by Sylvain Jamet
Arsenal Ladies suffered their first league defeat of the season with a 3-1 loss at home to Liverpool.
The Gunners stay in second place in the FA WSL thanks to a better goal difference than Sunderland.
The most worrying aspect of the defeat rather than the scoreline is the manner the team played in the first half. It feels like groundhog day at the moment with way too many games where Pedro Losa has had to make personnel and/or tactical changes at half-time.
Credit to him unlike many managers in women’s football, including the previous one, he does not mind rectifying problems by subbing players and switching systems if needed. Last season’s game at Bristol comes to mind when, at two nil down, he removed Stoney and put Smith on who changed the game. It was the same again this season against Sunderland when Smith came on and changed the game again.
But for at least the third time this season, there was a need to make tactical changes at half time. The League opener at Notts County and the FA Cup game against Chelsea are good examples of problems encountered. Against County, a defensive midfielder had to be put on at half time to readdress the balance of the team, while against Chelsea, the diamond midfield formation was simply not working defensively. The team were clearly riding their luck yesterday by giving a two goal head start to a good side like Liverpool.
The first half saw the team look very disjointed as if they hadn’t played together for a long time, which in fairness was true. If you cannot defend and attack as a team, you will not win games easily. The 4-3-3 system that saw newbies Corredera and Janssen paired on the left side of the team did not really work. Matching Carla Humphrey against a notoriously slow left back was not a great idea either and that problem was also rectified at half time.
Arsenal had basically two forwards in the game during the first half: Carter and Humphrey. The starting 11 was: Byrne, Scott Stoney Rose Janssen, Bailey Williamson Losada, Humphrey Carter Corredera.
Pedro Losa made two changes at half-time; Bailey and Humphrey were replaced by Natalia and Ubogagu. He went with Byrne, Scott Stoney Rose Corredera, Janssen Williamson Losada, Carter Natalia Ubogagu.
The system stayed 4-3-3 but with big changes in personnel, it was a proper attacking system with two wingers in Carter and Ubogagu and a center forward Natalia. Janssen looked stronger in midfield and Losada was able to influence the game a lot more in an advanced position. There was more fluidity in the play and the creativity that was missing in the first half came in the second half. Sadly the finishing was not clinical at all and an equaliser could not be found and Liverpool found a third goal on the break right at the end.
It has to be said that the team was not efficient in the penalty area, with the three goals conceded due to team and individual mistakes.
First goal due to the defensive block not sliding properly leaving Williams open in front of the goal.
Second goal from a corner not cleared by a defender and the goalkeeper.
Third goal from a long ball from Dowie headed by a defender directly to Oshoala who just had to lob Byrne.
There are mitigating circumstances that explain that first half performance though. With nine players selected for the World Cup through three teams and four players only coming back on Monday to training, preparation has been a bit chaotic and difficult to work as team unit.
On a side note, it seems like Arsenal also refused a call up for Carla Humphrey and Leah Williamson, for the England u19 Euro finals played in Israel that starts on Wednesday.
The games are going to come thick and fast in the next few weeks with Birmingham away, Watford at home, Notts County at home and London Bees away to be played between the 18th and the 29th of July. Arsenal cannot afford more slow start games any more as every point in the League is crucial and the girls are now trailing League leaders Chelsea by five points.