Arsenal Ladies defeated FA Cup runners-up Birmingham City 4-2 to stay in fourth place as City and Chelsea also won their games, while league leaders Liverpool dropped two points at Bristol.
Pedro Losa and his opposing manager Mark Skinner decided to rotate their squads following their Wednesday games and the short three day turnaround.
Arsenal were clearly not at the races for the first ten minutes with Birmingham opening the scoring in the first minute and creating two other big chances including one that hit the crossbar.
The Arsenal defensive block was all over the place and not compact enough, especially in midfield as they did not seem to deal well with the Blues numerical superiority.
Arsenal were playing in 4-2-1-3 while Birmingham were in 3-4-1-2. Nobbs and Fara Williams were struggling as they were up against three to five Blues players at times and there was no support for them.
Little by little, the team started to become more compact with Van De Donk playing deeper and helping the other midfielders. The chances started to come and it was no surprise to see O’Reilly get the equaliser from an excellent through ball by Van De Donk just before half-time.
The team carried on improving in the second half and took the lead when Carter sent Van De Donk through and she went round Baggaley to give Arsenal the lead. That lead did not last long as Rachel Williams hit back for Blues scoring her second header of the day to draw them level. Williams is a powerful centre-forward, very direct and kind of similar to Arsenal’s Mead but with more physical strength though less pace.
The young forward started her first game for the Gunners and had a good game, integrating well with her team-mates play and passing and getting a few shots on target as well.
As the game was heading towards a 2-2 draw, Quinn, who had come on for the injured Scott in a tactical reshuffle with a back three, managed to put two headers in the back of the net to win the game for the Gunners.
Those were her first ever goals for the Gunners since signing after Notts County’s demise.
Overall, it was a good win and it was interesting to see the team capable of recovering and coming back from an awful start to the game.
Unfortunately in terms of the table, there was no progress. Arsenal are far behind Liverpool, trailing them by five points but with a game in hand, while a point behind City and Chelsea having played an extra game.
We know the Spring Series is the right time to experiment and to give youth a chance as seen with the numerous games given to the young centre backs and hopefully some more development players will get a chance now that their season is over.
Speaking of the Development Team, they ended up losing 4-0 to Bristol City in the FA WSL Development league Cup final. It was a poor result for Kelly Smith’s players that highlights the defensive problems that have been recurrent this season. The team’s balance has not been right for most of the games and 2016/17 will finish with no title.
It will interesting to see how many players will now leave the club, either to go at University abroad or to play for a side near their UK University.
We should see some players from the u16 side that won the FA Girls Youth Cup final against Millwall in a penalty shootout step-up to the Development team and a couple of 19-year-olds go on loan like Devlin, who has been doing so well with Millwall during the Spring Series.
The starting 11 against Blues was Moorhouse; Scott (Quinn), Patten, Wubben-Moy, Williamson; Williams(Taylor), Nobbs, Van De Donk; Carter, Mead (Kelly). Substitutes not used Van Veenendaal, Janssen, Little, Humphrey.
Last, but not least, yours truly was invited to present the Arsenal Supporter Club’s Player Of the Match pitchside to Danielle Van De Donk:
— Dave Jackson (@djacksonimages) May 20, 2017