Alessia Russo in the perfect position to be England’s long-term ‘number nine’ – XenBet

Alessia Russo scored her seventh goal in all competitions so far this season as Manchester United drew with leaders Arsenal in the latest round of WSL fixtures.

Russo had scored the winner against the same opposition in the Continental Cup quarter-finals only recently – United’s first ever away victory against the Gunners – and it was ultimately a case of two points dropped on Saturday when Stina Blackstenius grabbed a late Arsenal equaliser.

No visiting team other than Chelsea or Manchester City has beaten Arsenal in a WSL game since 2016, but United were just 10 minutes from making it a reality. The fact that players and fans came away from it disappointed not to win rather than happy with a draw is indicative of the level of performances and growing expectations that have surrounded the club in recent weeks.

That is underpinned by an exciting core of players, of which Russo has become an integral figure.

A WSL hat-trick early in her United career last season highlighted vast potential. But after that debut campaign was prematurely ended by injury barely any sooner than it had started, it has taken until this season for the 22-year-old to properly come into her own.

Russo began 2021/22 on the bench as she worked her back up to full match fitness but has now been a key starter for most of the campaign. Her goals have been directly responsible for six of United’s 25 points so far, while assists during back-to-back December wins showed more of her all-round game and secured the PFA Vertu Motors WSL Fans’ Player of the Month award.

Developed as a teenager by Chelsea and later polished and further moulded by the legendary University of North Carolina soccer programme in the United States, Russo is an all-round ‘number nine’ with enormous talent capable of achieving so much in the years to come.

She is a powerful runner with and without the ball, has the strength and ability to hold it up, as well as the vision to bring others into play. She also possesses a fierce and lethal shot and is a considerable aerial threat as well – as proven by both of her recent goals against Arsenal.

Russo has already made the breakthrough at international level. Her senior England debut came in early 2020, perhaps fortuitous in the circumstances after initially only being called up as a training player before even signing professionally with a WSL club. But she has been given a deserved chance this season and smashed it with a record-breaking hat-trick in the 20-0 win over Latvia.

For England, Russo represents the long-term future and she has the potential to lead the line for the Lionesses for perhaps the next four major tournament cycles for the rest of the decade.

With Ellen White turning 33 before the end of this season and few other clear ‘number nine’ options in the picture, there is an opportunity to pick up that baton and run with it. Bethany England’s club career has stalled over the last 18 months because of increased competition at Chelsea, while the majority of others in and around the squad are better classified as ‘wide forwards’.

White will still go into Euro 2022 this summer as the primary starter for England, but it is now difficult to imagine Russo being left out of the squad – and she will at least provide welcome depth in that role at the tournament, before kicking on to potentially make it her own after that.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

Source of the article

Author: Heidi Porter