Natasha Dowie is a former English international who played as a striker for many renowned teams over the years before arriving at the prestigious AC Milan last week. Dowie started her career at Watford, then played at at multiple clubs including Liverpool. Indeed, it was a long journey for a very special player who has still got the determination to play in a big club and compete with some of the best players in Italy.
In this tactical analysis in a form of a scout report, we will show how this determination to succeed in Italy is definitely worth it and how her participation in Serie A Women will affect the league positively in addition to contributing to the success of Milan locally and maybe internationally in the next few years. Dowie could be among the factors that would enable Milan to qualify for UEFA Champions League next season after failing to do so this season despite having the same number of points as Fiorentina Women who were holding the second spot.
Possible impact and position at Milan
During the period of preparation for the next season, Milan reinforced their squad with some quite promising names like Natasha Dowie, Laura Agard, Selena Babb, Giorgia Spinelli, Caroline Rask and Christy Grimshaw. These new players will not only allow Maurizio Ganz, Milan’s manager, to replace the ones who left the team but it will also enable him to create a new lineup around these players while keeping his first-team players from last season.
It is not the simplest of tasks since all these players are competing for a regular place and especially because some of the new arrivals will set the bar high for the other players. For instance, Dowie, with her long experience in different clubs and leagues, will be a great addition in the attacking side and would most probably accompany Valentina Giacinti, the team’s captain and regular forward, in a 4-4-2 formation.
Ganz could also use Giacinti as a left winger, Bergamaschi as a right winger, and Dowie as a forward, forming a 4-3-3 formation, given her excellence in that position in respect to Giacinti who can play both as a striker and as a winger with nearly the same efficancy. In fact, plenty of options are available for Ganz who could also make use of Grimshaw as a trequartista behind Giacinti/Deborah, Salvatori Rinaldi and Dowie in a 4-3-1-2. A formation that was heavily used by Ancelotti during his time at Milan and proved successful when using the adequate players.
It is true that Dowie can adapt to play in these formations and there is no doubt that she is able to get well on the field with her talented teammates, but it is also worth mentioning that throughout her career, Dowie has been used to play mostly in different formations as shown in the image below. Even though the 3-4-1-2 is less likely to be chosen by Ganz, the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-1-4-1 can suit Milan’s tactics and playing philosophy as they will be very familiar to Dowie as well.
Dowie is a smart, fast-running striker who has got all it takes to score goals and to contribute to the attacking phase of the game. And one of the most striking features of the English player is her final touch in front of the goal.
As you know, the final touch or the finishing abilities are not as easy as they may seem and they require thorough training, talent, quick and intelligent thinking and full concentration. Dowie is one of those players who master this skill perfectly, and that’s what allowed her to excel in her position and score 123 goals during her professional journey until today.
What makes Dowie even more likely to have a huge contribution to Milan is her ability to find the best way out in tight spaces.
She showed her abilities in a 2019/2020 W-League game when she was playing for Melbourne Victory against Newcastle Jets.
When Dowie received a long-pass behind the last defender who was disturbing her as soon as the ball came in her direction, she noticed that the goalkeeper was also running towards her and she took the decision in a split second to let the ball touch the grass and then immediately chip it.
And this smart decision was fruitful and resulted in a beautiful goal proving not only Dowie’s right decision but also her skill and perfect final touch that allowed her to place the ball inside the net with precision.
Technical touches like those prove the talent and experience of such players, especially when knowing that Dowie faced similar situations many times in her career and has always found a way to score goals from tight spaces.
Here is another example in which she chipped the ball over the goalkeeper successfully during her time at Liverpool.
Moreover, Dowie is also good at volleys and half-volleys and is able to coordinate her body very quickly and in an accurate manner to kick the ball in the best possible way and shoot in difficult angles to make goalkeepers’ life harder. She is now much more mature and knows exactly how, when and where to shoot even though she does not have the same speed and agility of when she was 20-years old.
To see these abilities, one should just look at the 2019/2020 W-League season to find some examples in which Dowie proved that she is still at the top of her concentration and that her performances did not get affected by age.
Against Brisbane Roar Women Dowie was able to score a masterpiece at a late time in the match, at a moment when everyone thought that she will be already tired physically. However, she was able to receive and control an accurate long-ball with her chest, wait until the ball touches the grass and get high again to launch a perfectly coordinated half-volley that hit the net after rebounding near the far post and away from the goalkeeper.
In addition to her technical skills, Dowie can be also a good penalty taker for the team since she took this responsibility many times and especially at Melbourne Victory and scored many goals from penalties.
Playmaking skills and attacking positioning
In terms of positioning, Dowie is excellent in moving inside the penalty area especially when she asks for the ball between or behind defenders. And this planned and continuous movement in the box allowed her to receive balls in a more or less comfortable situation most of the times and to gain some seconds over defenders, which results in having a higher percentage of goalscoring.
Moreover, her movements in the box are not only making benefit for her, at times she moves to fool defenders into chasing her while creating space for players coming from the back while Dowie is being surrounded by players. Like in this action when Melbourne Victory’s winger intends to cross the ball Dowie runs quickly to the near post as if she will receive the ball and the three defenders forget about the other player who stands in the far post and they get closer to Dowie instead.
But the winger decides to cross the ball to the player who is free from marking who scores a goal thanks to her good positioning and thanks to Dowie’s movement.
As opposed to some forwards who focus only on scoring, finishing or providing key passes in the penalty area, Dowie does participate in the team’s playmaking and in the circulation of the ball to confuse defenders and surprise them afterwards.
What is special about her is that she holds some quite high percentages of accuracy in regard to her position. For instance, Dowie has got 87.5% long-pass accuracy and 86.6% overall pass accuracy.
In this example, you can see how she provides an assist to her teammate after she controlled the ball and knew that her teammate is in a better shooting position than herself since Dowie was surrounded by two players. This shows that Dowie does not only think about scoring goals but also helps her team score goals by all possible means including passing and doing movements in the box to clear the way for her teammates.
Dowie is indeed a very talented and experienced player who will surely add a lot to Serie A Women, Milan, and to the players themselves since they will be able to learn many important things from her.
It is possible though, that in her first days/months she will struggle a little in getting used to her new environment, since this is the first time she plays in Italy. Therefore, she will need some time to adapt to this new country, language and mentality and as soon as she succeeds at this adaptation process she will be able to shine in Italy like she did in many other leagues before.