In her first eighty-six minutes of WSL action, star center back signing Kadeisha Buchanan’s debut was an excellent showcase of her immense talent. The 26-year-old defender sported 93% pass accuracy (88/95), had the second most touches in the match (105), was 70% accurate with long distribution, 100% tackle success and won five out of seven ground duels and two out of three aerial duels — and then she conceded a penalty.
However, Buchanan has admitted that part of the reason for joining Chelsea from Lyon was to push herself to improve but leaping out of her comfort zone. One match in, and a bad penalty concession late in a tough match certainly provides a crash course.
“I’m definitely not in my comfort zone here, I feel like every day I’m learning something new, whether it’s not tackling with one foot versus the other. It’s just the little details now that they’re bringing out. They really watch the training every day here and there is a lot of staff to help with our games. They have a huge staff who are very diligent and very detail-oriented who help me and all the girls with whatever we need to work on.”
When players reach a level of dominance, their growth has to come in the small margins Buchanan is describing above. Buchanan played in the middle of a back three against Liverpool (later in a back 4 when Emma Hayes made a sub and changed the formation), and was a delight to watch under high pressure.
She maneuvered around to make herself an easy outlet for teammates before they could be trapped, while showing off her passing range to distribute vertically or even dribble and/or turn away from pressure.
A late penalty concession makes all of that harder to remember, but it reinforces why Buchanan made the move. The sport looks easy to her in some phases, and is determined to master the areas in which it isn’t (yet).
“I think that’s very key here and I admire that. That’s why I really wanted to come here. The detail they have, for all aspects of your game, is unreal. I’ve only been here for a couple of months but I know by the end of my journey here I’ll be a different player.”
Buchanan left Lyon with five D1 Arkema titles, three domestic cup titles and five Champions League trophies. Last year she was also a dominant defensive force throughout the Olympics, helping Canada secure their first gold medal in women’s football.
Buchanan’s talent and status as one of the world’s best center backs certainly made her a target for any team looking for a top center back, but her familiarity with winning and what it takes must have been additionally intriguing to Emma Hayes, who’s still chasing an elusive Champions League title.
“OL [Lyon] had a great sense of teamwork and team leadership carried them a long way. I think for any team it’s always about the team and how all the girls come together. That’ll be the key component to this, just every player being on board with our goals, just not being an individual and all working together.”
-Kadeisha Buchanan; source: The Guardian
Onwards and upwards as they say, we have trophies to win. Including one shiny pointy-eared bugger in particular.