The rise of Eveliina

The Finnish international has thrived as a #10 and is increasingly important for Spurs Women

Eveliina Summanen came to Spurs in January 2022 from Swedish side Kristianstads DFF. Most news stories about the transfer at the time were brief. She was not a star, nor even widely mooted as an ‘exciting prospect’. Spurs’ then-manager, Rehanne Skinner, touted the new player’s ‘fantastic work ethic’. But all that most Spurs supporters knew was that she had been recommended by Spurs goalkeeper, Tinni Korpela, a fellow Finn, and Summanen’s international team-mate.

When she joined Spurs it was a squad beset by injury problems that over the next six months only worsened. This meant that the Finn quickly got a lot of game-time, playing in the 10 final matches of 2021/22, starting 7. Quickly popular among supporters for her willingness to cover the pitch and battle hard in central midfield, Summanen fit seamlessly into the style of play that marked Skinner’s 2021/22 side.

But this season, after a difficult summer with Finland competing in the Euros ‘Group of Death’ (losing 3/3 games to Germany, Spain and Denmark) Summanen returned to Spurs and to a very different side – one that lacked the defensive solidity that had defined the previous season. Not least because a raft of new injuries meant that players were frequently moved into new positions and formations. And we saw the rotation of Summanen, alongside Drew Spence, Angharad James and (occasionally) Cho So-hyun in the defensive midfield pairing, with none obviously making it their own. Indeed, the Maeva Clemaron shaped hole seemed to grow, not shrink, as we got further along in the season and longer from the French player’s departure (to pastures new, aka Architecture and Servette).

Summanen vs Reading. Image: Spurs Women

Over the last quarter of the season things have, however, changed in terms of what we are seeing from Summanen – or at least how she contributes to the team. Notably this followed close on the heels of her return from ‘that’ suspension but more importantly coincided with Vicky Jepson taking over as Interim Manager.

This weekend may be Jepson’s last game as manager. If it is, fans can remain grateful that in her eight games in charge she took Spurs out of relegation danger and also, that in doing so she unlocked #10 Eveliina.

Since Jepson’s third game (Everton away) Summanen has played much higher than she had previously this season – excepting one game away at Leicester when injuries across the front line saw her suddenly moved up as sole striker.

Jepson describes her formation as a 433. But it often looks more like a 442 or a 424, with Summanen playing as a very high 10, almost alongside Bethany England, although still occasionally dropping deep to cover in defence.

Summanen has spoken about learning from England. And when the two of them are next to one another on the pitch some similarities are striking – their white-blonde hair rolled into buns – but also the willingness of both to do the hard work – and to twist their bodies to get into the right position.

Celebrating after England crosses for Summanen to score vs Everton. Image: SpursWomen

Summanen appears fearless. She is the player who runs into a foot or elbow in her desire to meet the ball. That can result in a bloody nose (as it did last time out) and hard tackles in defence. But in attack it can mean that she throws herself into the box, straining to get onto a chance (as in her first goal against Aston Villa). And it is at least in part her willingness to do this that has meant that Summanen is currently the second highest goal-scorer under Jepson – netting three and getting another assist during the new manager’s tenure.

Her scoring record is important in its own right but also means that Spurs are not (entirely) a one-trick pony – that despite Beth England racking up almost a goal a game defenders cannot focus solely on her and assume they have dealt with Spurs’ threat.

Another upside of playing Summanen at #10 is that for the first time this season Spurs are pressing, and pressing high. This is no doubt part due to Jepson’s instructions, but in Summanen we have a player who can carry these out and we see her on the pitch organising others.

Summanen is still young: turning 25 later this month. She has, however, considerable experience, having played 45 games for the Finnish senior team, her first call up coming soon after her 19th birthday. In those appearances she has scored 10 times. The last two goals coming just at the time that her three-game ban following the incident against Manchester United was announced and a media-storm hit. Both were glorious free kicks.

Yet for Spurs, before Jepson took the helm, Summanen had only limited success in front of goal – scoring twice and forcing a third own goal – all in Cup games against lower league opposition.

So there were signs that she had goals and set pieces in her wheelhouse but these had not been wholly unleashed. And we had less evidence of her ability to regularly contribute to attacking patterns of play or create goals. Yet in just the most recent game, against Reading, she played a couple of defence splitting passes for Ayane (who was not able to finish) and for Bizet’s goal. Moreover she seems comfortable playing one-touch football and posesses an awareness of other players. Part of it is of course that she is now playing alongside a player with the potency and movement of Beth England but it is also that with her move forward she spends more time close to – and able to make incisive passes into – the penalty area.

Heatmap of Summanen’s game against Everton, during which she covered 11.7km. Image: Spurs Women

Fans regularly note that Spurs struggle to attract top players in their prime playing years. As a middling WSL club, we have typically brought in experienced players on their way out of ‘better’ clubs (Spence, Iwabuchi, Williams), relied on players growing with the club (Nevillie, Naz) or taken chances on young players with potential, crossing our fingers the bet will come good. In the case of Celin Bizet who was brought in this summer as a young talent we are starting to see that pay off (as it may also do with striker, Nikola Karczewska).

Summanen’s transfer felt less ambitious and was less heralded than most of these others. But it may end up being as important. If she can keep up the rich vein of form in front of goal that she has recently found, and combine that with the running and combative energy we already knew she had, she may emerge as a real midfield star, and a player who is key to Spurs’ improving fortunes.

Of course, there remain unknowns. Specifically how whoever takes over from Jepson decides to use Summanen alongside the growing list of players competing for central midfield spots at Spurs. Not just Spence, James and Cho but also the recently returned (and much missed) Kit Graham and Ria Percival, and the no-longer-disappeared Ramona Petzelberger. This might mean that Summanen gets fewer minutes or that she shares the #10 berth with Graham, as against Reading.

More practically Spurs have an option to extend Summanen’s contract after summer 2023 but are yet to confirm this will be taken up (there are 13 players whose contracts expire or need to be extended this summer). Given Summanen’s form it would be good to see the club show its confidence in her by not simply taking up their option but offering her a new contract. One that keeps her at the club long enough for us all to enjoy Eveliina in her prime – and all the bloody noses and goals that come with that.

Rachel Lara Cohen is on twitter @spurswomenblog

One Reply to “The rise of Eveliina”

  1. Thks Rachel – an interesting overview but she is no Clemaron thats for sure (totally different type of player) but a fierce workhorse for sure. Trouble is the rest of our midfield cohort – James Cho Spence Petzelberger no matter who is chosen to work alongside her are simply not good enough to make her any better and probably why she feels she needs to do so much more when picked. We have seen so many games where she has been nuetralised by the hard press game and her passing affected badly by this.
    The Reading game although mentioned in your podcast, I felt she was a half yard off her game all the first half and probably why she was taken off at half time. Maybe she was carrying an injury ? – who knows. Yes I think she deserves a 1 year extention but boy do we need a busload of new “better” players to be brought in as I have mentioned so many times in comments on various forums. Out of those with contracts ending only Korpella Zadorsky and Ale are worth keeping but we need to definately move on Ayanne Ubogagu Simon Cho Harrop (they simply do not perform well when picked) which means Shelina will probably leave with her partner Ayanne. I just hope we do NOT give Ayanne an extension – she simply does not deserve it nor do any of the others mentioned here. We need far better unless we want much the same next season – why because Petzelberger Brazil James Turner Spence are all past their best. Enough of like for like castoffs please – our team deserves much better.


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