16 Feb England Arnold Clark Cup Preview
England won the European Championships. Let me repeat that, England WON the Euros! So naturally, excitement is building for their next competition, which just so happens to kick off this week.
The Arnold Clark Cup first graced our pitches last year when England hosted the tough line-up of Spain, Germany and Canada. This was the first time we really got to see what Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses were made of, and we were not disappointed.
The Lionesses won the inaugural round-robin tournament, beating Germany (a sign of things to come) and drawing with Spain and Canada. This took them top of the table with five points, joint with Spain, but England narrowly beat out the Spaniards with a goal difference of +2 to Spain’s +1.
Centre-back Millie Bright won herself the golden boot (yep, you read that right), alongside Spanish marvel Alexia Putellas, after Wiegman’s decision to unleash Bright upfront worked wonders against Germany. Unconventional innovation is all part of Wiegman’s charm, plenty of tricks up her sleeve.
The Lionesses are undefeated since Wiegman took the reins in September 2021 and they’ll certainly be looking to continue this spectacular run over the next two weeks. This time, Wiegman has named a brilliant mix of experience and youth, with plenty of returning faces and plenty of new ones.
Of the absentees, Ellen White and Jill Scott both announced their retirements after lifting the trophy last summer and winger Beth Mead is out after rupturing her ACL before Christmas. Fran Kirby is also out after picking up a knock last week. Nikita Parris, Demi Stokes, Bethany England and Hannah Hampton miss out this time, but a plethora of fresh and talented replacements have been selected.
So, with a fair amount of movement in the team, let’s re-familiarise ourselves with our trophy-laden Lionesses. Here’s our latest squad of 26 looking to earn their next piece of silverware.
Mary Earps – Manchester United’s number one has asserted herself as Wiegman’s first choice between the sticks after being absent from the international stage for a couple of years. Wiegman trusts in Earps and after her outstanding display at the Euro’s, it is easy to see why. Here is a goalkeeper who does her homework, one who is exceptionally well prepared against individual opponents and knows exactly when to put her game face on. Earps is a capable shot-stopper and is unafraid to step out and take defensive work into her own hands.
Known to be vocal, Earps ensures she is in constant communication with those around her. Her direct nature allows her to articulate exactly what she expects of her defensive line, which is a critical when defending set-pieces. Earps also demonstrates accuracy with passing and is comfortable to sit between centre-backs to allow fullbacks to stretch the pitch when playing out from the back.
Sandy MacIver – Sandy MacIver (Mac-EEver) has been in and around the England camp for a number of years having made her senior debut back in 2021. The goalkeeper played as Everton’s number one between 2020-22 and has since moved to Manchester City in a bid to share duties with Ellie Roebuck.
MacIver could be described as a brave or bold goalkeeper. When it comes to one-on-one situations, she is unafraid to come off her line, “get big”, and is more likely to employ defensive action outside of the area than most. Whilst it would be fair to say MacIver is perhaps not as light-footed as Ellie Roebuck or as vocal as Mary Earps, she is a solid organiser with a favourable save ratio and will do well to get a few more international minutes under her belt.
Emily Ramsey – Goalkeeper Emily Ramsey has been capped in many of the international youth levels and most recently captained the U23 side. Ramsey was first called-up to the senior squad in 2021 as a replacement for Karen Bardsley, but this camp serves as her first in which she has been named from the outset.
Under parent club Manchester United, Ramsey has served a number of loan spells and is currently gaining minutes with Everton. At 5’11 Ramsey is a commanding figure at the back who uses her height to advantageously cover the goal mouth and impose on advancing opponents. Ramsey is an excellent outright shot-stopper with a rising domestic clean sheet record. The youngster is also becoming more proficient in playing out from the back when under pressure, although she still does boast a mighty launch kick.
Ellie Roebuck – Although she’s still only in her early twenties, Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck has long been on the scene having made her senior debut back in 2018. Roebuck was a regular feature for England throughout the youth age groups and has a growing amount of international experience to her name. Roebuck and MacIver were both selected to play in the 2021 Olympic Games, in which Roebuck donned the gloves as Team GB’s number one.
Roebuck is now firmly back between the sticks for her club after spending some time out with injury last year and is once again showcasing her perceptive and quick movement. Roebuck is perhaps the most agile of Wiegman’s keepers, using her quick footwork and sudden shifts of weight to execute effective body position. Roebuck is also known for her ‘sweeper’ abilities and is aware enough to come some way off her line to tidy up without compromising readiness to protect the goal.
Lucy Bronze – Lucy Bronze has arguably been England’s most important fullback over recent years, and even more so, their most versatile fullback tactically. An inverted right-back, she is one of England’s primary sources of build-up. Bronze habitually interchanges in position with the right winger, but also has the sense to keep her width to stretch play in the right moments. Bronze’s crossing skills and spatial awareness are difference-makers and give England a spirited drive along the right touchline.
