Arsenal Women were defeated by Chelsea Ladies in a five-goal thriller. It leaves the Gunners with ground to make up in the title race, but the future’s bright under Joe Montemurro.
For Arsenal, the only surprise was Williamson at centre back, preferred to Quinn, with Janssen operating as a deep-lying midfielder. The system was the usual 4-1-2-3 with Van De Donk and Nobbs in front of Janssen. Evans at right-back was preferred to Scott, whose broadcasting activities are taking up most of her time.
Evans had a good game against Sunderland, and it looks like she will go under the same transformation as her Scotland teammate did a few years ago. Mitchell came on as left-winger but quickly moved to left-back, and now is a fully fledged defender.
Chelsea lined-up in a 3-4-1-2 with So-Yun behind Kirby and Bachmann, and packed the central area as expected. They are a really strong team, very solid at the back and with attackers who are quick and run at you at great speed making it hard to defend against them.
Therefore it was quite a statement for Joe Montemurro to go on a full attacking mode to counter Chelsea’s own offensive power. The three points were needed, so going on fully defensive and trying to get a goal on the break would likely not produce anything. In that respect, trying to outgun the opposition and grab the win made sense.
The downside of this choice, however, was the lack of defensive balance with so many attacking players on the pitch. With Nobbs most often the most advanced midfielder on the pitch, it was Van De Donk who was left with the job of helping Janssen fighting the waves of Chelsea attacks.
With that set-up, both sides created multiple chances, and both goalkeepers made excellent saves throughout the game. It was a very entertaining match and a shame the Women could not on hold to a draw.
Joe Montemurro clearly has an expansive and complex gameplan that will mature in the next few months. This game came too early, too soon for the players to absorb all the things he wants them to do. He clearly wants to build up play from the back with short passing at every occasion, even under pressure.
It was obvious on Sunday that Chelsea pressed high to win the ball in our final third, and Arsenal’s players in possession did not have enough support and options at the time. The understanding needed to develop that kind of gameplan takes time to build, as the off-ball movement is one of the core components needed to be assimilated by the players.
It will be interesting to see what happens when Little is fit. She will clearly be clearly the primary playmaker, with Nobbs then becoming the secondary hub with her ability to break lines and having great box-to-box play.
There will be also a need for greater defensive stability, and depending on when the injured players are back, you wonder if the club is looking for at least one defender in this transfer window.
Unfortunately the defeat at Chelsea leaves the Gunners in fourth position, trailing second placed Chelsea by six points and leaders Manchester City by eight points.
It means Arsenal now have a slim chance of making the Champions League places this season. Hopefully things will change in 2018/19.