It was announced recently that France midfielder Lea Le Garrec would be leaving FA Women’s Super League club Brighton and Hove Albion to sign for French Division One side FC Fleury 91.

Brighton manager Hope Powell has already gone on the record as saying the club wanted to keep Le Garrec, who has cited family reasons for her move, after a single impressive season in England.

In this tactical analysis, we will examine why Brighton were keen to keep Le Garrec and the sort of player FC Fleury 91 have gained.

Playing positions

Our scout report shows Le Garrec is capable of playing as either a box-to-box central midfielder, in a more advanced role at the top of the midfield or as a ‘number 10’ playing off a central striker.

This is demonstrated from her heat map (below) in the FAWSL for 2019/20, which shows her getting around the pitch in the midfield engine room or taking up the more advanced position which Brighton preferred to play her in as the season wore on.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Ball winning

An outstanding feature of Le Garrec’s game, whether in central midfield or playing as a 10, is her tackling ability. This was especially valuable in a Brighton team whose tactics were to win the ball as high up the pitch as possible.

Le Garrec ranked 16th in the FAWSL for number of players tackled (38) and 7th for number of tackles won. These are impressive numbers for an attacking midfielder.

Key to Le Garrec’s success is her work rate and appetite to recover the ball.

When played as a 10, Le Garrec is constantly looking to hunt the ball down and for an opportunity to press, timing her pressure on the ball as soon as the opponent positions their body incorrectly or takes an errant touch. She is highly switched on to these pressing triggers and keeps her focus in the transition moments.

In the footage here against Bristol, we can see Le Garrec catching the midfielder unawares with a sudden burst of acceleration as she recovers back towards her own goal to steal the ball back for Brighton.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

This desire and skill to press the ball carrier is evidenced again below against Manchester United. Le Garrec patiently holds the team shape, but then is extremely aware and presses with speed and power as soon as she sees a trigger to press: in this case a slow sideways pass and a slightly heavy touch: the defender here was subsequently fortunate to barely recover and prevent a goal.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Turning tackles into counters

When deployed in deeper midfield areas, Le Garrec again displays superb timing and strength in the tackle but can then use her power to drive away from the opponent she has dispossessed to launch her team forward into space.

Below, against Liverpool, Le Garrec has prevailed in a defensive duel against two opponents and then takes them out of the game, by not only winning the challenge despite being outnumbered but then accelerating off into the space they have vacated.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Le Garrec also has the intelligence to realise when it’s not on to burst forwards immediately with the ball, but still tries to make sure her tackle or interception results in progressive play to catch the opponent in transition, by moving the ball on and then making a forward run.

Against Bristol below, is one such example: Le Garrec has made the interception, but cannot drive forward herself in this case. Instead she slips the ball to her teammate and then explodes past the defender at pace in order to receive the return pass.  This way she still capitalises on winning the ball in a positive fashion.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Shots and through balls

Le Garrec though is far more than an ‘out of possession’ player. Although she was not prolific in the 2019/20 season, scoring three times, she ranked 8th in the FAWSL for total shots (36) and 14th in the league for shots on target, so she is a strong and accurate shooter, particularly from outside the box.

As we can see here from her shot map, many of Le Garrec’s attempts are from range and her ability to hit the target (blue) from outside the penalty area more often than most players means opponents have to be aware of this threat and are drawn out to her, opening up passing opportunities to teammates when she elects not to pull the trigger.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Data analysis shows Le Garrec ranked 24th in the 2019/20 FAWSL for expected assists per 90 (0.16xA).  This makes her one of the highest ranked players outside of the top four clubs of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United. Of players who don’t play for these teams, only Reading’s Fara Williams (4th) and West Ham’s Martha Thomas (22nd) rated better.

Although perhaps not an elite number of expected assists, it is still nevertheless a notable achievement, particularly as Brighton struggled in the FAWSL and it would be interesting to see how Le Garrec would perform if she was surrounded by stronger players in a better side on a regular basis.

Le Garrec’s trademark is combining a bursting run after winning or intercepting the ball, as we have already seen, with a well weighted through ball on the run between defenders.

The footage below against Manchester United is a typical example, as Le Garrec intercepts and drives 30 yards with the ball before slipping a perfectly weighted ball between centre-back and full-back, which required excellent emergency defending to prevent a goal.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The image below against Reading is another fine example of this characteristic, as Le Garrec has once again steamed forward into space with the ball before playing a difficult curved, outside of the boot pass behind the defensive line whilst on the run for her striker to score for Brighton.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

When playing in her deeper midfield position, Le Garrec is also a very capable passer over range. Although best known for her driving runs, especially when played as the 10, she can also dictate play when asked to play in a deeper role or when she has rotated with a teammate to become the first receiver option.

In the picture below against Manchester City we can see that Le Garrec, recycling the ball, has assessed that there isn’t a forward pass on, so she instead looks to play around the City defences with an accurate and weighted clipped ball to the flanks.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Her passing range is demonstrated again below against Arsenal. On this occasion, Le Garrec, playing centrally in a 4-4-2, has rotated in as the pivot player and, given time on the ball, picks a pinpoint 45 yard pass to her right winger.

Lea Le Garrec 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Conclusion

Le Garrec is very much the ‘all action’ midfielder. She can play as central midfielder or further forward as a 10. Le Garrec is certainly a threat to the opposition goal given her strong shot numbers, often hitting the target, creates good numbers of opportunities for her team and wins a huge amount of tackles. She is an industrious ‘allrounder’.

Le Garrec was Brighton’s midfield engine in 2019/20, performing well with and without the ball and the club will find it tough to replace her. FC Fleury 91 are sure to benefit from her well rounded midfield game.

Daniel Collins