positioning that happened well before he reached the penalty area.
Out of Martinez’s 17 goals scored, 47% of them have been from crossing opportunities in the box which is a testament to her timing abilities. If Martinez continues to improve her goal ratio and ability to score consistently inside the penalty area, then a big move to the NWSL or Europe may well be on the cards.
Defensive work rate:
Defensively, Martinez’s main responsibility is to be the first defender in the press. Tigres typically look to press teams high in the oppositions final third and force the ball into wide channels. Martinez contributes to this action by steering play into the channels and cutting off passing lanes that help teams switch the point of attack.
Communication with Stephanie Mayor is key, as the #10 can roll high or drop off to help adhere to Martinez in her pressing actions. These actions have led to Tigres producing a PPDA of 5.19, placing them at 4th overall in Liga MX Feminil for pressing intensity.
Martinez’s own pressing contributions can be shown in the image below. She ranks first in overall pressing percentage in the opposition’s half with 86% of her recoveries coming from this area, but she needs to increase her overall duel win percentage as she ranks 8th out of the league’s top ten strikers with a duel win rate of 35%. This is an area that Martinez can look to improve especially if she wants to move to a more physically demanding league. More data is needed to create a holistic analysis of her actual pressing ability across all strikers in the league, but the top ten goal scorers sample does provide enough framework for how each top striker works defensively in their respective team environments.
There is no doubting Martinez’s abilities in attack for Tigres UANL, as the young Mexican international has continuously improved in the Liga MX Feminil. On the other hand, she does need to improve her defensive work rate and become more clinical, as her xG value provides evidence that she could be scoring more goals. Only time will tell if Martinez will make the jump to Europe or the NWSL, but the future is bright for one of Liga MX Feminil’s best talents.