Arsenal’s unbeaten start to the season came abruptly to an end on Sunday after a deserved 1-0 defeat to United.
The Gunners drop to the second place and a quick improvement will be needed with Chelsea next at home in another key league game.
Second place in the table is not bad, although it is virtually third place as Chelsea are trailing by two points but have a game in hand against Aston Villa.
What is more worrying is the manner and predictability of the defeat. The Gunners struggled to impose their possession game and were outplayed by Manchester United as the statistics showed:
Last season, United were a superb defensive unit and have added this some attacking flair with Tobin Heath, Christen Press and the Spanish full-back Ona Battle. They are much better in possession and threatened throughout the game thanks to their excellent pressing game.
So, Arsenal knew what was coming and the Manchester United game plan, but the players did not manage to get away from the United press often enough to create opportunities. This is where injuries are hurting Arsenal because the team would have looked different with Jennifer Beattie, Jordan Nobbs, Noelle Maritz, Lisa Evans and Steph Catley.
It was obvious that the tide turned a little bit when Kim Little and Jill Roord came on for Danielle van de Donk and Malin Gut. What United were doing extremely well, and full credit to Casey Stoney and her players, was blocking all passing schemes. All the balls go through Williamson and Wälti in terms of build up play. If those two players are under pressure and pressed, the secondary hubs are then supposed to kick-in and help. Jennifer Beattie is there to relieve the pressure on Williamson and Kim Little is also there to take control of the game.
Unfortunately, Jenny is still injured and her replacement is not able to deliver the same passing quality, as well as being beaten for pace for the lone goal in the game. The same thing happened in midfield with Malin Gut, who is still young and learning, and Danielle van de Donk unable to influence the game.
United took control of the game, created many chances but only scored one goal from the numerous chances they created. Arsenal went briefly back on top once Little and Roord were introduced. They also improved once United started to tire and were unable to press as high on the pitch and the Gunners manage to control and pass a bit more and created a few chances. But there was not enough on the day to win or to draw the game and with Chelsea coming next at Borehamwood, improvements will be needed in our attacking game.
Chelsea are also a formidable pressing machine as seen in the Continental Cup game last month and they will punish you if you lose the ball in your defensive third or in the middle third with a lot of space behind your defenders.
So, if there is no improvement from Sunday’s game, it will likely end up in another defeat and a big blow to our title challenge. Hopefully, the players will respond well in training and will produce the goods next Sunday.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Manuela Zinsberger; Lotte Wubben-Moy, Leah Williamson, Viktoria Schnaderbeck, Katie McCabe; , Lia Wälti, Malin Gut, Danielle Van de Donk;Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema, Caitlin Foord
Substitutes: Kim Little (for Van de Donk, 60), Jill Roord (for Gut, 60), Leonie Maier (for Wubben-Moy, 78), Ruby Mace (for Schnaderback, 90).
Substitutes not used: Lydia Williams, Fran Stenson, Gracie Pearse, Grace Garrad.