Arsenal men capitulated at Bournemouth, but it was nice to see the Women with mental strength to come from 2-1 down against Reading to book their place in the Continental Tyres Cup final.
Joe Montemurro named an unchanged line-up from the previous game against Chelsea. It was a surprise not to see Moorhouse in goal, as she was the designated cup goalkeeper in the previous rounds.
Tactically we saw the usual set-up in 4-1-2-3: Van Veenendaal; Evans, Rose, Williamson, Mitchell; Janssen, Van De Donk, Nobbs; Carter, Miedema, Mead.
It has to be said, the policy of trying to score more goals than the opposition makes for very entertaining games in the traditional Arsenal form developed by Arsene Wenger. This team is creating many chances and will score a lot of goals, but they will also concede many of them too.
We have scored eight goals in three games since the new manager arrived, but also conceded six at the other end. It’s alright to outgun most teams, but against big ones like Chelsea or Manchester City, this style of play might not always work.
There needs to be balance between attack and defence, and the side in the current set-up is clearly geared towards attacking too much, in my opinion. Arsenal created many good chances and Reading did the same. Had both sides been clinical in front of the goal, the score could have been even higher.
Arsenal took the lead early on when Carter raced away from the defence, putting in a low cross that evaded two defenders and reached Mead, who was well placed to put the ball past Moloney – 1-0.
Reading equalised instantly, catching the Arsenal defence cold, and Chaplen managing to get away and send a missile in the top corner. Unfortunately positioning, lack of midfield pressure and no one to track the runners are the downside of having such an attacking philosophy.
Nevertheless, it was a good end-to-end game with both sides trying to seize the initiative by taking advantage of the opposition’s weaknesses. The game ebbed and flowed and Reading were in command once they took the lead in the 70th minute with a great shot by former Gunner Bruton from the edge of the box.
Straight after the goal, both managers made changes. Reading removed their lone defensive midfielder Bartrip and put a winger in, changing from 4-1-2-3 to 4-2-1-3 in order to protect their defense. Arsenal changed two players, with Carter and Rose making way for O’Reilly and Quinn.
Both substitutions helped to lead the fightback alongside Nobbs, who was the usual leader on the pitch but was a bit isolated unfortunately.
Miedema looked subdued for long stretches of the game, got on the end of an interception and finished really well to level the game with ten minutes to go – 2-2.
Then Nobbs got the winner from another bizarre goal, where Reading’s shot-stopper was wrong-footed from a cross, losing her footing and failing to punch the ball far enough away. Nobbs just pushed the ball back in from close range into the back of the net – 3-2 and game over.
Overall, it was a pleasing win with many positives on the attacking sides and some work to be done on the defensive side to make sure the balance is there in big games.
Maybe some players should be given a chance in the starting 11, or adding a second defensive midfielder alongside Janssen would help in the important matches. We will see how things shape up when Kim Little is back in the side in a couple of months.
On a side note, it was unpleasant to see a Reading player refusing to shake hands at the beginning of the game with an Arsenal player. That kind of behaviour should not be tolerated by the FA.
Next for the Women is a league game away to Reading in a fortnight, another must-win encounter if the Gunners don’t want to slide down the table.