Arsenal’s women were defeated 3-0 by Chelsea in the FA Women’s Cup final 2020/21 and it has to be said, the scoreline was actually kind to the Gunners.
We can say that, for some reason only known to them, many players did not turn up and did not perform. And, unfortunately, you cannot carry players against a team like Chelsea.
Had Chelsea been clinical on the day, the scoreline would have been very damaging for the club and the players’ morale, too.
Chelsea deserved to win the cup by a mile and Arsenal were well beaten thanks to a mix of individual errors and collective disorganisation.
To me, it looked like Arsenal had the same problems against Chelsea that they used to have under Joe Montemurro. For most the game they struggles to get out of the defence when Chelsea pressed high up the pitch.
I think only three players played at their normal performance level on Sunday: Manuela Zinsberger, Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema.
All the other players did not do well enough individually for some unknown reason.
Collectively, we were also found out very quickly, too quickly.
The game started in the worse possible way.
Chelsea have a well-known strength and Arsenal played straight into it by conceding early.
Chelsea are at their best when they hit you in transition, as their forwards are all speedy and technically strong. It gave them an edge as our centre-backs are not the quickest. But of course, the defence should have been protected by the midfield, especially as we had two defensive midfielders in Maanum and Walti.
For some reason, that duo never found the right distance between themselves and were never close enough to the defence when the ball was lost.
If you give time and space to Kerr and Kerby, they will punish you and they did just that on multiple occasions. The post saved the Arsenal three times in total on top of Chelsea’s inability to convert their many chances.
Later in the game, Arsenal managed to got hold of the ball more when Chelsea started to drop and waited on the halfway line like a snake waiting for its prey.
That’s how the second goal came about.
They waited for the error rather than provoke it as they had earlier in the game. They pounced on it and hit us quickly on the break.
The tactics failed, the players failed and the coaching staff failed.
Arsenal were lucky to go into the break only 1-0 down and there was an expectation of a tactical switch or a player change at half-time, but nothing happened.
If the players are not able to find solutions, the coaching staff should really do something to change the direction of the game during the break.
On a side note, the referee did not have a great game. She missed a penalty call for both sides and a few yellow cards. But, she never influenced the final result as the game was so one-sided.
So where do Arsenal go from here?
Alarm bells are ringing as it is the first domestic defeat this season. The manner was very similar to what we saw at Barcelona, albeit with a different opposition football style.
With the lack of collective reaction to the opposition’s strength, you have to wonder if the team has enough in themselves to play at the highest elite European level.
There is no doubt that, at domestic level, a title is very much a possibility. There is a step up between the FA WSL and the Champions League and Chelsea played like it was a Champions League tie.
They raised their level, their preparation was spot on. Arsenal did the opposite. You certainly wonder how good the preparation was and if the players got all the information needed.
If the game plan was good but not well executed, that is mainly on the players to find out why things did not happen. If the game plan was not good enough, the coaching staff should bear some responsibility.
I think Jonas Eidevall has to deal with the damage from the second defeat of the season immediately. He needs to pick the players up really quickly as Barcelona at the Emirates is the upcoming game on Thursday.
There is also squad management to be taken care of. Squad and rotation players who don’t get many chances will want to play in big games when the starters don’t perform as seen in the two defeats this season.
It will not be easy to justify picking the same players who failed to perform against Barcelona and Chelsea. Someone like Jordan Nobbs must be wondering what she can do to get in the team, especially as she has a different profile to the three midfielders that started the game.
Other players will also stake a claim for a starting place and having unhappy players in the squad could easily derail the Gunners’ season.
Eidevall’s people-management skills will need to be spot on in the upcoming weeks to keep every players involved and ready to perform when called upon.