“I got ’12’ for the European Championship, but I think it’s just an ugly number. And sometimes I feel like I am number 12, yes. I want another number now.” With that Jill Roord traded her squad number for Netherlands from 12 to 19. Still only 23, Roord seems to have been around forever. She joined Bayern Munich at the age of 20 before signing for Arsenal last summer.
Roord expressed her displeasure for wearing the number 12 for Netherlands because she felt it reflected an undesirable situation- that she was effectively ‘first reserve’ for her country. With Danielle van de Donk and Sherida Spitse mainstays in the midfield and Shanice van de Sanden and Lieke Martens filling the wide berths, Roord struggled to establish herself in the starting XI.
When she does play for Netherlands, it is usually in one of the wide forward positions. At Bayern, her game time became limited in a squad replete with attacking midfielders. So joining Arsenal last summer- who boast Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little and Danielle van de Donk- was a brave choice. Upon her arrival, Roord, who started out as a striker with FC Twente, told Arsenal.com, “I’m really technical.
“I can play offensive and also defensive midfield. I’m really technical and like to have the ball at my feet. I can also score a lot, so hopefully I can make some goals too.” Roord was involved in every game bar one in her debut season England- she was suspended for the most recent WSL fixture away at Liverpool. The Dutch midfielder has often played at the base of the midfield, particularly when Lia Wälti was injured in the first part of the season.
That goes a long way to explaining her fairly modest attacking return of two goals and one assist in the WSL [she has one goal in the Conti Cup and one in the Champions League too]. I asked Danielle van de Donk about Jill last summer and DvD described her as, “a magical player, she’s very, like, she’s a charming player, you know? She doesn’t make any bad tackles, she’s a very good football player and she does everything very nicely. She’s got real quality on the ball.”
Roord’s quality on the ball is borne out by the data [courtesy of Statsbomb, data is for WSL matches only]. She completed 90% of her passes this season- only Jen Beattie completed more at 91%. She completed 83% of her long passes, the best long pass completion rate in the squad. Roord spreads the ball well in the middle third, using the width of the pitch to stretch teams.
📊 @JillRoord’s 2019/20 @BarclaysFAWSL season (per 90)…
▪️ 90% pass success rate (3rd in squad)
▪️ 1.56 dribbles (2nd)
▪️ 2.82 tackles (2nd)
▪️ 19.96 pressures (2nd) pic.twitter.com/AGyM2IrSLe
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) June 14, 2020
25% of Roord’s passes are ‘pressured’, which essentially means she has an opponent within a metre of her when she moves the ball on. Nobody in the Arsenal squad makes more ‘pressured’ passes- these are valuable when it comes to pulling teams out of shape. She completes 90% of her ‘pressured’ passes too- the highest rate in the squad. In a nutshell, 22.5% of her passes are successful ones that take an opponent out of position.
In terms of her technical output, Roord fits Montemurro’s possession-based style and she can riff technically with the likes of Little, Nobbs and van de Donk. Despite van de Donk’s assertion that Jill is “a charming player” what really jumps out in the data is her physical output. As mentioned earlier in the piece, Roord was booked five times in the WSL this season, a feat only matched by Katie McCabe [who achieved the milestone two games later].
Arsenal have a strong transition game as well as a possession game and Roord is key to that. She averages 24.44 “aggressive actions” per 90- the highest number in the squad. With 1.66 fouls per game she is also comfortably the chief transgressor in the team [Lia Wälti is second with 0.84 fouls per 90]. Roord is not afraid to break up opposition counter attacks by fair means or foul.
She also leads the squad for ‘counterpressures’- a counterpressure is defined as a player pressuring an opponent within five seconds of their team losing the ball. When Arsenal do lose possession, nobody is quicker or more aggressive in trying to win it back. Jill pressures opponents 19.96 times per 90 [only Vivianne Miedema exerts more] and 69% of those occur in the opposition half [again, only Miedema pressures in the opposition’s half more often].
Even though Roord has often played at the base of the midfield, she is very quick across the ground when Arsenal lose the ball. She is not a traditional 6 like Lia Wälti- she interprets the role in a different manner, squeezing high up the pitch when moves break down and looking to force turnovers near the opposition goal- when she fails, she will often make a foul to prevent the space behind her from being exploited.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) June 14, 2020
The Dutch international carries the ball purposefully as well, completing 1.56 dribbles per 90- a tally exceeded only by Kim Little who is one of the world’s foremost dribblers. Jill will hope to improve on her goal and assist tallies next season and her shooting has been a little off radar- she will want more than two goals to show for her 2.04 shots per game- her 10% conversion rate is the lowest of any of Arsenal’s goalscorers this season.
However, Roord’s contribution has gone a little under the radar. Those of us who expected another freewheeling number 10 when she arrived from Bayern Munich will have been surprised. Her passing has been subtle but has added value in the middle third, while her physical output in midfield has caught the eye and she has worked in tandem with Beth Mead, Danielle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema who press aggressively from the front. Roord has played a unique hybrid midfield role, a deep lying playmaker on the ball, off the ball she transitions into an aggressive blocker in the opposition half.