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England's Beth Mead: Rage Against the Goal Machine

Oliver Moody
July 21, 2022

Euro 2022 hosts England flew through the group stage, winning every game and scoring 14 goals. In an attack packed with talent, Beth Mead has stood out as the star of the tournament. Here's how she found her best form.

Frauen EM England - Österreich
Image: Martin Rickett/PA/AP Photo/picture alliance

Temperatures in England hit 40 degrees celsius (104°F) this week, breaking records and leaving the sweat-drenched locals in despair. But one thing has been even hotter than the streets of London lately: the form of Beth Mead.

Five goals make the England star Euro 2022's top scorer after the group stage, and with three assists to boot, the Arsenal forward's name is on everyone's lips. The England fans' song is right: Beth Mead's on fire.

Whether scoring the only goal of the game with an improvised lob, or a hattrick in an 8-0 thrashing, Mead has been lethal in the penalty area at Euro 2022. Just as she has been since last September, when she started a run of 19 goals in 16 games.

For a player who had scored just eight times in 25 England appearances before that, it represents a massive change of fortunes in front of goal.

Mead's 'big step up in performance'

As the Arsenal Women correspondent for the popular fan site Arseblog News, Tim Stillman has followed Mead's performances as closely as anyone in recent years. "Beth has made a big step up in performance," he told DW.

Her Women's Super League (WSL) numbers back this up. Mead scored 11 goals in the English top flight last season, compared to four in the previous campaign, while racking up eight assists in each. She started 2021-22 as she meant to go on, scoring a breathtaking brace against eventual champions Chelsea on the opening day. 

This was perhaps the first sign of new coach Jonas Eidevall's impact on Mead. Earlier this year the Arsenal boss, who joined the club in June of 2021, said: "She absolutely blew my mind with her qualities when I came here."

His tactical choices show he wasn't kidding. "Eidevall likes transitional play and counterpressing and Mead is absolutely suited to this style," Stillman explains.

"Her average position this season has been about 15-20 yards further inside compared to 2020-21. [Former Arsenal coach Joe] Montemurro used her much more as a 'pure winger,' but Eidevall has concentrated on pushing her inside into the half spaces."

As Eidevall was helping ignite Mead's club form, new England coach Sarina Wiegman was making plans of her own. She saw the potential of England's right flank with Mead cutting in towards goal.

As Stillman observes: "[Lucy] Bronze can overlap and underlap, which means that Mead can choose when to play inside and when to play outside. Georgia Stanway has leant onto the right side of central midfield too, which has helped to create overloads."

Frauen Fußball EM 2022 | Nordirland - England
Image: Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Working on the 'little details'

So far, no one can argue with the results. England are unbeaten in 17 matches under Wiegman, winning 11 of those games by four goals or more. Mead is averaging more than a goal a game in that run and has developed a knack of scoring at crucial moments, giving England the lead five times since Wiegman took over in September 2021. 

The coach herself is quick to credit Mead for the recent goal glut. "She's done a tremendous job. She's been competing with lots of players over the season, but she showed up every time," Wiegman said in response to DW at a press conference.

"Some little details in possession and out of possession, she's worked really hard on that."

Like Eidevall, Wiegman immediately saw how Mead could do the most damage in an England shirt. "She scores goals, she's really eager in front of goal," Wiegman said. And the outcome, at least for now, is Mead playing with a smile on her face.

"She feels really good, you can tell. She's very happy, very energetic."

Rage against the goal machine

Both player and coach are understandably ecstatic right now, but it was a different emotion which gave Mead the push she needed to find a new gear: rage.

In 2021 interim coach Hege Riise left Mead out of the Great Britain squad for the delayed Tokyo Olympics, a decision that led to some soul searching, and plenty of motivation. "I took that hard," she admitted to The Guardian back in October. "I wanted to come back and prove why I should have been at that Olympics."

While the decision seems ludicrous in light of Mead's performances since then, she herself has acknowledged it contributed to the best form of her career.

"On the pitch, she has worked a lot on being more assertive and aggressive," Stillman concurs. "She had more regains [of possession] than any other Arsenal player last season, even more than Lia Walti, the defensive midfielder."

Former England coach Phil Neville, who handed Mead her international debut in 2018, has talked publicly about his attempts to motivate her "to go to the next level" with tough talk. Now it seems Riise's Olympics snub has done the trick.

But if Mead took some convincing to become more aggressive, perhaps that shouldn't be too surprising, given her exuberant nature.

"She's a very happy-go-lucky character," Stillman says. "She has a reputation for taking ages and ages to leave the pitch, because she signs every autograph and poses for every selfie." 

There will be plenty of requests for both if Mead leads England to another victory over Spain in the quarterfinals in Brighton on Wednesday evening.

Edited by Matt Ford.