Jessy Parker Humphreys takes a look at one of the players who tore up the Women’s Super League this season.
Ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona, Reshmin Chowdhury asked Karen Carney to comment on Lauren Hemp.
“She pretty much retired me,” said Carney. “We were at the SheBelieves [Cup]… and I saw this kid coming through and I thought, I can’t compete with this kid. I’ve got to retire. And I went home and said to Emma [Hayes] – I’m done.”
At the time, Lauren Hemp was 18 years old. Two years on and she is only getting better.
From being the youngest player ever to score in the Women’s Super League (WSL) to being the player Manchester City rely on for creativity, Hemp looks set to become one of the best players in the world.
As you can see, TransferLab rates Lauren Hemp highly. Comparing her to players within her tier (Tier 1) in the “All-Round – Winger” profile, she is already taking up a place in the top five alongside such notaries as Fran Kirby, Caroline Graham Hansen and Kadidiatou Diani.
Looking at her numbers within this profile, we can see that Hemp excels across the board:
Lauren Hemp’s tendency to carry the ball is one of the main reasons why she is such an exciting player to watch. Whether she is simply moving on the ball or actually going past players, Hemp is capable of opening up opportunities from seemingly low-threat situations.
Take this clip from Manchester City’s first-leg Champions League tie against Barcelona, for example:
City had struggled to have much of an attacking impact during the match until a long ball over the top of the Barcelona midfield found Hemp in space. Hemp goes past two Barcelona defenders before being brought down by Mapi Leon for a penalty.
Last year, Hemp made the most progressive runs in the WSL, putting up 3.77 per 90. She is extremely good at receiving the ball which allows her to turn opposition defenders if she has her back to them. Add her pace into the mix, and in a foot race down the line, she will more often than not get past the defender.
Hemp’s success rate when dribbling is not quite as good as her success rate carrying the ball but she is less likely to directly take on players than her teammate, Chloe Kelly. Instead, Hemp tends to use her pace to open up space away from defenders.
Her assist against Chelsea is a great example of this:
In the clip, you can see how she uses Jess Carter’s decision to stand off her to open up space to the side which allows her to get a cross in. One poor attempted clearance from Millie Bright later and Chloe Kelly has the ball in the back of the net.
Part of what is so impressive about Lauren Hemp is her game intelligence which is demonstrated by her passing ability. She rarely makes poor decisions with where to place the ball and consequently ranks second for key passes per 90 (1.52) in the WSL and third for assists per 90 (0.48).
When looking to build attacks, Hemp will often play short, simple passes with Caroline Weir to allow her to move and get into better positions. This ability to assess her situation enables her and Manchester City to make the most of their possession.
But where Hemp really excels is her passes into the box. Whether crossing or passing along the ground, Hemp plays unerringly accurate balls for Manchester City’s attackers to latch on to. In terms of crossing, only two players played more accurate crosses than Hemp per 90 in the WSL.
Here is an example of her accurate delivery from Manchester City’s game against Reading:
City knew they must win to be in with a chance of winning the WSL but had found Reading impossible to break down. In the 87th minute, Hemp slaloms past three Reading defenders, and despite being off-balance, plays a square ball for Chloe Kelly to tap in. She is so confident in her knowledge of where her teammate will be that she doesn’t even look up before making the pass.
The one aspect of her game that Hemp could look to improve on is her finishing ability.
TransferLab ranks her slightly lower (although, admittedly, not badly) for both her finishing ability and her expected goals. When you compare her to a player like Fran Kirby, the stand out difference is that when Kirby is through on goal, you expect her to score. Hemp does not have that certainty quite yet.
Hemp clearly has the ability to score some fantastic goals, as this curling effort she scored for Bristol City against Arsenal back in 2017 shows:
It is the less spectacular opportunities where she can improve. Her xG per 90 for this season was only 0.29 and we can see from her WyScout shot map that she tends to take a lot of low-value shots from the left-hand side of the area. She is at her most successful when she moves further inside.
In the past, Hemp has gotten joy from drifting off the left wing and picking up balls that are coming in from the right but she often ends up coming at the ball from quite a tight angle. If she focuses on making sure her runs into the box move her into more central positions, her scoring is likely to improve.
The fact that Lauren Hemp has become a firm fixture not just in the Manchester City team but also in the England team shows just how highly she is rated. Her ability on the ball is exceptional, but she does not shirk off the ball work either, ranking fourth for recoveries in the final third per 90 in the WSL this year.
Whilst Manchester City fell short in the league and cup competitions this season, Hemp has been a continual bright spark. With Chloe Kelly now unfortunately out with an ACL injury, even more of Manchester City’s play is likely to go through Hemp next year. That is likely to leave opposition sides feeling nervous. Given that Hemp is only 20, they will be feeling like that for a number of years to come.
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