Arsenal Ladies’ convincing 4-0 win at Sunderland Ladies keep them in the hunt for a Champions League spot as the top two teams City and Chelsea also won convincingly on the day.
The Ladies trail Chelsea by two points and City by three, but the Citizens have a game in hand. The home game to City on the 11th of September will be crucial providing that the girls win all their games until then.
SUnday was a very solid performance and we saw an Arsenal side in control of the ball with a good share of the possession. Sunderland went for a back five, a formation they were using for the second time this season. Obviously after losing by 7-0 and 5-1 to the Gunners, it made sense for them to try something different.
Sunderland decided to abandon ball possession and defend deep in a 5-3-2 that left their two forwards isolated against the Arsenal rear guard. With Vicky Losada scoring from a penalty rebound and Jordan Nobbs also scoring a peach of a goal, that Sunderland game plan was rendered useless.
Despite the 2-0 scoreline Sunderland did not really try to push up the pitch and pressurize the Arsenal, therefore allowing good build up play. It has to be said that combination play from the midfield and forward players was second to none from Arsenal.
Despite a high density of player in the central area, ball conservation was good and Alex Scott was frequently used as a winger rather than a right-back as there was no forward in her area.
At half time, there was the thinking that Sunderland might attempt a fightback with a different system or play higher on the pitch but two quick goals by Danielle Carter and Fara Williams on another penalty killed the game.
Efficiency, clinical at the right time, three big points and a clean sheet with Sari Van Veenendaal making crucial saves. It was a superb performance. In the meantime, we saw a couple of interesting moments in that second half.
First, when Williams was subbed for a potential injury problem, Emma Mitchell came on at left-back and took the instructions from Pedro Losa and his assistant. She started roaming up and down the wing. Casey Stoney then started shouting at her for going forward too much and not covering enough. You do wonder, if she should listen to her coach on the touchline or the senior player on the pitch.
The other interesting moment was an attacking one, when Dominique Janssen, playing now in the six position in front of the defence, went on the attack with a pass and move play. The usual covering should have been performed by Vicky Losada who should have slid across towards the central area and got into the space vacated by Janssen. But she did not do it and it left the two centre-backs in a one v one position.
It is not the first time that Losada’s defensive instinct has been missing and that’s why she plays at number 10 where she can distribute the ball and control the play.
Overall, it is an important victory and the next home game to Liverpool also requires a win to keep the Champions League race going as any mistake is likely to end the chance of qualifying for the 2017/18 season.