Anyone who has watched the WSL has always known what quality Keira Walsh possesses but she introduced herself to the world in a big way at the Euro 2022 final, and once again at Wembley against the USWNT.
England have always had defensive midfielders, or box-to-box midfielders but never someone who could quite control the game from the six position as well as Walsh can. Others will get the headlines after England showed up and showed out against the USWNT but without Walsh, the ability to control the game as well as England did would not have happened.
Most defensive midfielders would be tasked with marking the opponents No. 10 out of the game. In this case, Rose Lavelle was the furthest forward of the USWNT midfielders but because she continued to float, especially out wide to the left, Walsh’s main responsibility was to protect the space in front of her defenders when England didn’t have possession.
When they did have possession though, Walsh was where everything flowed through.
She knew when to pick her pass, when to slow down or uptick the tempo, when to show for the ball and when to position herself in a way that would help her defenders be able to play out from the back. It was a masterclass of a midfield display from a player that we have now become accustomed to expecting such performances from.
Regista: a creative player who operates in front of the defence, almost always in a central position, and looks to get on the ball as often as possible. They are responsible for providing the link between defence and attack, and controlling the tempo of the game through their passing. The regista is also known as the deep-lying playmaker: they retain their deep position and dictate their team’s play with their distribution.
When you look up the definition of a regista, the main name that comes to mind is that of Andrea Pirlo. In the women’s game, Patri Guijarro is probably the best example of a regista currently playing right now. For England, it’s Keira Walsh.
Whenever she was on the ball against the USWNT, it felt like England could go on and do anything. Even when she was closed down, Walsh has the technical ability to not only play out of a tight space but also know when to release the ball and to who she should release the ball too. Usually that would be her midfield partner, Georgia Stanway, but on occasion Walsh would look up to see if she could spread the ball wide or spring Lauren Hemp over the top. She was a constant metronome for England and a puzzle that the USWNT were unable to solve.
With 70% possession, England’s center backs were always on the ball but when they need to remove the danger of the USWNT’s press, they didn’t punt the ball long. Instead they looked for Walsh who was always in space and thus, played around the press constantly throughout the game. England have come on leaps and bounds, particularly since winning the European championship but if they truly want to go on and become a force, Keira Walsh is key to that. As long as she is 100% healthy and match fit, England can feel like they can beat anyone and they showed that today.