Well folks, Tottenham Hotspur Women’s preseason is over, and Manchester United is right around the corner. There’s only a limited amount of information available from watching half-fit players play in odd conditions against unfamiliar teams in new configurations. I personally still have nightmares about signing Tanguy Ndombele and Gio Lo Celso, winning the Audi cup, and then playing a run of football so terrible it ended in Pochettino leaving the club. That said, I do have some takes about Spurs Women.
In case you need a preseason refresher, it went something like this. Spurs Women traveled to Louisville, KY to compete in The Women’s Cup. They faced a wildly attacking Club America Femenil, and the organized Tokyo Verdy Beleza, and lost both games 2-1. Spurs Women then headed back to London and faced Chelsea, to whom they lost 2-0. It was a tough run, and if you’re only looking at the score line, it probably sounds pretty bad. But there was a lot to like—flashes of brilliance from players we know and love, exciting young prospects bedding into a new team under a new coach.
We also apparently played a number of games behind closed doors, but there’s almost no information about who played in those games or how they went. So without further ado, here’s a list of things we learned in preseason!
1. A back three?
Last season we saw Rehanne Skinner frequently switch between a back four and a back three. We often saw the three in games that required defensive solidarity (think Chelsea, Arsenal, Chelsea again because for some reason we had to play them twice in five days…), and a back four in games where we expected to be on the attack. In preseason, Skinner used pretty much exclusively a back three.
Maybe it’s not what we’re going to see going forward—maybe she just thought all three teams were high quality opposition (they were), or maybe she just wanted to give Amy Turner as many preseason minutes as possible, while she could afford to rest midfielders like Drew Spence and Eveliina Summanen who had full summers on international duty. It’s too few minutes to tell. Either way, our opening run of games is pretty tough, so I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of that back three in the coming weeks.
2. The goalkeeper situation hasn’t changed much.
Becky Spencer and Tinja-Rikka Korpela are still quite good. It looks like we’re going to continue to switch off between the two, if preseason is anything to go by. I do think Korpela could’ve come off her line slightly faster on Club America’s first goal, that’s something I’d like to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
3. We have a fullback problem.
Kerys Harrop is injured, Ria Percival is injured, Esther Morgan is injured. That leaves us with two (just 2!) natural fullbacks, Ash Neville (who is still legendary) and Asmita Ale. Molly Bartrip started the game against Club America at right back, and I think it’s fair to say it was a failure. The spacing in the back line was all over the place, we conceded two—it’s a no from me. We also saw a fluid formation against Tokyo Verdy Beleza where Amy Turner, Eveliina Summanen, and Jess Naz all cycled through the right back spot as needed. We didn’t concede and I didn’t hate it, but I don’t think that’ll work against stronger teams.
4. It might take some time for Amy Turner to get back up to speed.
We know she hasn’t played in a while due to personal issues. She looked a little off pace. We may have to be patient there. While Kerys is out, I’m a wee bit concerned about our center back depth as well. If one of Amy, Molly, or Shelina gets injured, we’ll be forced into a back two.
5. We’re really missing Maeva, Ria, Rachel and Kit.
Everyone knows how much pressing work Maeva Clemaron, Ria Percival and Rachel Williams put in last year. I think people underestimate how crucial that pressing work was to our defensive solidarity. The pressing and defending those three players put in often stopped the ball before it even reached Molly and Shelina. Take those three out, and put them in a side trying to learn pressing and attacking patterns for the first time? You’re gonna get Swiss cheese. We really need to figure out that press, because out of those three, only Ria is coming back. Oh, and I mentioned Kit Graham. Kit Graham is just Kit Graham. She lights up the attack and makes things happen. When she comes back, we’ll be an entirely different team.
6. Angharad James is good.
After Amy Turner’s first half against Club America, I didn’t have high hopes for Angharad. I figured she also hadn’t played in a while, and she seemed to be a second thought after we signed Amy. I was wrong. Angharad burst out of the gate in the 2nd half with some lovely tricks and flicks, and some gorgeous passes including the one that assisted Nikola Karczewska’s consolation goal. She also puts in an enormous amount of defensive work and cleans up quite a bit before it filters through to our center backs. I absolutely love this signing and I can’t wait to see more of her.
