We Are the Champions: 5 Reasons Why Arsenal Won the WSL

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Arsenal Women have steamrolled their way to their first league title since 2012. The wait shouldn’t have been this long, they have always had a competitive squad in this period capable of winning the title. In recent years they had turned into a cup team, scooping up three Conti Cups and three FA Cups since their last WSL triumph.

Winning the title so emphatically this season has been no mean feat given the competition- Manchester City and Chelsea are among Europe’s finest sides. Arsenal started quickly and led from the front throughout, considering they have a small squad that has been decimated by injuries to Jordan Nobbs, Dan Carter, Emma Mitchell, Lia Wälti and new signings Tabea Kemme and Viki Schnaderbeck (they also lost Kim Little for three months at one point), this has been an outstanding triumph.

Since Joe Montemurro arrived at the club in late 2017, Arsenal have looked like a consistently excellent team, as opposed to a talented side capable of beating anybody on their day. The Australian has re-energised the club and lots of players have improved under his tutelage. Here are the five main cornerstones of the girls’ success this season.

TACTICAL FLEXIBILITY
When Joe first arrived during the 2017-18, he first focused on stabilising the defence through consistency of selection. Leah Williamson and Louise Quinn, ably assisted by Dominique Bloodworth in front of the back four, provided a platform that saw the Gunners keep eight consecutive clean sheets during spring 2018.

The signing of Swiss international Lia Wälti in a deep lying midfield role meant Joe could move to a much more flexible approach. Bloodworth is a multi-functional player who can play in either full-back position, or at the centre of a back three, where her progressive passing is such a great weapon. The conversion of winger Lisa Evans into a full-back during the spring of 2018 also helped aid this renewed tactical flexibility.

With the likes of Evans, Bloodworth and McCabe capable of playing in midfield and defence, Arsenal have been able to doctor their approach, flitting between a back three and a back four. Danish winger Katrine Veje joined in January and she is also capable of playing in a wide midfield or full-back role.

Montemurro appointed compatriot Aaron D’Antino as assistant manager during the summer, D’Antino specialises in video analysis and Montemurro has been able to tailor his approach according to the opponent’s weaknesses. Having a changeable defence and midfield has enabled the forward line to remain fairly stable, with Miedema, Mead and van de Donk virtual ever presents.

INTERNAL SOLUTIONS
Arsenal were robbed of new signings Tabea Kemme and Viki Schaderbeck to injury before the season even started. But Lia Wälti was a canny addition in midfield with her economic passing with both feet help to start attacks and she is virtually impossible to prize the ball from. But the improvement of several existing players has really made the difference in this campaign.

I cast my Player of the Season vote for Lisa Evans, whose forays from the right hand side are a constant nuisance to opponents. The Scottish international has a penchant for wriggling to the by-line after plundering the avenue between full-back and centre-half. Katie McCabe has become a very versatile threat too, operating on either flank or as part of a midfield three. Her left foot has become a rich source of goals from range.

Danielle van de Donk is also enjoying a fine season, since the injury suffered by Jordan Nobbs, she has really stepped up in the goalscoring stakes. Her 13 goals this season have all come from inside the penalty area- most inside the six yard box. Vivianne Miedema occupies the minds and bodies of opposing defences for obvious reasons and DvD is excellent at running into the spaces Miedema’s movement provides.

MIEDEMA THE REEDEMER
You’re probably wondering why it took me so long to come to the contribution of Vivianne Miedema. I had to keep you reading somehow! The Dutch striker is a super clinical finisher, the likes of which Arsenal have missed for some years. In previous seasons, Arsenal had a tendency to dominate sides but struggled to convert their dominance into goals. No more.

Miedema doesn’t make Arsenal play, per se. She is not the focal point of the team technically. The likes of Williamson, Wälti, McCabe and Evans are far more involved in that respect. Though Viv often explains that she used to play as a number 10 and enjoys moving away from the front line to knit moves together. But what she does is make sure Arsenal’s build-up play has an end product.

To quote Leah Williamson back in February, “If you give her something, she’ll score. If you give her nothing, she will still score.” Miedema’s presence is an in-built one goal lead much of the time. After an injury ravaged 2017-18 season, she has been the clutch player. But she is no goal hanger.

