In what was a tough, and sometimes bruising, encounter for the Gunners at the new White Hart Lane in front of a record crowd, they came out of all three points and the knowledge that key players like, Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema, will deliver when it matters.
Joe Montemurro selected a classic 4-3-3 starting 11 with Zinsberger; Evans, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Walti, Little, Nobbs; Van De Donk, Miedema, Mead.
Spurs selected a 4-4-2 that included many ex-Arsenal players, like Becky Spencer, Anna Filbey and Rianna Dean. Gemma Davison also come on late in the game for Spurs.
It was not a classic performance from Arsenal and you wonder if the international break had an impact. Some players played two games and all 18 returned quite late. It certainly played it’s part with injuries as Katrin Veje who did not make the team-sheet at all.
It interesting to note that Spurs decided to play two up top in order to disrupt the Arsenal passing game. There was no surprise effect, as seen last season, and it looked like our opponents had analysed and worked on countering our attacking schemes.
If you remember before the international break, Manchester City did the same putting Janine Beckie on Leah Williamson to prevent her from distributing the ball and we ended up with Jennifer Beattie leading the attacks from the back, something she is really good at. She is comfortable on the ball and her passing range is excellent as well. This might explain why Beats is preferred to Louise Quinn to partner Leah.
We were not firing on all cylinders in the first half except for the first ten minutes. That was due to the team not being compact enough, as highlighted by Joe Montemurro during his post match TV interview.
The midfield three was stretched too much. Jordan Nobbs did not get enough of the ball as she was too far away from Kim Little and Lia Walti. The Swiss midfielder did not perform to the high standards we are used to and lost a few balls during the game.
Credit should go to Spurs for pressing us and creating turnovers from which they fashioned their chances . Luckily for us they were not clinical enough to take the lead in the first half.
Things improved in the second half and Spurs seemed to tire late in the game. That allowed Kim Little to score a world class goal from 20 yards and Vivianne Miedema to steal a backpass, go round Becky Spencer and seal the win. Two world class players and two game winners who deliver the goods when it matters.
This game shows that, alongside many other results this season, the FA WSL has become very competitive. The top three teams do not have many easy games any more in the league.
After the match, I spoke to Anna Filbey and Rianna Dean, our two former youngsters, who have been doing well since they have left the club.
Rianna went to Millwall for a season, as she was not getting any chances despite promises she would get game time.
It still annoys me that Pedro Losa would not give her a chance during the Spring Series as he did with Anna Patten and Lotte Wubben-Moy at the time. We were short of options up front at the time, with Beth Mead struggling as she had just arrived and no other players claiming the number 9 shirt until Vivianne Miedema arrived in the summer.
When things went South at Millwall with their financial problems, Dean moved to Spurs.
Anna got a few games in her final year with us, sometimes as a wing-back, sometimes as a full-back. But regular football was not going to happen, so she moved to Spurs in the Championship. At that age, first team football is a must to carry on developing.
Here is what Rianna said about the game: “I think all of us performed really well. Coming up to the FA WSL from the Championship and only losing 2-0 to Arsenal, who are the Champions, is a credit to the team.”
Spurs could have taken the lead in the first half via Kit Graham (twice) while Rianna had a chance as well that went wide. “I had a chance in the game thanks to Anna Filbey’s ball. At one point in the game, I think we were on top and we could have finished the first half with us ahead. We are learning and getting experience at the highest level.”
I asked Anna how she was adapting to the transition from an attacking player to defender as Spurs have decided to place her as centre-back. They have showed a lot of trust in her by giving her the number six squad number and many starts already. It is interesting to note that she switched national teams from England to Wales last season as well and got her first start under Jayne Ludlow, also at centre- back.
Here is what Anna said: “I really enjoy it there, I get a lot of the ball.” She obviously belongs to the centre-back generation that is there to build up play from the back, thanks to her strong technical ability and passing range. A similar role as Leah Williamson and Jennifer Beattie play for us.
But she does not forget the defensive side of things, which is the primary job for a centre-back, “I like going for tackles as well and facing the game and having the whole pitch in front of me.” A centre-back who can read the game and anticipate play is crucial in the modern game.
I asked if the switch to become a defender was initiated by her or the management team as during her first season at Spurs she was still a midfielder. “I play where I am told, I have played there a few times now and I enjoy it. It is also a big step playing there for the National team, but I am really enjoying it.”
Hopefully both will carry on improving and end up with many caps for England and Wales.
The win against Spurs leaves us in third place, one point behind Chelsea, who beat United 1-0, and level on points with City, who have a better goal difference as they hammered West Ham 5-0.
Next up is Bristol City in the Conti Cup on Thursday, where Joe Montemurro is likely to give game time to those who are short of it.
Then, on Sunday a league game against bottom-of-the-table Liverpool with three points needed to stay in contact with the top two teams.