7. Drew Spence is also really good.
I counted two no-look passes in her first 20 minutes on the field against Club America. She seemed to be moving when nobody else was moving, looking for line-breaking passes, and even taking shots from outside the box. I liked her deep, and I liked her even better as a 10 (though that was cut short by a knock that forced her out of the game). She pressed really well against her former team, Chelsea, and seemed like she’d been playing Rehanne Skinner’s football for ages. I’m really excited to see how she helps the team going forward.
8. The Cho-Petzelberger midfield.
We didn’t learn anything from this, I just thought it was really funny. As an aside, I’m extremely unconvinced by Ramona Petzelberger. She seems to have a limited amount of running in her, she gets bullied off the ball, and she doesn’t get involved in games. Maybe I’m biased because that’s about what I thought we were getting when we signed her. I guess we’ll see!
9. We haven’t found our shooting boots yet.
Even though Rosella Ayane did score against Tokyo Verdy Beleza, she was, as usual, still quite wasteful. Since she seemed quite good at penalties for Morocco, and her goal against Tokyo came from almost right on the penalty dot, I’m wondering whether she can actually only shoot from the center.
None of Jess Naz, Ellie Brazil, and Celin Bizet really contributed to our shot count either. Concerningly, some of our trouble shooting stemmed from an inability to progress the ball to the final third and retain it. I’m hoping that was either a sharpness or a “we signed a ton of new players” issue, and that it resolves the longer the team plays together.
10. Enough sparks to start a fire.
I saw bright moments from all of Rosella, Jess, Ellie, and Celin. Rosella and Jess put in some great defensive work and found some great passes in various moments. Jess in particular looked to grow in confidence as preseason progressed (I also heard she was rehabbing an injury, so maybe it was that). I absolutely love that Ellie Brazil can take on a player, stand them up and beat them one on one. And Celin looks fun as hell—did you SEE that side-foot assist to Nikola’s goal?? A number of Spurs Women folks have called our attack a mystery box. If one or two of the mystery box players starts leveling up their shot production, we might be in business.
Nikola Karczewska— JPH (@jessyjph) August 28, 2022
A player guaranteed to make WSL fans across the country murmur “woah she’s massive”
11. Nikola Karczewska is the second coming of Harry Kane.
I’m kidding, but she sure does have a shot on her. She’s also, as one twitter user put it, absolutely massive—completely physically dominant against the top opposition we faced in preseason. She has a real striker’s timing and positioning instinct. Much like Harry Kane, she also tends to drop deep to help with ball progression if no one else is doing it. We saw this in our first half against Chelsea. She can actually retain the ball and spot a pass quite well, but unfortunately nobody else can finish like she can so we’d really rather she stay put up top. Sound familiar?
12. Kyah Simon is the second coming of… Kyah Simon?
We’ve only seen 30 minutes of her because she was rehabbing an injury, so it’s probably too soon to say. But she looked much faster and sharper than I ever remember seeing her look last season. Only time will tell whether the Kyah of old has returned. Personally I’m hoping yes. Cho also deserves an honorable mention here because she came back from injury to play about 20 minutes against Chelsea, and she also seemed to have some renewed spark.
A slick move and a fine finish pic.twitter.com/cZV7LtYN91— Tottenham Hotspur Women (@SpursWomen) August 15, 2022
There are probably about 10 or 15 more things I didn’t put in this list. I haven’t even mentioned Eveliina Summanen, and I didn’t really talk much about Ash or Asmita either. Luckily, we’ll have all season to hash and rehash these topics. All in all, I’d say I’m slightly more positive about Spurs Women than I was before preseason, but slightly less positive than I was at the end of the season.
I love a bit of wild optimism, so I’ll end with this: anyone else think Manchester United looked a bit shaky in preseason?