Arsenal Ladies 2-0 defeat at home against top of the table Chelsea Ladies signals the end of the title challenge for the team.
There is still hope to get second place and therefore qualify for the Champions League, but it will need a giant effort and they’ll need to get nine points out of the remaining three games.
The girls are playing well at the moment, but the other top teams are playing even better. They were outclassed by City and fairly beaten by Chelsea this time.
Big games are often won by small margins. Both goals conceded were unfortunately avoidable. Conceding early from a corner is a cardinal sin. Lack of concentration or communication on marking players is not acceptable, it just puts pressure on the players and they then have a mountain to climb so early in the game.
The second goal came from a rash challenge that gave no choice to the referee but to point to the penalty spot. A penalty that the former Arsenal player Gemma Davison duly converted.
We can also question the tactics and changes made by Pedro Losa in the second half of the game. The Chelsea starting 11 was very much an attacking one with Bright, with a defensive midfield player dropped for Kirby, a forward. They lined-up as follows in their classic 4-4-2 formation: Lindhal, Blundell Flaherty Fahey Rafferty, Davison Chapman Spence Aluko, So-Yun Kirby.
Arsenal started in the same system that brought a win last week with two surprises in the line-up. Byrne was dropped following bad performances while U17 double winner Wubben-Moye started on the left side of the back three.
The Arsenal starting 11 in the 3-4-3 system was: Van Veenendal, Rose, Stoney, Wubben-Moye, Corredera, Bailey, Janssen, Mitchell, Carter, Pablos, Sanchon, Losada.
This system was working well on the wings with Corredera and Carter on the right against Rafferty and Aluko fighting and winning battles. On the left with Mitchell and Losada against Davison and Blundell, it was quite even as Losada is naturally right footed and was coming inside a bit too often. It was quite secure defensively and creating openings on the attacking side.
The downside was no penetration from central areas with the centre-backs and two defensive midfielders who were protecting the back three and not doing forward runs at all. You would have expected a centre-back to come forward and outnumber Chelsea in midfield with a forward runs once in a while to create uncertainty in Chelsea’s defensive block.
Then came the half-time change. Wubben-Moye made way for Ubogagu. A bemusing change. Losada was not giving enough width on the left, so you would have expected her to be replaced. Instead, Losa went 4-3-3 with Corredera, Rose, Stoney, Mitchell, Janssen, Bailey, Losada, Carter, Pablos, Sanchon, Uboaggu. That change stifled Arsenal’s creativity and then he compounded that curious move by subbing the most dangerous forward on the day, Carter, and replacing her with Nobbs who was finally back from injury but did not look 100% fit.
A fit Nobbs would have made those missing forward runs from midfield, but she only made a couple including one in the 92nd minute. With Carter withdrawn Corredera went to the right wing and Janssen to right back. Nobbs might have played too deep in my opinion, same as Allen did against City when she came on.
The change did not bring anything attacking wise and unfortunately Chelsea scored a few minutes later from that gifted penalty. Then with 11 minutes to go Losa finally restored the team’s balance replacing the inefficient Losada with Humphrey giving a good midfield balance of Bailey, Nobbs, Humphrey but it was too late.
Overall two bad mistakes cost two goals and puzzling tactics prevented the team to have a proper fightback. Chelsea wee very good and could have scored four or five goals on the day and were deserved winners.