WSL Preview: Can Rose Lavelle still be a success for Man City?

Rose Lavelle

Rose Lavelle’s move to City was a mouth-watering transfer on paper. Another bound for the Women’s Super League, who was perhaps the most favourably regarded of the lot.

Yet, despite City’s imperious form of late, Lavelle has unexpectedly been left in the shadows for much of this run, having last started for Gareth Taylor’s side against Everton on the 6th December 2020.

A combination of poor form, lack of confidence and being forced to play in unfamiliar positions, have all contributed to Lavelle’s sudden decline in recent months, catalysed by a string of injury setbacks.

So, as City seek to extend their win streak to nine successive league wins in the reverse fixture against Everton today, is there any chance of Lavelle clawing her way back into contention?

Rose Lavelle

At first glance, this seems a difficult task. Lavelle’s most natural position is as an attacking midfielder in the number ten role –– which doesn’t exist in Gareth Taylor’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.

Indeed, when given opportunities, The 25-year-old has instead been tried on the wing, as Taylor has insisted that Lavelle can “affect the game wherever she plays.” As true as this statement might be –– Lavelle clearly has the skill, the shooting ability and the star quality to influence any game of football, she is truly at her best when running at teams through the middle.

This is best evidenced by her performances for the United States, where she is regularly afforded the freedom to roam and dribble with the ball. Voted as the World Cup’s third-best player in 2019, she was recently named the Most Valuable Player at the SheBelieves Cup, suggesting that her form, fitness and faith have all ostensibly returned.

There were more signs of this return to form in City’s Champions League win against Fiorentina on Wednesday night. Though she was given just 27 minutes off the bench, Lavelle frequently picked up good pockets up space, swivelling and bamboozling defenders, as the flair, footwork and familiar swagger were all there in plain sight.

But is adapting to a new system enough to prompt a starting spot in Gareth Taylor’s side? While Lavelle is beginning to showcase her ability once more, City are blessed with an assortment of talented players. Chloe Kelly leads the league in assists on one wing, and Lauren Hemp has scored in each of City’s last three WSL games on the other.

Rose Lavelle

In this way, the more realistic way into the side for Lavelle appears to be in a central midfield capacity. Taylor has landed on a preferred trio of Georgia Stanway, Caroline Weir and Kiera Walsh, for the most part, this season, but having seen Lavelle’s impact off the bench in midweek, and the fitness of Walsh still questionable –– Taylor could well afford to go more attacking and play the American through the centre.

If used in this way, we could start seeing the blissful finesse that fans have wantonly craved since Lavelle’s arrival. Irrespective of City’s current form, it offers Gareth Taylor a different dimension if needed.

So, as City look to extend their unbeaten run once more today, the only question, therefore, is will this dimension be needed at all?

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