Arsenal beat Manchester United on Monday night thanks to an 89th minute Danielle van de Donk goal.
Arsenal won the game late, thanks to super sub Danielle van de Donk, against a resilient and superbly organised United side that will certainly finish the season in the top five.
For this key game in Arsenal’s title defenc, Joe Montemurro had decided to surprise everyone by starting Jordan Nobbs and dropping van de Donk. United were missing a key player in Groenen who got injured in the derby.
The starting 11 was Zinsberger; Maier, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Roord, Little, Nobbs; Evans, Miedema, Mead.
United were well organised and you can see on the pitch the quality of the work done in training by Casey Stoney. They are a very compact and solid unit that is very hard to breach
There is an art in team defending and they certainly know how to do it well.
If you add the fact that they were ready to pounce on every available opportunity on the counter-attack, it was certainly a difficult game for the Gunners. United could and should have scored a couple while Arsenal created many chances of their own.
While defending, United made many meaty and sometimes dangerous challenges that the referee did not punish, as usual. She went to a randomised sequence of bookings late in the game including the poor Arsenal keeper. No consistency, no proper application of law 12, and the ref did not stamp her authority on the game.
You really wonder what kind of feedback she gets after those games: 9/10 well done carry on..”?
You need quality referees otherwise you can’t play attacking football if you are hampered by unpunished fouls.
At the end of the day, a defender who is booked is less likely to foul and will therefore allow more attacking opportunities than risk being sent-off. But referees in the FA WSL seem scared to give yellow or red cards for dangerous, serious and/or tactical fouls. Rant over.
On the Arsenal side, the limited rotation coupled with the Champions League away game, showed the current lack of depth in the squad among the forwards.
It was quite obvious that there were some tired legs among the attacking players except for Nobbs, obviously, and Little. They were missing that vital tenth of a second that makes the difference in the final ball or a touch not as precise as usual.
When you play a side as good as United, the attacking movement needs to be nearly perfect because they are excellent at closing space and passing lines.
So, we saw both Williamson and Beattie coming out to help find solutions against that reinforced defence. Arsenal needed to push without committing too many forces forward for fear of a counter-attack. So it was hard on the night to find the right balance.
The full-backs Maier and McCabe pushed forward relentlessly to create options on the wing, doubling up alongside Evans and Mead. Nobbs and Miedema were very often on the move to try to surprise the United rearguard. Roord was assigned a defensive role in front of the defence and Little was everywhere.
She drove the team with her energy and willingness to create. A captain, leading by example and demanding the ball to attack the United defence time and time again.
With the game at a stalemate Joe Montemurro sent on van de Donk for Nobbs to play as a second striker behind Miedema. She was in the right place at the right time to collect a Little shot that had been blocked before she finished from 12 yards and won the game for the Arsenal in the dying minutes.
We certainly needed to put fresher legs alongside DVD but the remaining options on the bench were a goalie, three defenders and two 18-years-olds in attacking midfielders in Filis and Grant. So the coach decided not to go for it and sent Quinn on late to close the game once we were ahead.
The result leaves us in third place in the table level on points (6) with early leaders Everton and City.
Next up is the Conti Cup away to Championship side London City Lionesses and, hopefully, we can rotate at least six players and give a start to Peyraud-Magnin, Quinn, Mitchell, Flores, Filis and Grant.