Pedro Losa’s side maintained the Arsenal Ladies’ tradition of bringing one trophy home per season with the club’s 14th FA Women’s Cup triumph on Saturday against Chelsea at Wembley.
As usual, the Arsenal Ladies’ manager made many changes from the side that drew against Birmingham City Ladies in the League.
The starting 11 was full of surprises with Van Veenendaal, Scott, Henning, Stoney, Mitchell, Williams, Nobbs, Losada, Oshoala, Smith, and Carter starting. On the bench were Byrne, Janssen, Williamson, Van De Donk and Pablos Sanchon.
There were a lot of questions about the starting 11 and also people reacted strongly to the fact that Rose was one of the six players who did not make the bench on Saturday.
The players who missed a place in the squad were Taylor (whose international clearance has not arrived apparentl) Corredera, Kelly, McCabe, Sampson, and Rose.
The reason Rose did not make the bench is simple; Janssen who was a sub can cover five positions on the pitch and Williamson six while Rose can cover at centre-back only.
Chelsea also had a surprise in their side with Borges preferred to Rafferty on the left side of the defence and the Portuguese winger struggled against Oshoala’s pace.
Chelsea’s starting 11 was Lindhal, Blundell, Bright, Flaherty, Borges, Chapman, Spence, Davison, So-Yun, Kirby, Carney.
Pedro Losa had prepared the team very well and decided to press high up the pitch although it left a lot of space behind the defence. It was a gamble that paid dividends as Chelsea struggled to get hold of the ball for most of the game.
Chelsea managed to get behind the Arsenal defence a few times but were not clinical enough with their chances. Arsenal got the upper hand for most of the game but were unable to add more goals to Carter’s strike. Smith was superb in the playmaking role and her quality has certainly been missed in previous games.
At half-time with Arsenal ahead and dominating possession, Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, subbed Spence who was not effective enough in central midfield, put Fahey, who was back from injury, at centre back and pushed Bright forward into midfield to bring more muscle and power in that area for the Blues.
One interesting characteristic of the game was that the Gunners won many duels, a lot more than in the previous league game. Post-game comments mentioned the Arsenal players were more hungry than the Chelsea ones.
With Arsenal still dominating the game and creating chances early in the second half, Chelsea introduced Aluko in the 55th minute on their left wing to replace Carney, who did not see much of the ball, unlike Kirby and Davison. Aluko injected some pace down the wing and tried to recreate Carter’s goal but her finish was consistent with her World Cup record and went in row 25.
Aluko injected some pace down the wing and tried to recreate Carter’s goal but her finish was consistent with her World Cup record and went into row 25.
Losa then withdrew his two veteran players, Smith and Williams, as their energy levels were dropping with 16 minutes to go. He introduced Janssen at defensive midfield and Van De Donk up front. Janssen has been consistent this season and was unlucky not to be a starter in the final.
As the last throw of the dice, Chelsea put England as an extra attacker for Bright, a move that unsettled the Arsenal defence. England came on alongside Kirby with a line of four forwards competing against the Arsenal back four and players ended up 1v1 all over the defence with no real cover.
This move created a lot of uncertainty in the Arsenal defence and Chelsea put a lot of pressure on for an equaliser in the last ten minutes.
Finally, Losa decided to close down the game and introduced Williamson for Oshoala who had an average game and Arsenal went to a back five with a 5-5-0 system so that the Arsenal had an extra defender alongside the four others defending 1v1.
Overall, it was an excellent performance to win their 14th FA Women’s Cup and hopefully, that level of play can be sustained and transferred into their League form as the Gunners trail City by seven points and will probably need to win the remaining 11 games to finish in the top two places.