Tag Archives: England Women

Ready, Steady, Lionesses

With the 2022 Women’s European Championships fast approaching, England Lionesses head coach Sarina Weigman has attempted to select a balanced squad for qualifiers and friendlies – with one eye set on the final 23-player squad that she will select for the summer.

We have seen lots of consistency in who she has selected for the squad, with a huge array of talent and squad competition at her disposal.

In the lead up to the Euros, we look here at a breakdown of her squad selection, strong areas, and areas in need of strengthening and or decision making. In today’s feature, we will be looking predominantly at the wingers/wide forwards that England have.

The wide forwards

When it comes to the forwards that Weigman gets to choose from, she’s very much spoilt for choice.

Even just glancing at the forward lines of the big three – especially Manchester City, you could make up a world-class forward line using their players alone.

The balance of the forward options is what makes that area particularly strong as we get both providers and finishers in almost every candidate.

Electric pace is a huge part of the system that the Lionesses play and within that, they have so many people that they can count on.

Lauren Hemp is the quickest player in the league and probably one of the quickest players that will be at the Euro’s this summer.

 Her unique blend of pace and decision-making despite being so young makes her an almost definite starter for England, as her skill set is an absolute nightmare for defenders.

She has now added goals to her game for country which makes her even more of a threat.

Arsenal’s Beth Mead similarly brings technical proficiency and goal scoring prowess from one of the wide positions.

Having played across the forward line throughout her career from Sunderland to Arsenal, there is a level of consistency that Mead brings.

When her team needs a goal, she’s often able to provide it, as well her ability to pick out the right pass to her teammate who can also score.

Mead’s traits mean that it also take away some of the pressure off the main striker playing on the day. She is a reliable goal scorer, and with that brings confidence to Weigman that she’s able to alter and rotate the front line without sacrificing goals that will win matches.

This in turn will also give Weigman the upper hand when picking starting line-ups – especially in the tournament setting.

Nikita Parris is expected to be selected and what someone like Parris brings is supreme experience. Having played at Championship winning teams at club Level and been a core part of Lionesses teams that have done well at prior tournaments.

A last-minute addition to bolster the wing options would be Chloe Kelly. Whilst she has missed 75% of the season due to an ACL injury she suffered last year, her talent and what she’d bring to the team cannot be understated. As mentioned before, she is someone else who brings both goals and assists to the team.

She’s arguably the most technically and naturally gifted winger that England have – with her ability to combine both her technical ability on the ball when dribbling, but also when linking up with teammates.

Like Hemp, she’s also someone that is extremely blessed when it comes to pace, which as seen in most European defences, that’s an area that they struggle with.

Selecting someone who hasn’t been able to showcase their skillset across the whole season is often seen as a risk. But when it comes to someone of Kelly’s calibre, it appears to be a risk worth taking when it comes to having a unique skill set and being a game changer for them.

A late addition?

With Fran Kirby taking some recovery time away from football in order to get healthy from an ongoing issue that’s plagued her throughout her career, she’s expected to miss the Euro’s – having not featured since the end of February.

That’s not to rule her out completely from contention as we know that a fully fit Kirby walks into most teams in the world. However, Weigman will be cautious not to rush her back as her regaining full health is the most important thing for all parties.

Could we see a late addition to the Lionesses squad with someone who hasn’t received a call up since Weigman’s tenure began? For example, Man City starlet Jess Park who has had an impactful season, or Manchester United’s Leah Galton who continued her fine form from last season.

My Guess

Because of squad restrictions, I’m not sure Weigman calls up somebody new.

This decision would be supported by the fact that many of her attacking midfield options are also extremely strong and comfortable on the wing – having played their numerous times throughout the season for club.

They also have such versatility amongst the wingers themselves that I think that Weigman will opt to find the solution ‘in-house’. Though that’s not to say that we won’t get a surprise inclusion as often seems to happen when international tournaments happen.

History maker Ellen White among England’s best ever strikers

The most asked question after every single England Lionesses game for the past few months has been about how close Ellen White is to the all-time top goalscorer record and if and when she would do it.

It was a record that was previously held by Arsenal and England legend Kelly Smith, and she herself has spoken glowingly in the past about White’s capabilities to not only match this record, but to surpass it and set new goalscoring achievements.

This was a challenge readily accepted by White, who has scored the most important of goals in the world’s biggest competitions, but also dispatches with ease against opponents no matter the gravity of the match – she simply loves scoring goals.

Prior to Tuesday’s game against Latvia, White stood just one goal behind Smith’s record on 45 goals in 100 caps. Given the nature of the opposition, many expected this game to be the game where she finally achieved it. White didn’t disappoint.

