Joe Montemurro’s team recorded their sixth win in as many games and are now three points ahead of Manchester City with a game in hand.
The Arsenal manager decided to rotate his team a little bit on Sudnay for the game against Bristol City, with Van Veenendaal and Quinn coming on for Peyraud-Magnin and Mead.
The Dutch goalie recently lost her national team place due to her lack of game time at Arsenal. With a crucial play-off game that will decide if Switzerland or the Netherlands qualify for the World Cup, Joe Montemurro certainly gave her a lifeline with that game.
He also kept the back three system that was so successful the previous Sunday against Reading.
📝 The teams are in! Here’s how we line up for our @FAWSL clash with @bristolcitywfc
Starting XI: Van Veenendaal, Williamson, Quinn, Mitchell, Bloodworth, Walti, van de Donk, Evans, McCabe, Nobbs, Miedema
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) October 28, 2018
It is important to note that the players’ positions were extremely fluid during the game and it was really difficult for the opposition to track them.
Miedema was leading the line, Wälti was anchoring the midfield in her usual deep position with Quinn and Bloodworth behind her. In attacking phases Williamson was positioned as an attacking full-back with Ewans ahead of her as the right wing back.
On the left-side, Mitchell had the freedom of the left wing going up and down and was joined there by any player available at that time and place.
And the three attacking midfielders Nobbs, McCabe and van de Donk, were just roaming all over the pitch offering options and creating space for the ball holder against a very compact defensive system set-up by Bristol.
The defensive side of the work was not forgotten with Bristol in a 5-4-1 shape most of the time, Arsenal managed to win the ball often high enough on the pitch to prevent any danger for van Veenendaal.
I believe the switch to a back three system is due to Kim Little’s injury, as we were able to control the midfield in the 4-3-3 with three technically proficient players in Wälti, Little and Nobbs.
Adding another midfielder is important in term of possession as explained by Joe after the Reading game. “I think we’re confident enough now to match up with teams and we’re confident enough to be a little more proactive to step in,” he said.
“We have a goalkeeper now who’s very, very good with distribution so she’s the extra player going forward and that’s very important. That allows us a defender to step into midfield or an extra player to step into midfield to give us those overloads, so it’s all about creating an extra player in the situation and moving forward from there.”
Van de Donk can play alongside Wälti in the holding midfield role and has been very successful there last season and this year when needed there.
But because she is naturally going to go forward with her ability to run at players and beat them with the ball, the build-up play includes less possession-based phases and more direct play.
Packing the midfield and controlling it with three at the back seems the best option at the moment until Kim Little’s return.
The next game, on Sunday against Birmingham City, will kick-off at 12.30pm and will be crucial in the Champions League race. The Blues are the only other team currently keeping up with Arsenal and City.
They are really solid defensively, although the former Arsenal midfielder Hayley Ladd will be suspended. Their goalkeeper, Ann-Kathrin Berger is in exceptional form, but their two senior strikers are out with injury.
Expect another game against a team that’s hard to break down that will use any opportunity on the break to score.
With Arsenal’s forwards flying at the moment and a solid defence, a win is definitely achievable against this tough Blues side.