The forward is one of the best players in the Womens Super League with Chelsea but the Lionesses have yet to see that version of her

In England’s opening game of the Arnold Clark Cup, the first-half performance had fans so excited, it prompted some to dream about winning this summer’s European Championship.

Facing Olympic gold medallists Canada, this was the Lionesses’ first real test under new head coach Sarina Wiegman.

Since her arrival in September, the team had won all six of their World Cup qualifying games, scoring 53 goals, conceding none.

Consequently, its been difficult to make any definitive judgements on Wiegman’s tenure to date, or gauge the level of this team before England hosts the Euros later this year.

The first 45 minutes against Canada showed how thrilling they can be against elite opposition, though.

Manchester City winger Lauren Hemp was electric out wide. Manchester United’s Alessia Russo was dynamic in the centre forward position.

Arsenal’s Leah Williamson, usually a centre-back, provided energy and a goal-scoring threat in a box-to-box midfield role, while the full-backs bombed on.

However, for all Englands impressive attacking play, one player was surprisingly uninvolved: Fran Kirby.

The Chelsea star must be one of the players in this side that opponents fear most.

For her club, she is given a huge amount of freedom, roaming with intent in whatever spaces she can find, be those out wide or more central. In that role, she is absolutely sensational.

She was the best player in the Women’s Super League all last season, forming a wonderful partnership with Sam Kerr to lead the Blues to the title, as well as Continental Cup glory, an FA Cup triumph and the Women’s Champions League final.

In all competitions in 2021, she scored 30 goals and registered 25 assists. For England, though, it’s difficult to know where she fits in.

On Thursday, she was played as a right winger but struggled to get involved. She’s played regularly as a central midfielder too.

The latter is fine against lower-ranked nations where she doesn’t have to spend as much time honouring her defensive duties, as she can get out of the crowded areas and find the spaces.

Against better teams, though, she is restricted.

“Ive had some really good conversations with Sarina,” Kirby said in November. “Were both on the same page in the way that we want to play football. We want to keep the ball. We want to keep possession.

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“My position is a bit different at England than it is at Chelsea. Im expected at England to be more in the midfield area, rather than being higher up the pitch, which is a difference.

“But its one that Im learning and Im trying to understand, trying to do my role better, working on my defensive role.

“I think its difficult, because I link up so well with Sam [Kerr at Chelsea] and I do try and play the same way.

“But obviously, playing in a different position, its tough to do the things that I would do at Chelsea at England.”

Blues manager Emma Hayes has often talked about England needing to find the right “formula” with Kirby, in terms of managing her load and not over-playing her.

However, the national team hasn’t found the right formula either.

“I havent made up my mind yet and this is not the time. I dont have to make up my mind yet,” Wiegman said of Kirbys best position after the Canada game.

“We are trying out those things so, today, she started as a right winger.

“Of course, Ive known her for a long time as an opponent. She used to play as a 10 and later on, she started playing a role at Chelsea too as a striker. I think shes just a little bit in between, so she can play both.

“Of course, she needs to perform well and then we can see what would be the best for the team.”

Wiegman has repeatedly talked about trying out different things during the Arnold Clark Cup.

The double-pivot of Williamson and Keira Walsh has been one of the main things she picked out as something she wants to see more of.

Getting the best out of Kirby should be another. After all, the forward is a player who can win matches on her own.

Is there a way to give her a freer role in this team without disrupting the system that Wiegman wants to play? Is there a position in Wiegman’s system that she could operate better in?

If England can unleash a version of the Chelsea star that is seen every week at club level, it could help take this team to another level.

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