Fiorentina Femmenile have been busy in the transfer market in 2020 with some of their top talent leaving the club. However, one of their new arrivals comes in the form of full Netherlands international Tessel Middag, who will be the subject of our analysis in this scout report. The central midfielder, who arrives from West Ham having previously placed for the likes of Manchester City and Ajax will hopefully add steel and grit to the tactics of a Fiorentina team that will be looking to push Juventus all the way in the upcoming season.
In this tactical analysis, written in the form of a scout report, we will explore what sort of player Fiorentina have acquired in Middag. We will also examine how she could be utilised by manager Antonio Cincotta. Our analysis will look to judge whether Middag will fit into Fiorentina’s existing tactical system or whether her signing signals a change in tactics for a team that will be looking to push for the title in the next season.
Position and Playing style:
Although earlier in her career at Ajax Middag often played as the number 10 in the dutch team’s tactical set up. But her time in England has seen Middag move deeper. Nowadays, Middag is an incredibly versatile midfielder that will give Antonio Cincotta plenty to work with. As such this scout report will suggest two ways in which Middag’s skills could be used at Fiorentina.
If Cincotta does not alter his approach from the 2019/20 then Fiorentina will continue with their classic 4-4-2 system. Featured below is Middag’s heat map for the 2019/20 season which sheds light on the role Middag is perhaps most likely to play.
One of Middag’s key attributes is her dynamism, a willingness and an ability to cover plenty of ground on the pitch. Her heat map would suggest that she would slot into Cincotta’s 4-4-2 easily, occupying the right-hand side of central midfield. From here Middag has the ability to play as either a box-to-box midfielder involved in all phases of play (although her ability in forward areas may let her down in this role) or as a ball winning midfielder that sits a little deeper alongside a more adventurous partner. Either way, Middag is a combative and energetic midfielder whose playing style will marry perfectly to a Fiorentina system that is characterised by its quick counter-attacking play.
However, with many players leaving the club this summer, it is also possible that Cincotta will change his tactics for the upcoming season. The signing of centre-back Louise Quinn gives Fiorentina plenty of strength at the back. Whilst our analysis shows that it is likely that the 4-4-2 will remain it has also been mooted by some that Cincotta could switch to a 3-5-2, with Quinn being fielded alongside both her former teammate Janni Arnth and the promising Alice Tortelli.
In this system, we envisage that Middag could be deployed as the deepest midfielder. She is suited to this role for multiple reasons. Defensively she would do well sweeping between the defensive and midfield lines due to her stamina and proficiency in defending 1 vs 1. In transition and offensively Middag still retains the skills she had in her Ajax days. She is comfortable on the ball under pressure and is capable of finding an accurate long range ball up to attackers. In this sense she may be useful in either simply linking the midfield and defensive units, acting as more of water-carrier. Or she could be given a more possession focus role, being asked to dictate the tempo of the game from deep.
With these two tactical systems in mind, the rest of this scout report will highlight some of Middag’s particular strengths. This will highlight the benefits she can bring to Fiorentina Femmenile on the pitch.
Good under pressure
We have described Middag above as a hard-working, engine room type of player. This sort of approach is most associated with off the ball play (which will be discussed later) but it also translates to how Middag plays with the ball. In transition especially whilst she is rarely a flashy player Middag is a key part of any team. This is because she excels in receiving the ball under pressure before recycling possession backwards or making small forward gains. Whilst these types of passes are unlikely to be on an end of season highlight reel they are essential for any team looking to transition from defence into attack.
In the image above we see Middag receiving the ball off of her defence. Meanwhile, she is under pressure from two Tottenham players with her back to goal. However, instead of conceding possession or simply returning the ball in the direction, it came from Middag is able to shield the ball, turn and progress the ball laterally to a teammate, taking the two pressing players out of play in the process.
Middag is also capable of turning fully on the ball when being pressured, making her a valuable asset to any team that looks to gain possession of the ball in deep areas and then progress forwards. In the series of images below against Brighton Middag comes short for the ball, becoming West Ham’s deepest player in the process. Despite this, she is unafraid to show for the ball and receives whilst under pressure from two Brighton players. Again Middag calmly turns fully before progressing the ball forwards to a teammate, turning defence into attack.
Middag receives, turns, passes
When watching Middag receive the ball under pressure two things stand out. Firstly, she is incredibly composed on the ball, even when being pressed. It is rare for her to lose the ball in these scenarios too as shown by a 94% completion rate on lateral passes, combined with a 74% accuracy on progressive passes. This is especially impressive given how often she’ll show for the ball in difficult areas.
Secondly, Middag’s ability to receive the ball in a defensive stance (such as with her back to goal) before frequently turning and pushing her team into the transitional phase shouldn’t be overlooked. Her ability to do this with a few touches as possible is excellent too, often doing in a couple touches what many players would do in two or three.
In possession, Middag possesses a skill-set that many modern managers covet. Skilful, but also hard-working and selfless. Unafraid to show for the ball, but also press resistant when she receives it.
Middag is undoubtedly a modern midfielder. But as this scout report will now show this reputation is only furthered by her ability to contribute effectively in the defensive phase as well as when her team is in possession. In the defensive phase, Middag has two main strengths. She is a disciplined player with good defensive positioning and she excels when defending one against one.
First, let us examine her defensive positioning. Middag is not a player to switch off when her team loses the ball and thus covers plenty of ground both defensively and offensively. As such she is well suited to both the tactically and physically demanding role that is central midfield in Cincotta’s 4-4-2. Middag is adept at tracking back, rarely leaving an opposite number unattended, even if Middag has previously committed herself high up the pitch. This athleticism and willingness to continually shuttle forwards and backwards can only benefit Fiorentina in the engine room.
In the image above Middag works hard to get back when her team loses the ball. She immediately reads the danger and picks up the Liverpool player that is arriving late in the box. Meanwhile, in the image below we see Middag defending against a Tottenham counter-attack. Here she has the defensive awareness to pick up a developing threat inside the centre circle and the stamina to track her all the way back into her own box, ultimately winning the ball off of that very player.
Difficult to get past
Not only can Middag recognise and track threats but she is good at neutralising them too. Middag is good at making sure attackers do not get the wrong side of her, often standing tall and using her strength in situations where less defensively adept players would dive in. However, when a player does get the wrong side of her Middag possesses the right attitude to work back and the strength to regain possession. She has been a key player in terms of ball recovery for West Ham in 2019/20, standing out with an average of 9.4 ball recoveries per 90 minutes.
In the image above a Brighton attacker briefly gets past Middag and shapes up to shoot. But instead of allowing them to shoot Middag uses her strength to challenge the attacker shoulder to shoulder. This puts her off-balance and ultimately allows Middag to push her off the ball and regain possession. Middag was one of West Ham’s key defensive players in 2019/20. Yet despite she only committed an average of 1.2 fouls per 90 minutes. This shows that she is a player that can be relied upon to win the ball cleanly on the vast majority of occasions. Fiorentina may have purchased a tough tackler but they shouldn’t expect to concede many more free-kicks in dangerous positions next season.
This scout report and tactical analysis has shown that Middag is likely to be an excellent acquisition for Fiorentina Femmenile. Since her breakout season at Ajax, she has developed into a pretty complete central midfield player, well suited to the demands of the modern game. Hard-working and tactically astute, skilful in multiple phases of play, Middag is a coaches dream and it is likely that Fiorentina fans will love her too. Whether her arrival signals a tactical switch from Cincotta or if she’ll fit straight into his team’s existing tactics remains to be seen. Either way, you should expect Tessel Middag to feature heavily in the Women’s Serie A next season.