What many wouldn’t have expected however, was that it would take only six minutes for her to tie the record, and nine minutes to become the outright England Women’s all-time record goal scorer.

The celebration from her was one filled with pure emotion and elation to finally be able to stand alone at the top, and was a celebration that showed the pride that her teammates felt on her behalf.

The reaction to her record setting not only crowned everything that she has done throughout her England career of providing goals, but was further evidence of how much she is loved and respected by her teammates and fans.

She had previously tried to downplay her expectations for this record, having been asked about it constantly with her response often being “it’s not something that I think about”.

Her emotional celebration spoke volumes about what it really meant to her – especially considering that Kelly Smith is one of her idols. Her first thought is always about the team winning, and she knows that her goals can help them do that, but to her the individual accolades are a secondary thought.

Still, the immense pride that she must have felt in this moment had to be celebrated by then going on to get a hat-trick in true Ellen White fashion.

What makes her so dangerous as a goal scorer is the fact that she doesn’t necessarily need a clear-cut chance to score, with most of her tournament goals coming from her sniffing out danger and playing on the shoulder of the last defender.

With a great mixture of both left and right-footed finishes as well as headed goals, there was no doubt amongst us as spectators that she would break the record. She currently has the record on 48 goals, and this is something that we would expect her to extend given her hunger and quality.

Alessia Russo, Beth Mead, Lauren Hemp and Ellen White of England attempt to pose for a photograph with their match balls after each of them scored a...

Consistent supply lines from both the wing and midfield are also at a high level, so where this record could be at the end of it all is extremely exciting for us and for the history of the sport.

White speaking so glowingly about the girls who scored their first England goals this Tuesday in the historic 20-0 win was once again a show of her humility and selflessness for the team. Budding striker Alessia Russo and electric winger Lauren Hemp were amongst those that scored their first goals for the Lionesses – and they later went on to score hat-tricks too.

White is really paving a way for those that are coming up behind her, and they’re having the pleasure of learning from someone who completely commits herself to the sport and what her role is within the sport which is invaluable.

But she is leaving behind a legacy that only truly world class footballers will be able to match in the future and that shouldn’t be ignored. White is one of, if not the, best strikers that England’s Lionesses have ever had and deserves all the praise she can get.

Why England Lionesses should take a chance on fresh blood

Following the appointment of ex-Netherland’s coach Sarina Wiegman in the summer, we’ve seen the new England boss select teams for three separate camps now. 

Within that, we’ve seen squads that seem to fit into three broad categories; the more experienced centre pieces of the squad, young players that had previously had a small taste of the England fold and then players who haven’t played for England in a few years but now after getting consistent mins at a bigger club.

Whilst this is a vital structure to have and has served Sarina and England well recently, there may be further scope to explore other options here in the lead up to a home Euros.

With injuries to captains Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze, we’ve seen Sarina opt for a new temporary captain in Arsenal’s Leah Williamson, before making her official decision on who will captain the side going forward.

Williamson has risen supremely in this leadership role as many expected that she would, having displayed similar characteristics at club and youth level for England. Considering her as an option also points towards a new age England, one that constantly tries to look ahead and plan for the long-term.

We know that in order to be successful at tournaments there needs to be a good balance between experience and youth. Because of this I think that Sarina already has a great structure in place for the team to do great things this summer.

Leah Williamson of England celebrates scoring her team's eighth goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Qualifier group D match between Latvia...

Most of the players have been to multiple tournaments before and this is coupled with starlets such as Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp who we know can turn a game on its head with individual creativity. This and the fact that Beth Mead is also in some of the best form of her life only bodes well for England creatively. 

Now when I mention taking a chance, I don’t think that there’s much that Sarina needs to do to the side in preparation. Her position is more about setting up the team and creating an environment that not only equips the players to go out and dominate teams, but also to get them believing that they can dominate teams. 

This season has shone a light on so many players that weren’t necessarily the most talked about prior to this. Being defensively astute is going to be key to any success that England have at the Euros, which is why I think that there are two players that Sarina should consider adding to the fold.

Molly Bartrip of Tottenham Hotspur during the FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur Women and Charlton Athletic...

Both Molly Bartrip and Hannah Blundell who play for Tottenham and Manchester United respectively will add a new dynamic to the squad whilst bringing a great balance of youth and experience. 

Having both made moves this summer we’ve seen Bartrip become a figurehead in a Spurs team that is known for being defensively resilient. I think her experience in being part of teams that often have to perform in a low block will give Sarina another option in defence, as the other defenders are at teams which dominate the ball.

