A frustrating 2019/20 campaign seems to have ignited a fire within Jill Roord to prove herself as the best midfielder at Arsenal this season.
Managing just nine starts in 15 league games for the Gunners was Roord’s least active season after making double-figure starts for Bayern Munich the previous two terms. However, with something to prove, she seems like a different player this season.
This time round, Roord has been deployed as a more attacking midfielder with a license to roam further up the pitch.
With Lia Walti capable of shielding the back four, Roord can dazzle in the final third with her clinical instinct.
A New Found Freedom
Despite not being renowned for her finishing ability and goals, she has already got six this season, with hat-tricks against Reading and West Ham respectively. This already surpasses her total of two from the previous campaign in 700 fewer league minutes.
All six of Roord’s goals have been strikes inside the box. With her 11 shots and 3.56 on target per 90 minutes, it’s obvious how she is flourishing in a more free and advanced role.Embed from Getty Images
It’s not just Roord who is benefiting from her new identity on the pitch. Arsenal average 6.69 more goals when Roord is on the pitch, compared to last season when it was just 1.59.
This is down to her being able to operate as almost a second striker when required if Vivianne Miedema drifts wide. This was showcased in one of her goals against Reading.
Beth Mead picked her out with a long ball in and Roord used her height and strength to cushion a pass off to Kim Little, before spinning off the defender and tapping home into an open net.
This subtle change highlights Roord’s football intelligence to glide into spaces vacated by other players. The Dutch international has already had 12 touches in the opposition’s box after two games, putting her only 18 behind her total last season.
Small Changes Make Big Results
These goals could be described as poachers’ goals, but there’s a lot of IQ required to pull them off. Roord makes all the correct decisions when weighing up her options in attack.
This may have come about through her first season when settling into English football.
The above image shows how much more intelligent she has become on the pitch. Keeping herself away from defenders, realising the space left by Miedema in the middle and pointing to where she wants the ball played.
It’s a real skill to have good ability with both your feet and your brain, which a lot of Dutch players seem to have.
Roord has set herself up to have a great season in the WSL and establish herself as one of the top midfielders in the league. Adding goals to her tally will only increase her pedigree within the game.
Her footballing brain is what has impressed and changed the most within the last 12 months. Not only is she getting herself on the scoresheet, but she is pulling the strings to command Arsenal’s play.