Laura Wienroither: Who is Arsenal’s new signing?

Laura Wienroither of 1899 Hoffenheim controls the ball.
Laura Wienroither of 1899 Hoffenheim controls the ball during the UEFA Women's Champions League match against HB Koge on 5 October 2021. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

This Saturday, Arsenal announced the signing of Austrian international Laura Wienroither.

The 23-year-old defender had previously been under contract at German side TSG Hoffenheim, who are currently sitting second in the Frauen Bundesliga. Wienroither is praised as a promising young defender, but what exactly are her strengths and what can we expect from her? 

Wienroither’s career so far

Wienroither began playing football in 2005, at the age of six. She began her career at Union Kleinmünchen in 2013, making her debut in the Austrian Bundesliga at 15. Quickly establishing herself as one of the most exciting prospects in the league, she took the next steps by joining the top sides SV Neulengbach in 2016 and SKN St. Pölten one year later. During her time in Austria, Wienroither scored a remarkable 82 goals in 182 games, an impressive stat considering her position. Her performances were honored with an invitation to the Austrian national team, where she made her debut in 2018. 

In 2018, Wienroither left her home country, making the switch to TSG Hoffenheim’s second team. As one of the standout performers in the 2. Bundesliga, she joined the first team only a couple of months later, debuting against Bayern Munich. She became an integral part of the team in 2020, playing 1189 minutes in the Frauen Bundesliga last season. She played a key role in Hoffenheim’s successfully qualifying for the UWCL, notching two goals and one assist against Rosengard. 

What stands out about Wienroither’s career so far is her ability to quickly adapt to another team and playing style. After each transfer, she improved faster than expected and had a steep learning curve. Quality-wise, the Bundesliga is on par with the WSL, but the teams’ playing style is different. In Germany, the focus is on tactical discipline and not losing the ball. The WSL, on the other hand, is more physical and faster, so this will be a challenge for her. 

Position

Wienroither will add depth to Arsenal’s squad as she is a versatile defender. Naturally a center-back, she started playing as a right-back for Hoffenheim this season. This role suits her well as she can get more involved in the attack. Across all competitions, Wienroither scored three goals and assisted three in 27 games, showing that she is an attacking threat.

Attacking qualities

Wienroither’s qualities were on full display in the game against Rosengard. In the game, she scored a wonderful goal after picking up the loose ball, controlling her movement and finishing it off with a clean shooting technique.

She has also showcased that she likes to link up with the right winger. In the same game against Rosengard, she managed to control the ball and play a quick one-two pass with Sarai Linder — winning a corner

The statistics from this season show that her passing accuracy is good (85%), which matches with what we have seen. This quality was necessary for Hoffenheim’s style of play, always trying to play out from the back. Against Arsenal in the second leg, her passing accuracy was 100%. For the Gunners, who have struggled against teams that intensely press them, a defender with good passing abilities will be a useful addition.

READ MORE: Hoffenheim’s rise and the reasons for their success

Wienroither also has an eye for her teammates, as the following clip shows. Receiving the ball in a dangerous position, she has a perfect timing to play the ball to Jule Brand. A cross would have been the more obvious solution, but Wienroither noticed with a quick glance that Brand was left unmarked and opted for a short, effective pass instead.

For progressive runs, she ranks in the 94th percentile compared to other Bundesliga defenders, which means that she was one of the best in that aspect. She averages 3.68 passes into the final third per game as well. These statistics are testament to her attacking qualities. 

Despite her leaning towards attacking on the right side, Arsenal’s new signing doesn’t neglect her actual task, defending. 

Defending qualities

Her pace also helps the defending part of her game. In Austria’s World Cup qualifier against England, we saw a perfect example of her combination of solid defending and prowess on the ball.

Wienroither first blocked England’s dynamic winger Lauren Hemp and effectively stopped her from progressing the ball. Having won the ball in a potentially dangerous area, she displayed her good ball control by skillfully going past Demi Stokes.

Like most of her club teammates, however, Wienroither struggled in the first leg UWCL match against Barcelona. Her task on the right side was far from an easy one, having to defend against Rolfö and Martens. Yet, she also made some important clearances and tackles.

In one instance, Wienroither tried to prevent Rolfö from driving into the box. First, she waited attentively, then she sped up at the right moment and made a perfectly timed tackle. 

Her movement was similar against England, again going up against Hemp. It seemed like Hemp was through. But in the last moment, Wienroither intercepted and made it impossible for the winger to place a shot on target.

Tackles are one of Wienroither’s preferred weapons to defend. In the match against Barcelona, there was a passage of play where she slid into a pass — making a vital interception to stop what could have become a very dangerous attack. 

Weaknesses

We have seen that Arsenal’s new acquisition is a defender who is good at attacking, tackling and anticipating. But in what areas can she still improve?

Due to her young age, Wienroither’s defending can be a bit impetuous. She isn’t always fully aware of the movement she is executing. Sometimes she is also too late when trying to tackle. 

As we described above, Wienroither tried to intercept the ball in the last second and make a clean tackle to clear the ball. Sometimes this works out, as against Rolfö, but it is also risky. Tackles are usually the last solution when you have already lost a few meters and can’t stop the attacker.

Against England, Wienroither lost this duel against Hemp and reacted too late, which resulted in a dangerous situation. She attempted to get the ball, her leg stretched out, but it was a few seconds too late. 

A second example occurred against Barcelona, highlighting her potential and weaknesses. Wienroither scanned the area around her and intercepted a pass. But a few seconds later, she is surprised by her teammate’s pass back to her and she loses the ball. In this situation, she was too fast and thus couldn’t control the ball. 

In the air

Another weakness are her aerial duels. Being only 165 cm tall (5.4 feet), Wienroither is smaller than most of her opponents and not an aerial presence. As we covered above, she also avoids defensive duels and prefers making tackles. More defensive variability would make her more difficult to beat for attackers. Her statistics from the last Bundesliga season show that too: 

Arsenal have gotten an agile defender who is good on the ball, can make crucial runs and is not afraid to tackle. Her performances against England and in the second leg against Arsenal show that she is capable of defending against dynamic, quick wingers. Wienroither can improve by getting into more defensive duels and reacting a tad quicker. But considering her quick evolution so far, the chances are good that we will see improvements in these areas very soon. 

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