Jessy Parker Humphreys looks at the Team GB selection issues that Hege Riise will be faced with this summer and delves into the data to see who’s in with a shout
Hege Riise will be making her final selection of players for the Team GB squad come May.
She currently has a 35-player shortlist which will have to be trimmed to 18 and, whilst there are some players who could already book their plane tickets if they wanted, there are a number of players on the outskirts of most predicted squads who still deserve to make the cut.
Using TransferLab, we were able to lift the lid on the numbers behind players’ performances this season and identify three players who should at the very least give Riise pause for thought.
Emma Mitchell (Reading)
Scottish left back Emma Mitchell left Arsenal to join Reading over the summer after a seven-year stint in North London.
Having struggled for minutes as a result of injury towards the end of her time at Arsenal, she has been essential to Reading, starting 14 of their 17 WSL matches this season.
In TransferLab, Mitchell shows up strongly across all three Full Back profiles:
Full Back – All Round: 97
Full Back – Defensive: 96
Full Back – Attacking: 96
Looking at Mitchell’s metrics in the All Round profile, her quality particularly lies in getting forward with the ball. As you can see, she is ranked in the 91st percentile for crossing and 83rd for touches in the final third compared to other WSL fullbacks:
She is weaker when it comes to making tackles and defending 1v1 but the nature of the way Riise is likely to want her Team GB side to play means that her attacking qualities matter more than her defensive attributes.
Mitchell would also offer Team GB an extra option from dead-ball situations. In Reading’s impressive 2-0 win against Manchester United earlier in the season, both goals were scored as a result of set pieces taken by Mitchell.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) February 13, 2020
Full back is not a position that Team GB actually has a large amount of depth in. Lucy Bronze is obviously the standout name at right back, but at left back, Demi Stokes has missed large parts of the season through injury whilst Alex Greenwood has been used more often at centre back for Manchester City.
Ranked behind only Katie McCabe and Bronze at fullback in the WSL by TransferLab this season, Mitchell has both the quality and the minutes to justify inclusion.
Katie Zelem (Manchester United)
Keira Walsh has held down the deeper midfield role in the England set-up with little competition since she made her debut but Katie Zelem offers Hege Riise another option.
The Manchester United captain did receive a debut call up to the England squad back in September but was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19.
One of Zelem’s strengths is her adaptability, something that shows up in her profile scores across the midfield in TransferLab:
Defensive Midfield – All Round: 93
Defensive Midfield – Deep Playmaker: 96
Defensive Midfield – Holding: 83
Centre Midfield – Box to box: 96
Centre Midfield – Ball winner: 83
At Manchester United, Zelem is often paired with the more defensive Hayley Ladd allowing her to play a relatively free role. This shows up well on her heat map.
This comparison with Keira Walsh shows that Zelem particularly stands out when it comes to playing long passes and through balls.
It is important to note that part of the difference here might come down to the style of play of each of their respective sides.
It is telling that Walsh is ranked much higher for one-touch passes given Manchester City like to play very quickly and rarely look to play long balls. The quantitative data demonstrates this with Katie Zelem playing 18.8 long passes per 90 and Keira Walsh playing only 8.5.
Whilst Zelem is unlikely to usurp Walsh in the Team GB squad, she should be considered as a possible back-up. She could offer the side a different passing option which could be particularly useful if GB were to face an opponent playing in a deep block for example.
Millie Turner (Manchester United)
Millie Turner seemed to be on the up when Phil Neville was England manager. The former boss was incredibly complimentary of her after calling her up to England camps in autumn of last year.
But under Hege Riise, the Manchester United defender seems to have slipped out of consideration. Not included in her Northern Ireland squad, it seems like Turner is realistically England’s 5th choice centre back at the moment – potentially even 6th if Alex Greenwood’s outings in the middle have caught Riise’s eye.
Yet Turner has had a strong season for Manchester United and deserves greater consideration as her numbers show.
Centre back – All Round: 92
Centre back – Ball Playing: 90
Centre back – Dominant: 94
Turner’s ability particularly comes in the air, where she scores highly for both set piece attacking and defending. She can be a very physically dominant player but she is not quite as confident on the ball as some of the other players also likely to be under consideration for the squad.
Here we can see how Leah Williamson far outstrips Turner when it comes to passing and carrying the ball.
Nevertheless, given her minutes played this season, Turner could be a useful understudy for Millie Bright who has a very similar skillset. Using TransferLab’s ‘Similar Player’ tool, we can see how Turner’s statistical profile has an 88% similarity to Bright:
Any inclusion would likely depend on how Riise sees the exact makeup of her squad, and whether she wants to bring three or four centre-backs. If she extends it to four, Turner would be a worthy inclusion.
Analytics FC provides software and data services to entities within football looking to realise the gains possible from analytical thinking. We provide cutting-edge software solutions such as TransferLab, which helps improve and simplify recruitment decisions. To find out more about TransferLab and our other data services, or to find out more about us, visit our website.