The road to Wembley ended in disappointing fashion for the Arsenal Ladies with a home defeat to Chelsea Ladies 1-2.
Pedro Losa made two changes from the team that drew their opening league game at Notts County.
Lianne Sanderson made way for Kelly Smith and Caroline Weir was replaced by Leah Williamson. Crucially the manager also changed the system moving away from the 4-3-3 that was unbalanced against Notts County to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield that unfortunately influenced the game the wrong way for the Arsenal.
Chelsea were deployed in a kind of 4-4-2 with two midfielders playing as withdrawn centre forwards alternating their runs from deep into the penalty area. They also had their wingers Eni Aluko and the former Arsenal player Davison quite high up the pitch at the time and they used them regularly to attack Arsenal’s full back with pace.
There is a well known weakness in the diamond midfield that is defending the width of the pitch as players need to be well coordinated to slide across. On the right side of the diamond Jordan Nobbs was doing a good job alongside Alex Scott but on the left side Vicky Losada left the poor Emma Mitchell very often in a one-on-one or two-on-one situation against Hannah Blundell and Gemma Davison. As the Arsenal Ladies followers will know, Gemma Davison does not need an invite to attack any full-back. There are not many English wingers as good as her in that situation and it is a disgrace that she does not even have ten caps to her name when some wingers used by England through the years have been awful.
Originally Eni Aluko started on the right side matching up against Emma Mitchell but she was switched to the left wing with Gemma Davison coming to do damages. She earned the corner from which Katie Chapman scored the opening goal and grabbed the second one herself beating Emma Mitchell for pace and smashing the ball low from 8 yards.
Arsenal were two nil down with half time looming when Emma Mitchell put a cross shot from the left in the top corner. It was a lifeline for the Gunners and there was hope for a comeback. Half time Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2
Credit to Pedro Losa who made two changes after the break Natalia Sanchon made way for Chioma Ubogagu and Vicky Losada was replaced by Lianne Sanderson. He went to a 4-2-3-1 system that brought defensive balance to the side and a better spatial organisation between the center area and the two wings.
Leah Williamson and Jordan Nobbs paired up in central midfield matching Katie Chapman and Laura Coombs. It is quite annoying to note that the two Chelsea goalscorers on the day were players who left the club under the Shelley Kerr revolution and not under the friendliest terms at the time.
Chioma Ubogagu went to the left wing, Lianne Sanderson went behind Kelly Smith who moved up front and Danielle Carter moved to the right wing. This reorganisation gave the team a better balance and a defensive platform. Unfortunately that improvement stayed confined to the defensive side with sporadic attacking and lack of creativity on the day. The forwards rarely managed to get behind the Chelsea defense and it was very much a frustrating day overall when things did not click on the attacking side.
Arsenal Ladies will not feature in the first ever FA Women’s Cup played at Wembley Stadium and it is a shame that such an historic moment will not see the team grace the pitch. The next game will see the girls back at Borehamwood on Wednesday to play the previously postponed League game against Bristol Academy. Three points and a good performance will be needed to close gap on League leaders Chelsea who are currently five points ahead of the Gunners.
The young reserves lost 3-1 away to Reading, they are currently second in the table eight points behind Chelsea Ladies and have played an extra game.
U17 international news
There was no game for the Center of Excellence u17 side. This is due to the UEFA Elite round being played in Ireland. After their initail defeat in the first group game against Ireland the England u17 side beat Hungary by four goals to one, all four goals coming from the Gunners, with Chloe Kelly, Anna Patten, Lucy Parker and Georgia Allen on the scoresheet. Lotte Wubben-Moy played the first half of the game before being subbed. Taylor Hinds played sixty eight minute and was replaced by another Gunner Charlotte Devlin.
England u17 will play their final game on Tuesday against Netherlands, they could qualify for the finals should they beat Netherlands and Ireland do not beat Hungary on final day.
Anna Filbey was a starter on the right wing and Laura Hooper came on at half-time in the 2-0 defeat against France yesterday in the UEFA development tournament won by France