The Development Team defeated unbeaten League leaders Brighton, but it was not a one way traffic as the scoreline suggests and improvement is needed in certain areas.
We have to remember that the aim of the Development team is to bring those young players to the first team. The gap between the Development’s team and first team level is huge in term of intensity, technical skill and speed of play.
Obviously half a dozen players are now training with the first team to try to bridge the gap between the two teams and it is good for them to see and get a feel of what is needed to make it at the highest level.
The Development team is slowly climbing up the table, currently in sixth position with 12 points from four games. Brighton are top of the League with 21 points from ten, while Chelsea sits in second place with 15 points in 7.
The team has three to six games in hand over all the other teams and once they start catching up with those games, they should be close to the top of the table.
The team on Sunday was Rogers, Cooke Patten Peart Ritchie-Williams, Brunton-Wilde Filbey Devlin, Alexander Dean N’Gunga. The unused substitute was Hooper.
Now the million dollar question, where are the other players?
The back-up goalkeeper, Houghton-Boyle, moved to London Bees before the weekend, was on the bench for them in their Spring Series game and played in their development game on Sunday. So that’s another player gone.
Hinds and Wubben-Moy are currently injured.
Kelly and Williamson are registered, but with the first team away to City on Tuesday, they should not be selected to play for the reserves.
So, the reserves are back to 14 players and two of them injured. This is such a strange situation and the goalkeeper situation is even tighter. We have one goalie for the first team, Van Veenendaal, and one for the reserves – Rogers. As the transfer windows closes in April, there is no need to rush to find a solution but should one of those two goalkeeper get injured, the club would be in a difficult position.
Sunday’s goalscorer were Dean, with a hat-trick, Cooke, Devlin, with a brace and N’Gunga as well. Dean also had a penalty saved by the Brighton goalie. It looked like a dubious decision by the referee to give a penalty as I saw no contact between the Brighton goalie and the Arsenal forward who was fouled.
Until the half-hour, the game was 0-0. Arsenal had most of the possession but were unable to find the final ball or a correct finish. Brighton were holding their own, trying to play on the break and find space behind the defence.
The back four and goalkeeper did a good job to keep a clean sheet as they repelled a good number of attacks throughout the game.
As soon as the first goal went in, the game opened up.
Arsenal scored in the 30th minute through Cooke who came around from her right-back position, picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area and unleashed a fierce shot that went past the keeper.
The second goal came a minute later from a long ball over the top from centre back Patten. Dean ran through and went round the goalie to score in the empty net. The third came from a good run down the right from Alexander who found Dean with a low cross. She one-touched the ball towards Devlin at the far post for a tap in and the 3-0.
The game was over after 41 minutes.
Five more goals scored in the second half, and Brighton seemed to play themselves into trouble by playing only short balls from the kick-off and I think their goalie was injured as she was not able to kick the ball hard or far.
Not all positive
With all the positives from the game, there were two things that did not work well at all.
The finishing rate was not great, as the Brighton keeper made many superb saves to deny the forwards. But also in terms of team play, some players did not do their job.
Too many touches, a bit of Tom Daley sometimes, what we saw at time was what Koscielny mentioned in post match interview after the Chelsea game, when he said that certain players tried to win the game on their own. We saw a little bit of it by certain players.
I think there is a fine line between being a player with a strong personality and being a player with an attitude. In the last 10 years watching the reserve, those who made the first team had all the skills in the world and a strong personality, while those who had an attitude never made the first team and left. They can be found in the FA WSL2 or in the FA WPL more often than not.
I remember saying the same thing last season and the season before and those players are no longer at the club. To make it to the top level in FA WSL 1, the players need to fit all the criteria. Many of them are looking good and are involved with the first team like Wubben-Moy, Hinds, Patten or Dean and hopefully can get a breakthrough soon.
I also think other players who are not involved with the first team training should get a chance soon, especially in midfield, but that’s up to Pedro Losa to decide.
Overall it was an entertaining game on a freezing cold but with eight goals scored and none conceded, you cannot really complain can you?
Next weekend is Kelly Smith’s celebration game and with no men’s game on Sunday, 19 February, Gooners should come to Borehamwood and pay their respect to the best English Women football player ever!