Arsenal Women earned a creditable draw against League leaders Chelsea and also cut the gap on Manchester City to five points thanks to the Citizen’s surprising home defeat to Reading.
Although the Chelsea game was a must-win for the Gunners in order to close gap on the leaders, the 1-1 draw ended up being a good result for two reasons.
Firstly, Chelsea could have won the game at the death or even earlier, and secondly, Manchester City’s home defeat and current League form gives Arsenal serious hope of getting a Champions League place.
For this Champions League decider against Chelsea, Joe Montermurro chose to keep faith in the team that won the Conti Cup final against Man City – Van Veenendaal; Evans, Williamson, Quinn, Mitchell; Janssen, Van De Donk, Nobbs; Mead, Miedema, Little.
The subs were Moorhouse, McCabe, Carter, O’Reilly and a first appearance on the bench for England u19 defender, Shannon Cooke.
Chelsea took the lead from a van Veenendaal miss-kick that Chelsea took advantage of quickly:
— The Women's Super League (@FAWSL) April 1, 2018
Beth Mead, who had another splendid game, equalised just before half-time:
Tune in for the 2nd half 😉 >> https://t.co/guLsvbt021
1-1 (45 mins) pic.twitter.com/CFN5CKAN5T
— The Women's Super League (@FAWSL) April 1, 2018
Mead has been superb this season, in full contrast to the Spring Series, where she did not seem to come out of her shell.
To be fair, it looks like one of her team-mates, who left during the summer window, was giving her a hard time in training and her confidence seems to have soared now.
Overall, Chelsea created more chances during the game and controlled possession a bit more than us. A 1-1 draw was certainly a fair result.
I am still not sold on having Kim Little playing as a left midfielder, a bit like when Paul Scholes was playing there for England.
Obviously, Joe Montemurro does not want to drop any of his midfield three (Janssen, van de Donk, and Nobbs) and there is nothing wrong with that as they are all in form and the team’s balance in midfield seems right.
The starting 11 seems settled now and players will keep their place if they carry on performing until the end of the season, while other players will come into rotation for the easier games. Expect Alex Scott to get her final Arsenal game at Yeovil away, for example.
This is how the table looks like right now:
— The FA WSL (@FAWSL) April 1, 2018
Chelsea and Manchester City can finish the season with a maximum of 44 points. Arsenal can make 42, so it is really a close race.
Birmingham City and Liverpool can also have a chance of snatching a Champions League place, so let’s not discount them.
If we look at the form of our rivals over the last five league games, Birmingham have 12 points, Arsenal 11, Chelsea nine, Liverpool six and City just five. It is an incredible position when we consider how far behind we were when Pedro Losa was sacked We also have to remember that games in hand don’t automatically transfer into wins.
With a congested fixtures list and a relatively small squad at the moment, Arsenal could not even name sevens subs on Sunday. It will not be an easy task for Joe Montemurro’s team to grab that final Champions League place.
Games will be coming thick and fast after the international break:
- 15/04 Everton (a) FA Cup SF
- 18/04 Reading (h) FA WSL
- 21/04 Yeovil (a) FA WSL
- 24/04 Liverpool (h) FA WSL
- 29/04 Birmingham (a) FA WSL
- 05/05 potential FA Women’s Cup final
- 13/05 Man City (h) FA WSL
- 16/05 Sunderland (a) FA WSL
- 20/05 Bristol (a) FA WSL
Arsenal will play all four teams from the top five in the upcoming weeks and it’s a tough ask for the players.
Let’s hope that some of the injured players can get back soon, otherwise tiredness might cost us in important games.
Beth Mead reaction
After the match, Mead told Arsenal.com, “We’re disappointed with the point, really.
“We wanted all three points and we had chances in the second half to get them as well.
“Obviously a draw is nicer than losing, but we’re Arsenal, we need to be getting into the top two now and we needed that win.
“I jumped up out of my seat in the end when Dan Carter went through, thinking her shot was going to sneak into the corner, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.
“We’re more frustrated that their goal came from our own mistake and we’ve gifted them a goal, really. I’m sure a lot of our girls will be harsh on themselves about that.
“I enjoyed my game today – obviously I wish I could have scored another goal, but I got the equaliser and it put us in a good position for the second half.”
Beth Mead on Everton
“Everton are a good side – they’re a young team but they’re a very clever side, so we’re expecting a tough game,” Mead added.
“We’ve obviously got to turn up and hopefully we can get into that final.
“The FA Cup is a big thing to be involved in and Arsenal are known for their FA Cup wins, so I think there is a bit of pressure on us there.
“There are a lot of teams in this league who can get results against you, so even though we’ll go into the game against Everton as favourites, we can’t take them lightly.
“Getting to Wembley is a massive incentive – I haven’t played there myself and I’m sure the girls who’ve played there loved it and want to be there again.”