The steady stream of NWSL imports into the FAWSL is showing no signs of stopping. One player that falls into this category is Australian star Emily Van Egmond. The 27-year-old midfielder who has been capped a staggering 97 times by the Matildas joins West Ham on loan from the Orlando Pride.

Whilst we’ve already had a quick glimpse at Van Egmond who made her West Ham début from the bench against Tottenham as the two teams played out a 1-1 draw there is still plenty to come from Van Egmond. This tactical analysis, written in the form of a scout report, will examine exactly what the vastly experienced Van Egmond can bring to Matt Beard’s midfield and whether she could be the catalyst for pushing West Ham to new heights this season.

Melbourne City Tactical Analysis

Although Van Egmond remains an Orlando Pride player she spent much of last season playing in her native Australia, loaned out to Melbourne City. During Van Egmond’s time in Melbourne manager, Rado Vidošić deployed three different tactics. His use of Van Egmond in various formations gives us an insight into the type of player she is and the tactics that suit her.

3-4-2-1 and 3-4-1-2

Our analysis shows that Melbourne most commonly utilised a back three. However, despite usually fielding a four-woman midfield in front of the defence Vidošić did employ some variation in the forward line. Namely Melbourne either played with two attacking midfielders behind a single striker or with one ‘enganche’ like midfielder behind a strike partnership.

In the 3-4-2-1 tactic, Van Egmond was largely used on the left-hand side of the pair of attacking midfielders. However, it is worth noting that Melbourne’s tactical approach last season was reasonably flexible, with the team’s shape changing across different phases of play and players changing positions in order to fill gaps left by their teammates. In this system Van Egmond was encouraged to work hard for her team, dropping deep to link the midfield and attacking units but also pushing beyond the striker when necessary in order to Augment Melbourne’s attack, as shown by the heat map included below.

Emily Van Egmond 2020/21 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

In this system, she is also capable of dropping further back into the double pivot. Whilst we will discuss this later in our scout report Van Egmond’s ability to perform well in a fluid system bodes well for her time at West Ham.

Meanwhile, when Melbourne played a 3-4-1-2 Van Egmond played as the sole attacking midfield. In this, her role was slightly different. Whilst it was still her job to link the midfield and the attack there was also less of an emphasis on her running beyond the strikers. In staying between the midfield and attacking lines (whilst also occasionally showing for the ball in deeper positions) Van Egmond acted as a pivot point for her team, with much of Melbourne’s build-up play flowing through her.

4-2-3-1

Finally, our analysis shows that Vidošić sometimes moves away from a back three entirely, instead of deploying a 4-3-2-1 formation. This impacts the City’s defensive set up more than their attack and Van Egmond plays as the number ten when playing this formation. Her role here is similar to her role in the 3-4-1-2, acting as Melbourne’s primary creative force whilst shuttling back and forth to link the midfield to the attack.

A deeper role at West Ham?

Matt Beard’s West Ham side should fit Van Egmond well. They too play a rather fluid 4-2-3-1, with players in the attacking three often shifting and swapping position. This is something that Van Egmond is used to, albeit in a slightly different shape. Whilst her role in Melbourne’s 4-2-3-1 was slightly more fixed she should be more than capable of playing as the number ten in Beard’s system, drawing on her experience from playing as a versatile attacking midfielder in the 3-4-2-1. However, as we will explore in later sections of this scout report her statistics also suggest that Beard may want to drop Van Egmond deeper and use her as part of the double pivot as our analysis shows that she would be better suited to such a role.

Progressive passer

Although Van Egmond primarily played as an attacking midfielder for Melbourne this scout report is of the opinion that she would be better suited to a deeper role at West Ham, namely playing in the midfield pair in a 4-2-3-1. Our argument for this comes from an analysis of the data from Van Egmond’s 2020 performances.

For example, let us first analyse her passing statistics. On the whole, her numbers across various types of passes are very impressive, both in terms of volume and accuracy. Her backwards passing (most commonly used when a player is attempting to recycle or retain possession) achieved an accuracy of 88% whilst her lateral passing was accurate 85% of the time. Meanwhile, her combined accuracy for short and medium passes came in at 80%. These statistics represent a marked improvement over her accuracy for forward passing (64%) and passes into the final third (22%.)

In short, Van Egmond’s passing accuracy statistics for the types of passes associated with deeper midfielders are much better than her accuracy with passes more critical to attacking midfielders (although it is also worth noting that more attacking passes are typically less accurate for all players as they are more difficult and more highly contested.) As such, Van Egmond may find more success in the WSL this season if she is used in a deeper role.

Crucially, our analysis of her passing also supports the idea that Van Egmond can be a danger when playing behind the offensive unit. Most important to the sort of ‘deep creator’ role that this scout report envisages her in is her ability to play progressive passes. Van Egmond does not disappoint here, playing progressive passes with an 84% success rate. From this, she distributed four key passes, which led to six-shot assists. All of this points to the fact that Van Egmond is a dangerous, creative player, but she is also a midfielder who is more productive when playing in a deeper role.

The image below illustrates Van Egmond’s effectiveness in a more withdrawn role. Here she drops off into a pocket of space, receiving the ball well behind Melbourne’s attackers. From this position she is able to dictate play, providing a progressive pass into the box for her teammate, creating a goal-scoring opportunity for more advanced players.

Emily Van Egmond 2020/21 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

1vs1 performance

An analysis of Van Egmond’s performance in duels with other players paints a similar picture. Looking at duels won Van Egmond struggles when she is taking on opponents directly herself, winning a total of 29% of her offensive duels. This suggests that whilst she has many strengths to her game West Ham should not rely on her to dribble past players single-handedly.

However, it is worth noting that her statistics are much better once we consider her defensive duels too. Van Egmond’s defensive duels won stands at a far better 79%. This again adds credence to the argument of this tactical analysis that West Ham would be better served playing Van Egmond in a deeper role.

The data here shows that whilst she may not be the most dangerous dribbler going forward she certainly possesses the skills to cope with increased defensive responsibility. For example, in the image below Van Egmond uses her strength to win the ball back, shield it from two opposition players and then play a short pass into a teammate.

Emily Van Egmond 2020/21 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Van Egmond’s ability to win the ball back for her team, combined with the creative threat she would give West Ham from the middle of the park suggests that she could be an excellent deep-lying playmaker if Beard feels that he has better options in attacking areas.

Conclusions

In Emily Van Egmond West Ham have acquired the services of a skilled and experienced Matildas star. In our tactical analysis, delivered in the form of a scout report, we have highlighted exactly why Beard’s side have snapped the Orlando pride player up on loan. Van Egmond is a dynamic, creative force who we believe could slot in well in front of the West Ham defence. Furthermore, whilst Van Egmond will be excellent at starting attacks on the pitch; her vast experience internationally and in the top leagues could see her act as a valuable mentor to a developing West Ham side too.

Sam Swinerd
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