Arsenal women beat Manchester United to put Champions League hopes in their own hands

Arsenal’s players and coaches responded after some huge questions, following poor results against the top four teams, with a huge win against Manchester United and are now in the right position to be able to qualify for the Champions League.

Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU - FA Women s Super League - Meadow Park Arsenal s Malin Gut left and goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger reacts after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton
Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU – FA Women s Super League – Meadow Park Arsenal s Malin Gut left and goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger reacts after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton

The 2-0 win with goals from Millie Turner (OG) and Lotte Wubben-Moy means Arsenal now trail United by three points with a game against West Ham in hand.

The Gunners’ goal difference is +36 while United’s is +17 which means, should the teams finish level on points, Arsenal will finish in third place and qualify for the Champions League.

For this crucial game, Joe Montemurro made some bold choices in the starting 11 and was rewarded with a big win.

With Leah Williamson and Jennifer Beattie both injured, he turned to Lotte Wubben-Moy and Lia Wälti as the centre-back pairing, depriving the midfield of its traditional anchor.

He could have played the Patten-Wubben-Moy centre-back duo that kept the team unbeaten during the 2017 Spring Series to keep Wälti alongside Kim Little in the middle of the pitch. The Swiss midfielder was superb in the role and the fact that she can pass with excellent accuracy from both feet meant she could open space and create attacking play on the left side in tight space with ease.

In midfield, the Arsenal manager went with no real defensive midfielder, as Kim Little was deployed as the deep-lying playmaker with the two Dutch attacking midfielders, Danielle van de Donk and Jill Roord, ahead of her.

Jordan Nobbs was relegated to the bench, which, again, was a bold choice unless she had a niggling injury.

Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU - FA Women s Super League - Meadow Park Manchester United s Millie Turner greets Arsenal's Jordan Nobbs after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton
Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU – FA Women s Super League – Meadow Park Manchester United s Millie Turner greets Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton

Up front, there was no surprise at all with Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema and Caitlin Foord the main attacking trio used this season.

Lisa Evans was benched again as Noelle Maritz was selected ahead of her at right-back and Beth Mead as the right winger.

The starting 11 therefore was: Zinsbeger; Martiz, Wubben-Moy, Wälti, McCabe; Little, van de Donk, Roord; Mead, Miedema, Foord.

It was quite obvious that United set-up to come for a draw, but that game plan went straight out of the window as early as in the second minute when Arsenal opened the scoring via the United defender, Millie Turner.

Arsenal won the ball on the left in United defensive third. Foord sent a delightful through ball to Roord and her cross was deflected in by Millie Turner, past Earps.

1-0 to the Arsenal.

United had a couple of chances they did not convert and half-time came with the Gunners leading 1-0.

BT Sport showed Casey Stoney complaining to the referee about Lauren James being repeatedly fouled and, strangely enough, Beth Mead was booked early in the second half for an innocuous challenge on the former Arsenal playmaker. It was a yellow that would have consequences later in the game.

In the meantime, Lotte Wubben-Moy scored a towering header from a Katie McCabe corner as she won her duel against Katie Zelem, who is quite small and was marking the tall centre-back.

Arsenal were two nil up and needed good game management to see the match out over the next forty minutes.

But disaster struck in the 62nd minute when Beth Mead received a second yellow card for a reckless tackle.

Arsenal switched to a 4-4-1 system, sitting deep and soaking up United pressure. The Red Devils were not creative enough to break down the Gunners’ defence, except once when Ella Toone scored, but she was offside and the game finished 2-0 to the Arsenal.

This was a big, big win for Joe Montemurro and his squad as there is a lot of pressure to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Players might come and go based on Champions League qualification, especially in terms of player retention with offers coming for Leah Williamson and Vivianne Miedema.

Keeping those players, along with others like Jill Roord, is key to the team’s development and competitiveness next season in the league and, hopefully, the Champions League, too.

Previous articleWillian recovers to return to training ahead of West Ham clash
Next articleMarcelo Flores decision looming
Following the Arsenal Ladies since 2004/05. Arsenal LFC season ticket holder since they appeared in 2006/07. Likely to be found watching women's football every week-end all over England... and the world. I am also a silver member