Bronze is also known for her tendency to drift into the midfield to create overloads in the middle. As a progressive fullback, Bronze likes to carry the ball high up the pitch, she has a habit of cutting in centrally and decoying opponents when the space is afforded. Bronze’s role in both defence and in attack cannot be understated.
Millie Bright – No-nonsense centre-back Millie Bright is possibly England’s most ‘traditional’ defender. Bright is a staple figure in the Lionesses line-up and has been named as vice-captain after displaying desirable leadership qualities across the previous few seasons with Chelsea.
Bright is assertive and aggressive and uses her physicality, as much as her feet, to escort attacking threats away from goal. Usually, the last woman standing, Bright is unafraid to put her body on the line to block or intercept in timely fashion. Bright has a keen eye for a cross ball and her launched passes often act as catalysts for attacking phases of play further up field. Standing at 5ft 9, Bright also provides a serious aerial threat at set-pieces. Further than this, Bright boasts a killer strike and has been known to hit the target from distance.
Jess Carter – Chelsea’s Jess Carter is now a regular addition to the national squad after being out of the fold for a few years. However, the defender has broken out once again with consecutively outstanding seasons with Chelsea and consistently impressive performances for England.
Carter is a well-rounded and functional defender who is able to slot in anywhere across the backline. One-v-one situations and man marking is where Carter truly excels, demonstrating her insightful timing. She is also deceptively quick, which makes her a challenging opponent in a footrace. Carter is intuitively defensively minded and offers the Lionesses a stable marshal, thus allowing her fellow defenders to progress and support in attack.
Niamh Charles – Niamh Charles was unlucky not to have been a part of last year’s Euro’s winning squad. The Chelsea defender has been increasingly important to the Blues’ line-up and looks to be heading the same way on the international stage. Primarily playing on the right, Charles offers a different style of play to Lucy Bronze, with the latter preferring to invert and initiate attacking play.
Charles, however, offers a more supporting role and plays equally well being positioned as both a fullback or wingback. Defensively, Charles is disciplined and is careful to challenge with good timing. But this is not to say that her presence is not valuable in attack, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Charles is an asset in backing-up heavyweight attacking threats with clever movement that creates space and her increasingly savvy passing skills. Further than this, Charles is happy to overlap using width meaning she is often an extra body and auxiliary winger during attacking phases.
Rachel Daly – Rachel Daly is an experienced and adaptable player with a unique skillset. When playing domestically, Daly occupies the centre forward role and is currently wreaking havoc across defensive lines with Aston Villa. Her forward role is that of a deep-lying striker who excels in linking play, playing in other attacking players and creating interchangeable sequences of play. But of course, Daly does also possess that no. 9 killer strike.
Internationally, however, Daly is usually situated further back, primarily featuring for England as a left-back. Here, Daly utilises her strikers’ tendencies and pairs them with the defensive qualities developed as a result of her slightly unusual placement. Daly’s ‘off the ball’ traits are under appreciated at times, but her pressing and positional awareness are key in bringing a balance to England’s backline.
Alex Greenwood – For the majority of her career Greenwood played as a left-back, however over the past two years Greenwood has converted into a left-sided centre-back. Adapting to this role remarkably well, Greenwood has developed a heightened defensive acumen and is reliable in putting in play breaking challenges.
Greenwood brings a finesse to England’s backline offering a favourable counterbalance to Millie Bright’s more physical approach. Greenwood is tidy and rarely takes rash action, however her biggest strength undoubtedly lie in her technical skill. With a weapon of a left foot, Greenwood is able to find teammates across the pitch with a single impeccable pass. Due to this gift of precision, Greenwood also acts as England’s principal set-piece taker.
Leah Williamson – Arsenal defender and England captain Leah Williamson will most likely adopt her traditional centre-back role going forward. After trialling a period in the midfield, it looks as though Williamson will be positioned in the backline for the time being. With that being said, her progressive nature and exceptional ball playing skill, could assume a variation of the number 6 role alongside Keira Walsh depending on Wiegman’s tactics for each game. By and large, what Williamson offers Wiegman is flexibility. Having a player that can be used equally well in the backline and in midfield means a greater number of formations become realistically usable.
Williamson is decisive and rational; a player who is largely purposeful with every touch. The Arsenal thoroughbred harbours quality passing abilities, so much so that in fact, she could easily be regarded as one of the best in the world at filtering progressive passes from back to front. The benefits of having Williamson on the field are endless; from leadership and tact, to playmaking and quality possession.
