Arsenal Women did the job and got a much-needed win against Everton on a freezing Friday evening.
The win over Everton means Arsenal have closed the gap to just five points below City and six behind Chelsea, before the top of the table clash at City’s Academy Stadium.
Here are three things Arsenal have learned from the game:
1. Passmap and playmaking options
The team’s passing game and patterns develop in a different way if Jordan Nobbs or Kim Little are the sole playmaker.
Nobbs was curiously absent against Everton and it was left to Little to drive the team forward. The difference in style between the two players is really clear.
Nobbs is more vertical and drives through the space in a more direct way, while Little integrates slower build up play with more lateral passing. Even playing from deeper position, their contrast in style was clearly visible on Friday.
The teams are out at Meadow Park…
We've been led out by captain Kim!
We're about to get underway… pic.twitter.com/pOe96mjL1T
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) February 23, 2018
With Nobbs, the ball goes quicker to the attacking line and the whole team needs to push up quickly to stay compact. With Little, the team can build up play at a slower pace and carve openings in the opposition’s defence.
We are lucky to be able to have two exceptional players who can combine different strengths in the midfield area. We also have the right player at the club to balance the midfield three with Dominique Janssen. Therefore we have the perfect combination of 6-8-10 in the middle. And then comes the question, what to do with Daniëlle Van De Donk?
2. Bethany Mead is on fire & deserves an England call-up
Mead’s recent form has been exceptional.
Phil Neville was at Borehamwood on Friday and hopefully he will have seen what a good finisher she is himself.
Mead’s scored two match-winning goals in a row against Millwall and Everton.
She started the game in the central striker role and was moved to the left wing later.
Joe Montemurro seems to like her playing there as she can go down the wing with her pace or come inside and shoot. It also made more sense tactically to have her on the wing as Danielle Carter is better at playing with her back to goal and bringing players in.
3. Injuries and squad size are becoming a big problem
On Friday, Emma Mitchell was kicked in the head and not replaced, despite having seven players on the bench. Arsenal played 15 minutes with 10 players on the pitch and actually managed to create many chances and score during that time.
However, it does raise a serious question about players named on the bench and those who are unfit.
Arsenal had two senior players on the bench, Alex Scott and Leah Williamson.
Alex Scott had an Instagram story about taking a treatment by injection, while Leah Williamson was injured recently and on crutches.
In the end, the three subs that came on were two England u17 players, Lauren James and Ava Kuyken, plus an England u19 player for her first team debut: Jess N’Gunga.
The players are now away on international duty with Van Veenendaal, Mitchell, Quinn, Williamson, Nobbs, Janssen, Van De Donk, Mc Cabe and Evans all travelling to Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and the USA.
Hopefully none of those players will come back with injuries as the next club game is the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup final at Wycombe FC on 14 March.