After signing one mega superstar (Sam Kerr) and one future star (Jamie-Lee Napier), Chelsea FCW completed the market trifecta with the sensible signing of Bayern Munich captain Melanie Leupolz. Since finding access to Frauen-Bundesliga matches is difficult here in America, my post covering her official unveiling was reliant on some quickfire research and reading to analyze where and how the German might fit at Chelsea.
Now, thanks to Abdullah Abdullah and Total Football Analysis posting a more complete scouting report, we can see where I was right or wrong.
I initially described her as existing between the attacking splendor of Ji So-yun and the defensive stoutness of Sophie Ingle, and at least with regard to average expected assists (xA) per 90*, that was accurate. Leupolz, at .09, is nearly at the midway point in the variance between Ji (.16) and Ingle (.06). In fact, if Ji weren’t as outrageous as she is, Leupolz’s respectable showing for a deeper positioned player would stand out even more.
Leupolz also receives more passes than Ji and Ingle, but still manages to pass the ball into the box at an above average rate: 2.5 passes into the box per 90 outpaces Ingle’s below average 1.94 and is remarkably close to Ji’s 3.08. Leupolz’s average of 8.6 recoveries per 90 further situates her between Ji (6.9) and Ingle (10.5).
Abdullah then goes into depth about Melanie’s roles with Bayern and the German national team, and the various tasks she’s given in their respective midfields.
In summary, Leupolz is a match controller and tempo setter. She’s great at presenting herself as an outlet and is capable of receiving the ball under pressure and moving it on smartly. As such, she spends most of her time shaded to the left or right of the center circle in the opposition’s half. Her vision and passing range makes this an ideal playing position, as it provides the angles to link with her fellow midfielders, either fullback or winger, or play directly to the striker.
However, after my shotgun analysis, a horrified commenter expressed frustration that she sounded more like a Jorginho than a Michael Ballack.
It’s difficult to compare women footballers to men because men’s football has had the resources to experience multiple stages of growth, which means that a lot of male players cannot be as versatile as their women counterparts. For instance, there is no male equivalent to Ji So-yun. But the underlying concern was whether Chelsea signed a ‘regista’ type playmaker who needs a specific style of play to be successful, or a more traditional midfielder. I argued against the Jorginho comparison, but Abdullah picked out the Italian national as a comparison.
However, my primary reason for shying away from the Jorginho link (aside from the parallels in the games not being binary enough to make 1:1 comparisons) is Leupolz’s ability to cope with and evade pressure. She’s a solid, technical dribbler with good awareness and quick feet. Running at her in no way neutralizes her; in fact there’s more of a chance that doing so will only result in making her next pass easier.
Abdullah admits this later in his report.
“…the common denominator of these methods is her ability under pressure. When the team comes under pressure regardless of where she is on the pitch, Leupolz is also able to dribble and pass her way out of trouble. The former Munich midfielder uses her incredible ability to keep possession and pass to assist her team from danger. Not only does this keep possession away from the opposition but is useful in preventing opposition counter-attacks.”
–Abdullah Abdullah; source: Total Football Analysis
But both Abdullah and I agree that Leupolz was a smart signing by Chelsea who gives the squad an option for more control of matches against teams good enough to hold their own and not be totally overwhelmed by the Blues’ attack.
Abdullah also takes a few shots at naming some lineups the already versatile Chelsea squad might deploy once Leupolz is fully integrated. This is the part that becomes difficult, particularly when you assume Fran Kirby’s return to full health. Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes will have the talent to name devastating 3-5-2s, 4-3-3s, 4-4-2s, or even a 4-2-2-2 — and in every one a world class talent could be left out. I do not envy her future sleepless nights.
Realistically, it will likely be a while until we get any answers on how this will play out, but I encourage you to read Abdullah’s thorough scouting report to get a more complete sense of Chelsea’s newest blue.
"There seems to be a lack of a possession based midfielder who is able to control possession and link play between the thirds"— Total Football Analysis (@TotalAnalysis) April 9, 2020
.@kunabd gives us an in-depth analysis on @ChelseaFCW 's new signing Melanie #Leupolz who moves from @FCBfrauen in March.
* all stats via Wyscout