The Gunners were 4-2 winners at West Ham at the weekend while Man City could only draw 1-1 with Bristol City for the second time this season.
It gives the Arsenal some breathing space at the top with a two-point lead and a game hand before a crucial title decider next Sunday at home to Chelsea.
There will be also a tough midweek game in the Conti Cup quarter-finals at home to Birmingham before that.
For the first game of the year, Joe Montemurro made multiple changes from the teams that finished 2018. All but three academy players went back to the u21 team while senior players and new signings came straight in.
On the funny side of things, new signing, Katrine Veje, and Jessica Samuelsson were refused entry to the main stand TWICE by overzealous security guards. It seems they were given the wrong tickets as I was.
Both players ended up sitting two rows behind me while Kemme and Schnaderbeck, with their friends, were just behind me chatting away in German the whole game, giving us a running commentary.
The starting 11 was Peyraud-Magnin; Evans, Williamson, Arnth, McCabe; Wälti, Bloodworth, Little; Van De Donk, Miedema, Mead.
It was good to see Kim Little back after a long lay-off due to the terrible Drew Spence foul back in October. She was as good as ever, simplifying and clarifying the game the same way Zinedine Zidane did in his prime.
I spoke to Joe after the match about the game and the player’s performances.
“Kim Little, in the scope of women’s football, to have her on the teamsheet frightens any team,” the Arsenal manager said. “It’s great to have her playing now, she just needs to play now and get conditioning and get the game rhythm.”
Janni Arnth marked her debut with a goal and a good performance and Montemurro was pleased with what he saw from the 27-year-old. “It was evident that she is an experienced player. She controlled her area, her passing was fantastic, her final pass was fantastic. It is what we want.”
Beth Mead got three assists from set pieces and crosses and Montemurro said, “We are blessed to have Beth Mead, both as a footballer who can really, really hurt teams and also her ability to find space and get goals is very, very important for us.”
Just the 3️⃣ assists for @bmeado9 this afternoon 👏
No other player in the @FAWSL has recorded more this season (9) pic.twitter.com/897tOWQ7OX
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 6, 2019
Danielle van de Donk carried on her great attacking form with a brace from a header and a tap-in.
🇳🇱 @DanielleDonk in the @FAWSL 🔥
3️⃣ assists pic.twitter.com/WS3dXXU0hE
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 6, 2019
There were a lot of positives in the game, with four goals, but the two goals scored were preventable and highlighted in pre-game analysis.
“We haven’t had a problem with set-pieces and for some reason today we got our shape wrong and copped two goals from silly, silly things,” Montemurro admitted. “We had the booklet and everything for that sort of stuff, but it’s crazy, that’s football.”
Arsenal player ratings
1. Peyraud-Magnin 7.5
Beaten by two excellent Ross shots. Made a few catches, including a spectacular one. Steady.
2. Evans 7.5
Busy on the defensive side, made her usual offensive contributions with those forwards runs.
3. Williamson 7.5
A goal and a commanding defensive performance.
4. Arnth 8
Excellent debut with a goal. An experienced player who has slotted straight in.
5. McCabe 6.5
Faced a tough customer in speedy winger Lehmann. Offered a lot on the attacking side.
6. Wälti 7.5
The usual high-level performance from the Swiss maestro.
7. Bloodworth 7.5
Efficient, one of those players who do the job brilliantly and quietly.
8. Little 8
The captain returned with a stellar performance. Could have scored a tap-in but wrong-footed it.
9. Van De Donk 7.5
Two goals and a booking for the winger. The angel/devil sides of a top quality player.
10. Miedema 7
Worked really hard for the team, got in a few shots that were blocked by the defense.
11. Mead 8.5
Three assists, countless runs. A top performance.
12. Sub – Quinn N/A
Not enough playing time on the pitch.
13. Sub – Kuyken N/A
not enough playing time on the pitch.
In other news, Arsenal have been drawn against fourth tier side, Crawley Wasps, in the SSE FA Women’s Cup fourth round proper.
Distribution of prize money also makes for entertaining reading. pic.twitter.com/2dw5AVhiLe
— Ed Henderson (@edh94) January 6, 2019
Their captain is a former Arsenal youngster, Naomi Cole, who played many seasons within our youth system and made a couple of first-team appearances as well.