Lotte Wubben-Moy – Arsenal centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy continues to gain senior international experience after representing the Lionesses at U15, U17, U20 and U21 levels. Much like Millie Bright, Wubben-Moy offers a testing physical presence at the back and uses her height, fitness and strength to deny strikers scoring opportunities.
Wubben-Moy is still one of England’s youngest trade defenders, however the North London native plays with maturity and demonstrates sensible judgement. Aside from being a dependable central defender, Wubben-Moy is also developing into a skilled ball player. She typically likes to dribble toward the half way line before releasing passes through the central channels, by doing so, encouraging positive forward movement from those around her.
Maya Le Tissier – Youngster Maya Le Tissier has slotted straight into Manchester United’s backline in what has been their most successful season to date. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Le Tissier one of the country’s most exciting young talents, but upon observation it quickly becomes clear that the defender will be a feature in the national team for years to come.
Primarily positioned as a centre-back, twenty-year-old Le Tissier plays with a wisdom that keeps her team in check. She can be physical when the time calls for it, but where Le Tissier really shines is with her awareness. The defender has an acute understanding of her surroundings meaning she approaches situations with good decision and rationality. This also aids itself to favourable defensive positioning as well as optimal passing routes to both settle play and trigger build-up.
Laura Coombs – Laura Coombs has been out of the international fold for quite some time, having last been called up to camp in November 2020. However, the midfielder has deservedly earned her place after pulling out a string of notable performances for Manchester City this season.
Coombs, by nature, is a grafter. It is this custom of hers that has seen her rise to the top and re-assert herself as one of the most productive midfielders in the country. With a definitive “keep your head down and get on with it” attitude, Coombs showcases her willingness to tidy up and do the less glamourous work. Whilst she may not offer the creative flair others possess, what she guarantees is key defensive and offensive runs and an off-the ball work rate that is second to none. Coombs is also a known goal-scorer and can hit the net from range.
Jordan Nobbs – Arguably one of England’s most naturally gifted footballers, Jordan Nobbs’ international career has unfortunately been plagued by injury meaning she has missed out on some of their pivotal moments. Having been with the Arsenal for 12 years, Nobbs took the decision to move to Aston Villa in January and has enjoyed an illustrious run of form since.
Nobbs is a direct player. She enjoys injecting intensity into play, both defensively and offensively, and a notable shift in pressing is always sensed when Nobbs is on the pitch. Typically, Nobbs is deployed higher up the field as her ability to find space, thread passes and unlock her venomous strike make her an ever-present attacking threat. However, Nobbs is also well played as a no.8. with the acumen to link play and provide balance box-to-box.
Jess Park – Attacking midfielder Jess Park is about as lively as they come. With incredible pace and dribbling skills, Park can be a real handful to keep a hold of. This season Park has come to the forefront in her spell with Everton, demonstrating skill in both scoring and assisting, typically from wider areas. Park likes to stretch oppositions by drifting out to the wing before taking on fullbacks when in possession. Being comfortable up close and personal to the touchlines has allowed Park to develop a unique trickery in getting out of tight areas, pulling off inspired manoeuvres when doing so.
To further instate the impact the youngster can have, Park scored her first international goal just a minute after making her debut appearance for England against Japan last November.
Georgia Stanway – Bayern Munich’s star midfielder is spirited and gutsy. Georgia Stanway is an aggressor, and to describe her as anything less would be inimical of the passion she exudes. Stanway is a versatile and positionally disciplined player having played stints as a right-back, a holding midfielder and a forward. However, Stanway’s most natural role falls as a number 10, bridging the defensive lines of midfield to the forward troupe.
Stanway is a significant attacking facet for England with an ability to facilitate successful and consistent passes and carries into the penalty area. Yet, she is also a considerable defensive asset who is particularly knowing of the importance of defensive unity across the whole pitch. Stanway is already affluent in international experience with over 40 senior caps and 14 goals for her country, despite still being in her early twenties.
Ella Toone – Manchester United’s creative dynamo has certainly impressed Wiegman and has been a mainstay in her reign so far. The playmaker is a fantastically innovative number 10 who is able to find creative ways to thread key passes that often lead to shot and goal creation. Toone openly invites tight pressure and enjoys using her ‘tricky feet’ to weave her way through defensive lines, ball-in-tow. This affords others the time and space to take up advanced and threatening positions.
Not just a prolific assistant, Toone is also a respectable goal scorer having already netted two hat-tricks for England. Toone will certainly offer an essential dose of creativity against sides who prefer to sit back in a low block.
Keira Walsh – Deep lying midfielder Keira Walsh is the Lionesses’ linchpin. She is, quite simply, the key that unlocks the very best of England’s potential. Walsh demonstrates remarkable vision and makes good on this ability to forward think with her diverse passing range. The Barcelona midfielder is able to spray passes any which way across the pitch with acute accuracy, and routinely spots the key space and off-the-shoulder runs that others tend to miss.
