Arsenal’s women got their new FA WSL season off to the best possible start with a 6-1 thrashing of Reading.
In truth, it could have easily been double that for Arsenal as Reading had barely two chances, one coming in the 85th minute when Danielle Carter hit the post for the visitors and then again when Manuela Zinsberger was robbed by the former Gunner for a tap-in the 88th minute.
It was a howler from the Arsenal keeper who, one of the commentators remarked, had spent the match ‘smoking cigars’.
Until then, it had been all Arsenal and some unbelievable misses that kept the score as low as it finished.
Kim Little opened the scoring with a delightful side-foot finish while Vivianne Miedema made it two. Jill Roord got in on the act to make it three and four before Miedema got her second to make it five.
Roord, named Player of the Match, got her hattrick with Arsenal’s sixth.
All the goals are below.
Another thing of note from the game is Beth Mead being taken off after a heavy challenge. She was spotted with an ice pack on her inner thigh, just above her right-knee, so we can hope that’s just an impact injury.
Arsenal lined up with an unusual 3-2-4-1 shape that transformed into a 3-4-3 in attacking phases to counter Reading midfield diamond.
Joe Montemurro explained his thinking post game and it was not a surprise for him to have a tailored made solution to the opposition strength and weaknesses.
The team struggled in the first fifteen minutes to beat Reading’s high press. Playing from the back can be a risky gamble if the players are not sharp and precise. Once Arsenal withstood the initial period, they found opportunities to break the lines and pocket of spaces.
As soon as the first goal went in the flood gates opened and Reading were unable to contain the attacking waves from the Gunners.
It is interesting to note that Arsenal lined-up in a back three of Maritz, Schnaderbeck and Catley with Williamson pushed up in midfield alongside Wälti.
In attacking phases Maritz and Catley transformed into wing-back and Williamson or Wälti dropped alongside Schnaderbeck if needed.
6 touches, 1 goal. There it is, they found her. https://t.co/uOoAF98DGE
— NWSL Analitica (@NwslAnalitica) September 6, 2020
The midfield four was Mead, Little, Roord and Nobbs back in the starting 11 and playing as a left winger. That was a very much all attack midfield and was rewarded with six goals and it could have been 10 without the lack of accuracy in the finishing we saw during the game.
In goal, Zinsberger was selected as usual and unfortunately conceded a late goal to former Gunner Daniel Carter as she dithered and was robbed of the ball. We know that it has also happened in the past and hopefully it will be the last time for a while.
Goalkeepers are harshly judged as their mistakes are much more visible than a centre-back being out of position and letting a player through, for example. Joe Montemurro has also been ruthless with the goalkeeper situation as he has let go a goalkeeper in every summer transfer window: Moorhouse, Van Veenendaal and Peyraud-Magnin all left the club under his stewardship.
The manager also left on the bench three players who could be starting every game in Evans, Foord, Maier and Van de Donk.
Gut, Stenson and Mace were the other players sitting on the bench.
All the talk is about Chelsea and Manchester City having an embarrassment of riches with their top heavy squad. Arsenal do have a lot of top quality players in their squad, even if the size is smaller than our main competitors. All the players bar the two youngsters Stenson and Mace, are full internationals and are deemed good enough to be in starting 11 week in week out.
Therefore, there is a lot of squad management to keep everyone happy and on the same page. Thanks to the five substitutes rule that was voted by the clubs, Joe Montemurro has managed to give game time to all the players over the first two games of the season except for Williams who is currently injured and the two youngsters who will have to wait a little bit more to get a game.
Funnily enough, those with the stronger squads voted for it, others didn’t! https://t.co/SyzGRS8y1z
— Jacqui Oatley (@JacquiOatley) September 6, 2020
Next weekend, we are away to West Ham and it will be a test game for the return to fans in stadiums. The game is only open to West Ham season ticket holders. The Gunners will need to carry on performing well to stay at the top of the table.
The Barclays FA WSL table looks really good today and hopefully can stay the same way all the way to Matchday 22.
FA WSL standings pic.twitter.com/VOP7WzhFC8
— Football 24/7 (@Foetbal247TBG) September 7, 2020