Pernille Harder: Attacking numbers & through pass analysis

I’ve always felt inequiped to write about women’s football. Not that I don’t posseess the knowledge about football, but that I don’t feel that I know the depts of women’s football enough to make an assessment. Or that people just didn’t want to hear about my thoughts about it.

I’ve let that thought go a bit now, but this is my first player analysis in the women’s game – and because the fact that I liked doing them on the men’s game, this will be equally fun for me. In this analysis I will look more closely to Chelsea FC’s Pernille Harder – more specifically, her attacking numbers in the WSL and her through passes in the 2020/2021 season.

Data analysis

In the data that I’m using all players that have played in the central attacking position in the Women’s Super League, 2020-2021 have been included. The reason is that Wysocut has set this as such, so that’s how I’ve taken it on. I’ve filtered them for >900 minutes played, as that’s enough, in my opinion, to make a good judgment on their data performances in the league. This leaves me with a total of 27 players to look at in data analysis. The data and videos have been retrieved on May 5th 2021.

Goals

In the scatterplot above we can see the metrics shots per 90 and shots on target % combined. It tells us how many shots are conducted per 90 and how well these shots are places – are they on target or not? Harder has 4,03 shots per 90 in the WSL this season with shots on target percentage of 40,35%. As seen in the image, you can see that only Kerr and Miedema have more shots per 90 minutes.

In the scatterplot above we can see the metrics expected goal per 90 and goals per 90. It tells us how big the probability of a shot being converted into a goal is and the actual goals being scored per 90. Harder has a xG of 0,61 per 90 minutes with 0,64 goals scored per 90 minutes. This means that Harder scores more goals than would be expected on the quality of chances and shots. Only Foord, Miedema, Kirby and Kerr score more goals per 90.

Pernille Harder has scored 20 goals in all competitions in the 2020/2021 season. In the Women’s Super League she has scored 9 goals with 1273 minutes played so far. In the video below I will show some of the goals that show how clinical she is and how she always comes in the right positions to score goals for Chelsea.

In the video above we see Chelsea in the attack on the right side with Harder in key role in the attack. She is constantly moving and scanning where the ball is and when the opposition doesn’t clear the ball sufficiently she steps up in the penalty area and with a piece of skill gets in an ideal position to score, which she does.

In this video we Chelsea attacking on the left side in the game against Arsenal. In this video we see that Harder positioned herself just outside the penalty area before penetrating that penalty area. The little movement she makes to get just enough space to get a good shot at goal, is what makes her an elite player rather than just a good player.

The movement is a key part of Harder’s game. In this set-piece above we see that she starts close to the six-yard box, but then drops deeper and deeper, just outside the penalty area, in order to get the ball and give herself enough space to adequately pull the trigger. This time she shoots with her left and her shot is precise – another goal for her.

Assists

In the scatterplot above we can see the metrics expected assists per 90 and assists per 90. It tells us how big the probability of a pass being converted into a goal is and the actual assisted being scored per 90. Harder has a xA of 0,2 per 90 minutes with 0,21 assists per 90 minutes. This means that Harder has more assists than would be expected on the quality of chances and passes. Only Foord, Miedema, Kirby, and England have more assists per 90.

Pernille Harder has assisted 7 goals in all competitions in the 2020/2021 season. In the Women’s Super League she has assisted 3 goals with 1273 minutes played so far.

Key passing

In the graph below you can see the percentile ranks of Harder compared to the 27 players in my database. This shows in which percentile she is for every metric that belongs to the key passing side of the game.

As you can see in the graph, Harder is really good. She scores excellent in all the metrics against the players in his position who have played more than 900 minutes. She ranks above the 75th percentile in every key passing rank looked at and if we don’t look at the expected assists per 90, she even ranks 80th in every rank. Very impressive in this season so far.

This can also be seen in the beeswarmplot below. This visual shows us the same information, but the visual is slightly different as it visually shows us where the players are in terms of the metric and shows us how far ahead Harder actually is.

Through passes

As displayed in the title of this piece, this analysis is partly concentrated on the through passes of Harder. Until now I’ve analysed a lot of different passes, more specifically her key passing and goal. Now, I’m going to show her variety of through passes via 5 video examples.

In the video above we see Chelsea in their game against Manchester City. This shows two things in the through pass of Harder. She shows that she can play a through pass under pressure of the opposition and it shows that she can scan where the other attacking players are making their run, and she can play the ball behind the defence.

In the video above we see Chelsea in their game against Aston Villa. We see Harder on the left side getting the ball and at the same time she sees Kerr sprinting towards the penalty area. This particular shows that Harder has the technique and touch to gently nudge it past the defenders and to create a goalscoring opportunity for her team mates.

In the video above we see Chelsea against Everton. In this particular example Harder is playing in midfield at the moment she receives the ball, and moves forward. She spots her team mate running in behind and Harder pass the ball through the defence – with her left foot- to create another great goalscoring opportunity.

In the video above we see Chelsea in their game against Tottenham. Chelsea presses Tottenham as soon as the ball is with the opposition and Harder gets the ball just outside zone 14 and picks out Kerr again, this time swinging the ball into the six-yard box, to create another great scoring opportunity.

In the video above we see Chelsea play against Brighton and Hove Albion. In this particular case, Harder is pressing aggressively after which she regains possession of the ball and immediately sets up a dangerous attack by giving a through ball into the penalty.

Final thoughts

Pernille Harder has already proven in previous seasons to be an outstanding player, but in this season she is doing great things for the very successful Chelsea team and doing great overall in the WSL. She has adapted really well and it seems like she will only grow going forward.

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