Abdullah Abdullah profiles one of Manchester City’s newest creative threats, Jess Park.
Since the turn of the year, Manchester City have enjoyed a slight resurgence which included a hard-fought draw against Arsenal.
Of course, the game will largely be remembered for the contentious goal that Manchester City scored but it should also also be remembered for Jess Park’s tantalising performance. The City youngster is starting to feature more prominently this season and the game against Arsenal was a standout performance against a top-quality side.
This is a good thing for Manchester City. With Chloe Kelly still on the side line, their overreliance on Lauren Hemp as the creative hub needs to be overcome. In her appearances so far, Park has shown glimpses of what she can offer even if there is a bit of rawness to her game.
Using Analytics FC’s TransferLab tool, let’s take a look at Park and try to get a sense of whether she can become Manchester City’s next young star.
Who is Jess Park?
Jess Park can be described as a direct, creative right-sided winger with immense pace, dribbling, and counter-attacking ability. Her creativity is the foundation of her style of play, which coupled with her dribbling, ball progression and flair, makes her a very busy winger.
Park’s dynamism and energy mean defences need to be wary of leaving space behind. Given the positions she takes up and the pace she has to beat players in 1v1 situations, high line defences are particularly subject to her blistering pace.
Looking at her numbers in TransferLab’s Classic Winger profile, Park ranks highly against other forwards in the Women’s Super League:
Looking at Park’s profile, you can see that she excels in terms of dribbling and carrying the ball. This is a player who wants a high volume of possession and will use it to push her opposing full back into more defensive positions.
This shows up well from her heat map:
Much of her activity comes in the final third—especially in the wide areas—with slightly deeper build-up showing up too.
If we compare this to Hemp’s heat map, you can see how the left winger is much higher and drifts into the 18-yard box much more:
Further comparison with two WSL wingers—Kirsty Hanson of Manchester United and Nicoline Sorensen of Everton—is instructive:
All of this suggests that Park is more a traditional winger who adds upside to her side through breaking lines of pressure with dribbling in wide areas.
What is it about Park that makes her a threat?
At this point, it’s clear that Park’s main upside comes from her ability on the ball, specifically her dribbling skill set.
This season, she currently ranks 15th in the WSL by volume for 1 v 1 dribbles per 90 minutes with 5.21 which illustrates her want to take players on. Her success rate—a figure at around 60%—bumps her up to 13th.
Here are some clips which showcase Park’s on-ball ability. First up, here’s a clip from a recent game against Everton:
As you can see, Park receives a pass from Jill Scott before being converged by two Everton defenders. Once received, there is a split second before she gets the ball out of her feet and goes past the two pressing markers.
This pushes her into enough space outside the box before the next defender cannot commit to tackling her. She drifts past a third player before being dispossessed but the progressive potential here is obvious.
Against Leicester City, Park was able to counter-attack effectively and took on the defender before unleashing a powerful shot on goal:
There is enough evidence to suggest that Park can be very effective in getting into the right spaces. Her decision-making in getting the shot away was correct here, and for a 20-year-old, she does have quite an intelligent understanding of what to do.
Another of Jess Park’s standout qualities is her aggressiveness out of possession.
Park is a hard worker and has a capacity to press opposition defenders which adds a unique quality to her game that is uncommon in high-flying wingers. A lot of teams now need a good balance of creative flair and off the ball work rate. If Chloe Kelly and Hemp bring the creativity, then Park can become the counterbalance by bringing in some pressing acumen.
Although she isn’t ranked in any of the top 30 defensive metrics, Park has helped City apply pressure in City’s pressing tactics which forces teams to play through the middle and catch them deep in a sort of 4-3-3 out of possession.
Here’s an example five minutes in against Arsenal—Hemp, Park, and Bunny Shaw stand high up the pitch and want to press the goalkeeper and two centre-backs:
As Arsenal pass between themselves, Hemp presses Manuela Zinsberger with the objective to either force the Austrian to play the ball to the left back for Park to press or to go long. Eventually, it goes long and City wins possession back in midfield.
From the same game, Park drops deep as Arsenal attack. Lucy Bronze presses Beth Mead but as the ball goes back, Park applies her own pressure and wins the ball through a quick interception. Suddenly, Park gets City on a counter-attack:
Manchester City are slowly coming back into form. With players returning from injury, they are starting to look more like themselves after their early-season slump.
Jess Park has made a good impression so far and is in contention to get more regular minutes as the season wears on. With Park offering yet another option in attack, this makes Manchester City one of the better attacking units in the WSL right now.
For Park, though, the sky is the limit. If she can make the most of this game time and continues to impress in the way she has been doing, she’s well on her way to making herself something of a fixture at Manchester City.
Header image copyright IMAGO/News Images