A brief enquiry into Alessia Russo and Ellen White.
Updated: Aug 4
Let’s oversaturate the ‘why isn’t Alessia Russo starting?’ conversation even more shall we?
On form and statistics, there’s only one winner - and it’s Russo.
White is England’s all time leading goalscorer. At 33, she has been at it for a long time.
Particularly in, and since, the 2019 World Cup White has been the talis(wo)man for England
- despite her ever turbulent relationship with the offside flag.
She was even prolific around this time last year, scoring 6 goals in 4 games for Team GB in a rather bizarre and disappointing Olympic campaign.
But that was a year ago. She only scored 4 goals for Man City in 22 appearances in the WSL last year - Alex Greenwood scored the same amount from centre-half.
She’s scored 2 in this tournament, both against a collapsing Norway. And for the first time, has been receiving quite a bit of flak for keeping her place in the starting 11.
Russo scored 5 more goals than White in the same amount of appearances last season. Over half of those came into the second half of the season.
This was after Russo had a bit of a fiasco at the beginning -and in the middle- of the season, when Marc Skinner kept trying to play her right wing - he won’t be doing that again, you’d hope.
In England’s three warm up games, Russo played well. Scoring against Switzerland and putting herself about well, during the minutes she got in all 3 games.
She’s also performed when it matters and is currently joint second in the Euro 2022 golden boot race, with 4 goals, despite having not started a game.
Russo was touted to have some impact, but it was hard to predict her having quite this good of a tournament - about as hard as predicting her back-heel nutmegging Hedvig Lindahl in the semi-final.
She might have a few (hundred) teams knocking on her door, the way she’s going.
So why isn’t Russo starting then?
Post the semi-final, Sarina Wiegman was asked point-blank what Russo needs to do to start. Parts of her answer perhaps reveal the reasons why she isn’t.
“The combination works well”
Despite not having shared the pitch together once, White and Russo are playing in a form of partnership.
White is the starter. Russo is the finisher.
As the tournament has gone it’s looked more and more like White is there to use her plentiful endeavour to do a job, so that Russo can come on when the game is more stretched and play against slightly tired defenders.
White also does not have the pace and directness which Russo does to have such an impact coming off the bench.
“The starting team has done really well too”
The scores when Russo has come on:
vs Austria. England winning 1-0
vs Norway. England winning 6-0
vs Northern Ireland. England winning 2-0
vs Spain. England losing 1-0.
vs Sweden. England winning 2-0
Despite some very wobbly looking starts to a few of the games. England have got themselves into good positions by around the 60 minute mark.
Only against Spain did England have to come from behind - which they did, with Russo setting up the equaliser for Ella Toone.
The substitutes have been England’s main weapon but let’s not discredit what the starting players have done.
“She does everything she needs to do”
Wiegman likes rhythm. Russo is performing well off the bench. Injury permitting, she’s not going to change that.
Wiegman clearly feels that it’s more of a risk to disrupt the rhythm of the team than to start a striker whose been very in form coming into the game around the 60 minute mark.
Simply, it’s not broken so it doesn’t need to be fixed.
Hopefully it still won’t be broken by Sunday…