Arsenal qualify for Women Champions League

Everton Women v Arsenal Women FC FA Women s Super League 02/05/2021. Goal 1-2 Arsenal midfielder Kim Little 10 scores from the penalty spot 1-2 and celebrates winning the game with the last kick of the ball during the FA Women s Super League match between Everton Women and Arsenal Women FC at the Walton Hall Park Stadium, Liverpool, United Kingdom on 2 May 2021. Liverpool Walton Hall Park Stadium Copyright: Craig Galloway
Everton Women v Arsenal Women FC FA Women s Super League 02/05/2021. Goal 1-2 Arsenal midfielder Kim Little 10 scores from the penalty spot 1-2 and celebrates winning the game with the last kick of the ball during the FA Women s Super League match between Everton Women and Arsenal Women FC at the Walton Hall Park Stadium, Liverpool, United Kingdom on 2 May 2021. Liverpool Walton Hall Park Stadium Copyright: Craig Galloway

Arsenal have all but qualified for the 2021/22 tournament thanks to a last minute penalty winner from Kim Little.

Everton Women v Arsenal Women FC FA Women s Super League 02/05/2021. Goal 1-2 Arsenal midfielder Kim Little 10 scores from the penalty spot 1-2 and celebrates winning the game with the last kick of the ball during the FA Women s Super League match between Everton Women and Arsenal Women FC at the Walton Hall Park Stadium, Liverpool, United Kingdom on 2 May 2021. Liverpool Walton Hall Park Stadium Liverpool United Kingdom Copyright: Craig Galloway
Everton Women v Arsenal Women FC FA Women s Super League 02/05/2021. Goal 1-2 Arsenal midfielder Kim Little 10 scores from the penalty spot 1-2 and celebrates winning the game with the last kick of the ball during the FA Women s Super League match between Everton Women and Arsenal Women FC at the Walton Hall Park Stadium, Liverpool, United Kingdom on 2 May 2021. Liverpool Walton Hall Park Stadium Liverpool United Kingdom Copyright: Craig Galloway

While it is not mathematically done, Man United would need to catch up three points on final day and a whopping 26 goals difference.

Arsenal losing at home to relegation threatened Aston Villa is unlikely and, even it happened, you would expect a maximum loss by five goals. United would then need to beat Everton by 22 goals to finish in third place. Let’s be honest, if that kind of miracle happens, the FA will need to form an inquiry because no-one has scored more 15 goals in a FA WSL League game ever.

The Everton game on Sunday, was very interesting because Joe Montemurro shuffled his pack again making full use of his players’ flexibility. Vivianne Miedema played in midfield, Caitlin Foord was up front and Jordan Nobbs was on the left-wing.

The starting 11 was Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Wälti, McCabe; Little, van de Donk, Miedema; Mead, Foord, Nobbs. The available subs were Williams, Patten, Wubben-Moy, Maier, Catley, Goldie, Gut, Roord.

Tactically, it was a game of two halves.

Everton played the first part of the game in 5-3-2 sitting deep and soaking up the pressure from the Gunners. In response, Joe Montemurro set-up the team in an structure that he recently started using with inverted full-backs in Maritz and McCabe. Those two players bombing forward into the half-spaces created some opportunities for other players.

Combined with Miedema playing deeper than van de Donk very often, it opened space for other players to come in to.

Indeed, the first Arsenal goal came from one of those full-back runs through the middle. Wälti send a long through ball to Foord who touched it towards McCabe who evaded the Everton defence before chipping MacIver superbly  to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal.

With Arsenal dominating the proceedings for the most of the first half, Willie Kirk made a tactical change at half-time. He replaced one of his midfielders, Graham, and put a forward on switching from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 in attacking play and 4-4-2 in defensive shape. Sorensen, who came on at half-time, shuffling positions in defensive and attacking situation on the right wing.

The change resulted in a cat and mouse game, that might have looked dull on TV. Everton played higher on the pitch managed to negate most of the Arsenal threats with that switch and the game became rougher. It also got away from the referees control with multiple fouls.

Everton equalised through Finnigan as a short throw in was crossed by an unmarked Christiansen in the mixer and the Everton defender headed it past Zinsberger. The Arsenal defence was caught sleeping as Finnigan managed to head the ball easily and, next to her in acres of space, was an unmarked Emslie who would have been able to volley the ball had Finnigan missed it.

Arsenal put pressure on in the final 15 minutes, looking for a win but there was not enough to destabilise a solid Everton defence until the last minute of added time.

Van de donk and Wälti pressed Christiansen in the middle of the pitch. Little intercepted the loose ball and touched it to Roord who sent it to Miedema, who had her back to the goal and pivoted to pass it on the edge of the penalty area to McCabe. Finnigan, who was coming across to defend, was late and hit McCabe quite hard. The referee pointed to the spot and booked Finnigan.

Kim Little did not disappoint and put the ball top left corner to score the winner with the referee blowing full-time before Everton could even restart the game. Arsenal literally won it with the last kick of the game.

Arsenal winning 2-1 means next season they will play in the revamped Women Champion’s League competition with more money for the clubs and a new group stage with 16 teams. Unless, of course, something bizarre happens on the final day, but it is an unlikely scenario that would raise many suspicions.

So, it’s job done for Joe Montemurro and his squad, who managed to turn things round when they looked really bleak back in January.

Full credit to the manager, his staff and all the players for qualifying the biggest club competition.