With Chelsea coming from behind to defeat Manchester City, the Gunners knew that only a win would do and they duly delivered with three stunning goals at Reading Women on Sunday.
Games are never easy at Adams Park and the weather is usually not the best. On Sunday, that didn’t change with a cold, rainy and windy afternoon in High Wycombe.
The weather did not dampen the Gunners’ spirit, however, and they scored three classy goals, including a sensational one from Kim Little you can see further down the page.
The staring 11 was Zinsberger; Evans, Williamson, Beattie, Schnaderbeck; Walti, Little, Nobbs; Van De Donk, Miedema, Mead. The subs used were Roord and Maier and unused were Peyraud-Magnin, Mitchell, McCabe, Quinn.
Reading are a well organised side who have suffered a few injuries and had to reorganise themselves. They’ve conceded a few more goals than usual this season and decided to press really high, early in the game, with their two forwards pressing our two center-backs and their midfielders pushing on Walti.
It resulted in two turnovers in our defensive third in the first 10 minutes and big chances for the Royals.
Those early problems meant Arsenal made some tweaks to their usual build up play to combat that threat. Joe Montemurro said after the game, “We had to adapt a little bit and play a little more direct than we usually do, a little bit more un-Arsenal way, but we needed to get the points today and we did, that’s the most important thing.”
Arsenal then scored a peach of a counter-attacking goal with Kim Little intercepting the ball, giving it straight to Jordan Nobbs who one-touched it to Danielle van de Donk who ran with it before sending through Vivianne Miedema, who does not miss from that range.
It is also important to acknowledge Kim Little’s crucial role in that goal as her run took out a Reading defender to allow Miedema space.
The second goal was simply sensational from a short corner kick, with one-touch football, again involving Mead, from the start, Little, Williamson and Nobbs.
The manager noted that the team works hard on those set-pieces: “It’s a credit to the team because we put in a lot of work on set-pieces and that’s how we created that goal. There were some fantastic combination play in the build up to that goal.”
That goal would not have been out of place in the Wengerball era for sure.
That second goal made the game secure and half-time was reached with that 2-0 scoreline.
The second half turned out to be really scrappy with a battle in a congested midfield.
Reading putting a lot of bodies there and pressed the ball to push Arsenal back, not afraid of fouling when the Gunners were breaking through their lines.
The Royals were a bit lucky that the referee was, once again lenient, and did not send a couple of their players off for two bookable offenses. One of Moore, Utland and Allen should have been sent-off if the referee had been by-the-book.
Unfortunately, it does not seem to happen often in the FA WSL. There seems to be a reluctance to give red cards, something we also see in the Premier League.
The third and final goal came in stoppage time with the second van de Donk-to-Miedema assist.
The winger saw the space behind the Reading’s high defence and sent a perfect through diagonal ball in for the striker to lob Moloney to make 3-0.
Another exquisite finish.
After the game, Joe Montemurro was pleased with a clean sheet, “I don’t think they had many opportunities from what I remember, obviously the early one when Manuela made a great save. There were a lot of crosses and corners from then but nothing that really hurt us centrally.”
It finished 3-0 ensuring Arsenal are back at the top of the League, two points ahead of Chelsea, who have a game in hand.
Arsenal now have a Continental Cup tie at home to London Bees with a point needed to go through and a win to win the group.
Then, next Sunday, a tough away game at Everton who are the surprise side this season and sit in fifth after being close to relegation last season.
Jo Montemurro will not be available as he has returned to Australia for personal reasons and the team will be in the prepared by the excellent Leanne Hall and Aaron D’Antino.