With a 6th placed finish in the curtailed WSL 2019/20 season Everton Women will certainly be looking forward to the start of the 2020/21 campaign. It looks as though it’ll be an exciting one too, with Willie Kirk’s side having already announced a number of ambitious signings. Chief among which is 24-year-old Valerie Gauvin from Montpellier. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of the France international who set the Feminine Division 1 alight last season, scoring 14 goals in 16 appearances.
In the 2019/20 Montpellier deployed a 4-4-2 for the majority of their games. In this system, Gauvin played as the most advanced attacker, with strike partner Lena Petermann usually the one dropping deeper to link play. As such, Gauvin has had very little tactical responsibility in the defensive and transitional phases of play, instead remaining high up the pitch on most occasions.
As her heat map shows above Gauvin is very much a penalty box player who contributes little in earlier phases of play. It is because of this that she may have to be carried somewhat when Everton are without the ball. However, as her 14 goals in 16 appearances last season shows if her new teammates can provide service to Gauvin she will provide them with a cutting edge. Everton manager Willie Kirk has already discussed using Gauvin as “a focal point to our attack” so it is likely that Everton will play to her strengths next season rather than asking her to contribute more heavily in the defensive and midfield third. In the following sections of this scout report, we will discuss exactly what these strengths are, honing in upon what Gauvin can bring to her new team.
Shooting for the stats:
As mentioned above, Gauvin has been touted as a ‘focal point’ for Everton going into the 2020/21 season. This seems sensible, so long as Gauvin’s teammates can get the ball to her in the right areas. Gauvin is by far at her best when she receives the ball in the penalty box and this is well reflected in her statistics for the 2019/20 season.
Of her 85 shots in the 2019/20 season, it is notable that 81 came from inside the box. This suggests that she is good at finding shooting opportunities inside the box. In this way our analysis shows that she is a number 9 in the mould of strikers like Robert Lewandowski. However, it is notable how much she relies on this sort of chance, meaning that her effectiveness is likely to drop off significantly if she is not given the necessary amount of service from either a strike partner or wingers.
But, as the data analysis above shows, if Gauvin is supplied with chances she will score. A season average of just over half of her shots on target isn’t especially impressive. However, her conversion rate of shots to goals is much more exciting. At exactly 20% Gauvin has put up a conversion rate of 1 goal for every 5 shots for the 2019/20 season. From this, it is clear that whilst Gauvin requires regular service she will get results for those who provide it to her.
A big part of Gauvin’s game is her ability to find space in her favoured hunting ground; the penalty box. She is a player with good feet that excels at retaining the ball in tight spaces before finding a shooting opportunity for herself or a short pass to a supporting teammate.
In the example above against Reims, one of Gauvin’s teammates provides a cross from the right-hand side. Gauvin’s movement allows her to come laterally across the box and a small amount of acceleration loses her marker (off-screen) putting her between the ball and the defender at the near post. From here her positioning, combined with her momentum allows her to perform a powerful diving header. Whilst this particular shot goes just wide it highlights how Gauvin’s intelligence allows her to create an attacking opportunity for herself in a situation where she was not initially the favourite to get to the ball first.
Meanwhile, the following series of images shows the attacking instincts that Gauvin possesses. The opportunity starts with a mistake from an opposition goal kick. The opposition loses the ball in their own box as Gauvin’s strike partner presses the defender. At the same time, Gauvin is alive to what is unfolding ahead of her and sees a potential chance of developing, moving into the box to support her teammate.
When her teammates initial shot is saved but not cleared Gauvin does not give up.
Instead, she peels away from her marker and shows for the ball on the edge of the six-yard box. When Gauvin receives the ball her astute positioning gives her enough time to shoot across her body and score before the covering defender can get across to her.
This was not an isolated incident either. Gauvin has excellent attacking instincts and this has allowed her to capitalise on defensive errors throughout the 2019/20 season. Shown below against Guingamp one of the opposition defenders attempts to play a pass to their partner in central defence. Unfortunately for them, the pass is poor. Gauvin is both well-positioned between the split centre-backs and alert to the mistake. As shown in the image she pounces on the poor pass and gains possession in the attacking third. Ultimately in this scenario, Gauvin is forced wide, although she is still able to provide a cross for an onrushing teammate.
As the examples in this section of our tactical analysis show, Everton have gained an intelligent player in Gauvin. Her lethality in front of goal last season came largely from the way she is able to read the game well and position herself excellently. Whilst she is unproven in the WSL the possession of these skills bodes well from Gauvin as they are the sort of attributes that will translate well across leagues, whether it’s the FD1, WSL or Champions League.
Accomplished in front of goal
Whilst the raw data has already been analysed the following part of this scout report will highlight the kinds of chances that Gauvin thrives upon. Whilst she is primarily a right-footed player Gauvin has the ability to finish off chances with both feet. This is an attribute that only adds to her reputation as a clinical finisher.
A typical Gauvin goal involves getting into the box, finding a yard of space between defenders before finishing off a cross or cutback. If her team has good build-up play Gauvin will make sure that they have end product too. Take her goal in the victory against Marseille for example. In the first image below Montpellier transition quickly from the middle third to the attacking third, spreading the ball wide before playing it through to Petermann.
Petermann then takes the ball down the right-wing before crossing the ball into the box for Gauvin, who she could rely on to be in the right position at the right time. From there Gauvin collects the ball without breaking her stride and caps off the move by finishing into the bottom corner.
It is difficult to question a player who scored 14 goals in 16 appearances in the 2019/20 season. Yet whilst Gauvin is an excellent striker she is not a complete player. As noted early on in the piece she contributes little in defence or in the build-up. But for a number 9 in Gauvin’s mould, this is acceptable as long as she continues to score.
There is one weakness in Gauvin’s that is notable even when her goal-scoring numbers are taken into account. Although Gauvin is good at taking a couple of touches in a tight space before shooting her more progressive dribbling is cause for concern. What this means is that she is prone to losing the ball when driving forwards with the ball for any notable amount of yards. In the image below Gauvin attempts to drive down the right with the ball. Unfortunately, she is quickly driven off the ball by the defender which ends the attacking move and causes Montpellier to concede a throw-in in the middle third. Moments like this have happened to Gauvin multiple times across the season and her new manager Kirk should look to work on her ability to move forward with the ball at her feet.
This tactical analysis has provided insight into why Gauvin was so prolific in the 2019/20 season. Her attacking positioning, intelligence and finishing ability are all key assets and she should do well in the WSL next season. Our scout report has shown why so many believe that Gauvin’ signing represents a real coup for Everton. However, whether she truly is “one of the top strikers in Europe” believes remains to be seen. She may well be, but Frank will need to build his tactics around her and give her the sort of freedom on the pitch she was afforded at Montpellier for her to be at her best. Provided they do just that then Everton will have gained a real attacking threat in Gauvin for the upcoming 2020/21 season.