Following the international break, the first team and the development team were back in business and both went home with an away win – 2-0 for the fist team and 5-1 for the reserves.
They were away to Reading.
The game was played on a sunny and cold afternoon at Reading’s training base Bisham Abbey and they came home with a 5-1 win in what was a classic game of two halves.
The team was set up in an unusual 3-2-4-1 system by the manager with some peculiar instructions like having our main attacking threat Jess N’Gunga defending on the half-way line on attacking corners!
The starting 11 was Thomas; Eaton-Collins, Cooke, Sibanda; Taylor, Lumbsden; Filbey ( cap), Kuyken, Cataldo, N’Gunga; Ravenscroft.
For some reason, the wing-backs were asked to play very deep, nearly like a back five and it meant they could not contribute much to the attack.
The first half was sloppy with a mix of misplaced passes, opportunities going astray and a lack of general quality overall. If you add to this an inconsistent referee and a struggling assistant referee who was randomly flagging offsides, you get the recipe for a poor first half in terms of what you expect at Arsenal.
Arsenal had a 1-0 lead at the break thanks to a Gabby Ravenscroft goal. Played onside by the Reading left-back, who was three metres behind the other defenders, she was sent through on goal and went round the goalkeeper to score the opener.
The second half started with more attacking precision and willingness to make it count.
The Gunners were pegged back thanks to a bizarre Reading equaliser.
Anna Filbey was defending on the right side against a winger who went down following minimal contact and a Nikita Parris special. The referee gave a free-kick. It was not cleared and a Reading player equalised from close range.
The young Guns then took the lead via Ava Kuyken who fired in a well-placed low shot to the bottom corner after a counter attack to make it 2-1.
The third goal came quickly with a corner quick cleared as far as Tamsyn Sibanda, whose shot was well saved but centre back Shannon Cooke followed up the rebound and scored from close range for Arsenal’s third goal.
In the meantime, the coach was forced to make a sub as midfielder Miri Taylor was injured and this meant re-organising the set up in a 4-3-3 with Grace Neville coming on at right-back and Anna Filbey moving in front of the defence in the defensive midfield role with Lia Cataldo now on the right-wing.
The fourth goal was a superb counter attack. Grace Neville intercepted a dangerous through ball on her right wing, sent it along the touchline to Lachante Paul who delivered a delightful diagonal ball behind the Reading defence. Jess N’Gunga was on hand to finish as you would expect from her. 4-1 for the young Guns.
Tamsyn Sibanba, who was now playing as a left-winger rather than at centre-back, then added a fifth goal that she deserved after a good performance on the day, finishing from close range to make it 5-1 to the Arsenal.
Overall, a deserved victory for a very young Arsenal side who could be together for at least two seasons and carry on developing before maybe getting a chance at first team level.
The road to Borehamwood is a long one.