Although she may not be the most physical defensive midfielder, Walsh shows capability in dispossessing at crucial moments and adds a layer of protection ahead of the backline with her intelligent positioning. It is not an overstatement to say that Walsh occupies the Lionesses’ most organic ‘footballing brain’. She is a truly gifted midfielder.
Katie Zelem – Manchester United captain Katie Zelem is becoming a common name on the Lionesses squad list of late. With United heavily contending for domestic acclaim, Zelem’s profile as a possession-based and precision-led central midfielder has become fundamental to her club. Zelem is best used in a double pivot in which she is able to step out and ping pinpoint passes forward whilst still maintaining a level defensive cover.
Excelling in deadball situations, Zelem is a prolific set-piece taker and set-piece scorer. From both corners and free-kicks, Zelem’s deadly right foot sees her as an essential component in goal creation as she assists others. She is also renowned for scoring from the corner flag which is never a bad trick to pull out the bag.
Lauren Hemp – Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp is the Lionesses’ ‘not so secret’ weapon. The left sided winger is unfathomably quick and uses her pace to propel England’s transitional play. Hemp is an absolute headache of a forward for defenders, relentlessly darting through oppositions and shattering lines with ease. Whether an opponent or a viewer, you simply cannot switch off when Hemp is on the ball.
Hemp is charismatic, bold, at times audacious, and due to this magnetism, she is often sought out by the Lionesses’ deep ball playing contingent as their initiating attacker. She is also a fine crosser of the ball which suits England’s typical 4-3-3 system down to the ground. Hemp is still only in the beginnings of her career, yet she already approaches matches with a confidence that will only lead to extraordinary things.
Lauren James – Widely regarded as one of the rawest footballing talents the country has ever seen, Lauren James is simply magnificent to watch. The Chelsea forward can play in just about any attacking position and deals with whatever she is tasked with radiating collectedness.
It is almost as if James defies time and space when she is in possession. Everyone and everything around her appear to stand still as she motors toward goal, darting around opponents as if they are nothing more than cones marked out on a training ground. With pressing qualities as well as defensive substance, James’ ludicrous speed paired with her ease on the ball is just the tip of the iceberg. There is no other way to describe James’ game than to define it as inexplicably cool, but the real exhilaration comes in knowing that she is nowhere near her prime. Mark these words, Lauren James will define a generation.
Chloe Kelly – England hero Chloe Kelly gives the Lionesses yet another dynamic option along the wing. The Manchester City forward, who had an indescribable summer after returning from an ACL injury, offers a slightly alternative profile to that of her fellow wingers.
Kelly is possibly best described as a ‘traditional winger’. Usually situated on the right, Kelly prefers to keep her width but is equally capable of drifting into the interior channels as an inside forward. Kelly boasts a devastating crossing ability and her pace is complementary to that of left-sided colleague Lauren Hemp.
Katie Robinson – Brighton’s Katie Robinson is a relatively new name on the senior roster, having made her first appearance for England in November of last year. Robinson’s form at Brighton has gone from strength to strength and she has served as a light in a dark spiral amidst their poor performances this season.
Robinson is capable in assisting others, as well as being a goal scorer herself. The twenty-year-old likes to put pressure on defenders and is direct in her approach. She is also an ever-testing threat to goalkeepers and usually does well with her targeted efforts. With her desire to ‘make things happen’ Robinson is able play a key part in transitioning build-up play into substantial attacks.
Alessia Russo – The backheel assassin herself Alessia Russo is becoming a regular face on game days and it’s proving to be increasingly beneficial. The Manchester United striker gives the Lionesses’ forward line something altogether compelling; a buoyant point of reference to target.
Russo is adaptable and has experience in playing out wide, however she is most effective when stationed in the centre as a no. 9. Using her physicality, Russo likes to put the pressure on and strongly contest for the ball, thus causing her to have quite the presence in the area. Russo is a capable dribbler, and is also a willing runner, which leaves England in good stead when using quick transitions. Finally, Russo is extremely good in the air adding further element to her layered abilities.
Ebony Salmon – Since her move to the States, Ebony Salmon has been tearing up football pitches and making defences squirm with the Houston Dash. Domestically, the centre forward is in illustrious form and will hoping to begin to carry this over to the international stage.
Salmon is an out and out no. 9 with that instinctive eye to pounce on any mistake or opening an opponent might leave. As well as being a constant threat in the box, Salmon is also willing to track back to support by ‘defending from the front’. More often than not makes good on the service provided and is a proven clinical finisher. With Ellen White’s retirement, Wiegman is in need of rotational options upfront to balance out Alessia Russo’s workload and Ebony Salmon readily fits the bill here.