Whilst saying this, Bartrip is also someone who’s confident passing out from the back and leading a backline which I think will be invaluable to the side this summer.

Hannah Blundell of Manchester United during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester United Women and Manchester City Women at...

In contrast, Blundell brings a great balance of attack and defence at full-back. Having previously been at Chelsea, she’s somebody that knows how to handle the pressure of a big game and her responsibilities in defence. This season at United we’ve also seen her attacking threat being put under the spotlight too, having already contributed three assists in the league as well as combining well with the winger as an outlet. 

Now is a greater time than ever for Sarina to introduce them to the fold and with that, I think the Lionesses will reap the rewards.

Ella Toone and Alessia Russo’s blossoming partnership key for Man United.. and England

An elite space manipulator in Ella Toone, and a fit Alessia Russo? Scary hours – but not for us.

Alessia Russo had started last season ridiculously well, and within her first 3 starts had already given the team two league goals and two assists.

Fans were licking their lips at the prospect of her launching United into that coveted top three – that would see the team make the Champions League for the first time in its history.

However, fast forward a couple of weeks, and Alessia had unfortunately suffered a complete hamstring tear which saw her season ended prematurely following complex surgery and rehabilitation.

This, coupled with other major injuries in the team – most notably to the world-class Tobin Heath, saw the club’s Champions League dream fade.

The saving grace of last season was the development of Academy graduate Ella Toone, who shone through despite the club missing out on top three by one point.

After doing so well with United in the Championship in 2018/19, she saw reduced minutes in the 19/20 season following the club’s promotion to the Women’s Super League.

Ella Toone of Manchester United controls the ball during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester United Women and Manchester...
Ella Toone is a star in the making for club and country

The following season a rejuvenated Toone came into her first game and started not only full of confidence, but a clear idea about how she can use her small, though nimble presence to be an elite finder of space in the midfield. Former United manager Casey Stoney even went as far as to refer to her as “undroppable”.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure in watching these two young stars play, the best way to describe the way Toone is somebody that no matter who is surrounding herself can wriggle out of extreme pressure through body feints and passing. Think David Silva but from Tyldesley.

The greatest asset to Toone’s game is the fact that her game intelligence appears to be extremely high. Not only is she a fantastic player technically, but her decision-making in the centre of the park is more often than not well beyond her years.

The biggest indication that this is true is the fact that her teammates appear to trust her completely, even under pressure. This season she has started receiving the superstar treatment, with two and sometimes even three people closing her down.

Ella Toone of England looks on during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Qualifier group D match between Luxembourg and England at the Luxembourg...
Toone made her first start for England in the recent internationals

However, all this signifies to me is how much of a threat she is considered by opponents, and more importantly how adaptable and calm she is when she meets obstacles on the pitch.

Having received her first England start a few weeks ago, I’m nothing but confident that she will be able to make that number 8/10 position hers for years to come.

Her understanding of the game lends itself well to the international level – namely her ability to find space and evade opponents with her close control and movement. So whilst she nailed down a starting and pivotal role to the United team, getting consistent minutes in the England squad is going to be a harder task because of the sheer amount of quality in the Lionesses attacking areas.

However, Toone has shown many times before that competition for places and increased demand on her is something that she welcomes – and I have no doubt that in the next three years she will be vital to the England side.

Alessia Russo of Manchester United Women scores their second goal during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester United Women...
Russo got on the scoresheet against Man City last weekend with a brilliant finish in the box

Unlike her close friend and teammate Toone, Russo didn’t get the last season to develop through consistent games at the club because of her injury.

What we see with Russo is a clear mould of a traditional striker, with her ability to link up with other forwards players, be a focal point with strong hold-up play, and more importantly her extremely accurate finishing.

In the five games I was able to see her in last season she showed more than just potential. Instead, she showed a clear understanding of how she could use her physical stature and positional knowledge as a striker to not only give herself goal-scoring opportunities but also give the wingers playing goal-scoring opportunities as well. 

As she continues to build her fitness up this season, as well as the fact that she appears to have a great relationship with teammates no matter which personnel she’s paired wit, I can only see great things for her both in the short and long term.

Alessia Russo of Manchester United Women in action during a training session at Carrington Training Ground on October 01, 2021 in Manchester, England.
Could Russo be the long-term replacement for Ellen White for England?

Her style of play makes her a very good candidate for being Ellen White’s eventual successor, and I think that her and Toone’s close connection both on and off the pitch will bode well for what England can do in the future.

So, as one of the founding members of the Toone and Russo fan club, I’d love nothing more than to see them both excelling and winning trophies – both for England and Manchester United. And when that (fingers crossed) happens… just remember that you heard it here first!