Arsenal got back to winning ways in the league by beating unbeaten Manchester City thanks to a lone goal from Vivianne Miedema.
Arsenal climb to the second place while Chelsea now tops the table, a point ahead of the Gunners.
It is interesting to note that, although it was key game and definitely a must-win following the defeat at Chelsea, Joe Montemurro emphasised that we are still early in the season: “Chelsea was round 4, this was round 5,” he said. “If we think beating Chelsea and beating Manchester City is the only way to win the League, it is not.”
He stressed clearly that Arsenal also had to beat the smaller teams,”There are lots of team who are very good in this League. Every team is a danger and the team that will win more games at the end of the season will win the league.” This is something that they did really well last season as they recorded 10 out of 10 wins against the teams ranked 3rd to 11th in the table.
Arsenal started the game with their usual 4-3-3 and no surprises in the line-up: Zinsberger; Evans, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Waelti, Little, Nobbs; Van De Donk, Miedema, Mead.
On the City side, they had to deal with Mannion’s long term absence and Walsh’s suspension. According to their press officer, they played in 4-2-2-2 that looked like a 4-3-3 to me: Roebuck; Fidalgo, Houghton, Bonner, Stokes; Scott, Weir, Stanway; Wullaert, Beckie, Hemp.
It’s quite interesting to note that City came with a very attacking line-up that included six attack-orientated players and still managed to play with a defensive set-up. They were clearly set-up to contain the Arsenal and hit them on the break. Newcomer at right-back Fidalgo was helped with Wullaert doubling up all the time on the defensive play.
As a fellow press member noticed (Tim Stillman), they stuck their centre-forward Janine Beckie on Leah Williamson to prevent her from distributing the ball as usual. Arsenal had to deploy the plan B ie their other centre-back Jennifer Beattie who is also technically strong and good on the ball and got forward many times during the game: “They obviously allowed Jen to go with the ball, right foot and go inside,” Montemurro said.
The coaching staff made some more adjustments to counter that pressing system. “We started to put Leah Williamson inside a lit bit more, so we were jumping higher on the pitch. We also started to pull the full-back inside as we felt we could expose them one way and build up to the other.”
Joe Montemurro mentioned the defensive performance by the 11 players that kept a clean sheet and kept City at bay. “The biggest thing was [the players’ performance] off the ball. The collective work pressing not allowing them to play was special.”
There is no doubt, than in the game of that magnitude, small details make all the difference and hard work in defensive situations is a must. A small error can have big consequences.
On the attacking side, Arsenal scored a superb goal thanks to a perfectly weighted pass from Kim Little to Vivianne Miedema.
Stephanie Houghton, the former Arsenal defender, was caught out of position and played the striker onside and we all know she will not miss very often from that range in a one-on-one situation.
A big goal from a big player who has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or and has been performing at a stratospheric level since the 2018/19 season started.
She struggled during the whole 2017/18 season due to injury contracted during the Euros, otherwise her statistics would be even more exceptional than they are now with 49 goals in 49 games.
Here is a look at the League table after Round 5:
Next up for the Gunners is the Champions League second leg against Slavia Prague with a 5-2 lead on Thursday at home.
That’s followed by a Conti Cup group stage tie on Sunday away to Brighton.
Some players with limited game time so far will certainly be selected as well as some youngsters, hopefully.