One of the most underrated facets of her game is her movement. Danielle van de Donk, Katie McCabe and Kim Little are also in double figures for goals this season and Jordan Nobbs would have comfortably hit the 15 goal mark at a minimum were it not for injury. Miedema is very good at moving into the channels to create space for the likes of Little and van de Donk.

This Arsenal team is an excellent unit with stars throughout, but Miedema is its X factor. Viv says she models her game on her childhood idol Robin van Persie (she grew up as a Feyenoord fan) and it is incredibly evident in her style. Miedema has two excellent feet and is an absolutely meticulous finisher. She simply doesn’t miss.

AND BAD MISTAKES, WE’VE MADE SO FEW
In truth, the early season performances have tailed off since the winter and the loss of Jordan Nobbs to injury. Jordan is the sort of player you just don’t replace, you just have to try and find a different way. That took Arsenal some time, not least because Kim Little was recovering from injury when Jordan’s cruciate ligament cruelly ruptured in November. Arsenal’s high point came in October when they demolished defending champions Chelsea 5-0 on their own ground.

Arsenal lost away to Manchester City in December and at home to Chelsea in January when they could barely fill their bench with anything other than U-18 players. But those defeats didn’t carry the impact they might have because Arsenal have beaten every other team in the league. Twice. They haven’t dropped a single point they ought not to have, in contrast to Manchester City who, though undefeated, have drawn with the likes of Reading and twice with Bristol City, while both matches between Chelsea and Manchester City have been draws. Arsenal’s goal difference is in credit by almost 60 goals, which tells you the story of their season. They have pounded on the little guys.

JOE HEART
At the end of last season, there was a sense that something was happening under Joe Montemurro. The squad looked revitalised, with a renewed hunger. Katie McCabe, Lisa Evans, Danielle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema have all renewed terms this season and each has highlighted Montemurro’s presence as a principal reason for their loyalty. The manager himself put pen to paper on a new deal back in October.

Players such as Leah Williamson, Emma Mitchell, Katie McCabe, Lisa Evans, Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead and Danielle van de Donk are in that early to mid-20s age bracket. They all have experience and silverware to their names, but also have youth on their side. The squad has a very good blend in terms of age, Sari van Veenendaal, Kim Little and Louise Quinn are the oldest players, all of whom turn 29 this year. This Arsenal side has good automatisms, as Per Mertesacker would have it. They are thoroughly deserving champions.

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Redbaron
Redbaron

Congratulations to the Arsenal Ladies. You’ve made gunners proud.

Archer
Archer

Congrats Arsenal!

mashkeyboardgetusername
mashkeyboardgetusername

Fuck yeah! Congratulations to the team, they did damn good, especially with all the setbacks (stupid injury gods…) over the season, and the strength of city & chelsea.

canon fodder
canon fodder

Thank you Arsenal for securing some pride back in our club. You have shown the men how to do it even without the $$$ of Man City and Chelsea!

Tony Hall
Tony Hall

Thank you ladies for restoring some pride to this battered club. You have been fantastic all season and deserve a victory parade !

Chidi
Chidi

Congratulations to the Arsenal women… Thoroughly deserved. And thanks to Tim for all the updates.
With the way the women’s game is gaining recognition especially as teams are having them play in larger stadia and record attendances, I’m looking forward to my Arsenal women gracing the Emirates! Hope that happens especially with champions league football on the horizon!

the🚗2n
the🚗2n

Awesome! Well deserved. And thanks to the Arseblog team for covering the Arsenal Women team’s season. It’s been a great addition to the site.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Fabulous professional performance today to wrap up the WSL title.
Man City at home can be an exhibition match now and hopefully with the pressure lifted we can inflict their first league defeat of the season.
I would hate to see City go through the season unbeaten and still not win the title! NOT!

Magneto
Magneto

Congratulations, Arsenal Women, and well done to Joe M & his coaching team.

Rob Fuller

Fantastic piece on a fantastic team. So Proud to watch this team when possible, just a shame the media exposure for the Women’s game is still so lacklustre. Both the BBC and Sky need to up their game and get the WSL out to the masses where it deserves to be as it continues to grow in quality and excitement. Congratulations to Joe and all the team! A magnificent achievement and I have a feeling there’s more to come!

Swifty
Swifty

Congratulations Arsenal Ladies. I genuinely hope tomorrow’s arseblog is just about you.

Drew
Drew

Give Joe the 1st team job😉 congrats to the Women they have done the club proud.

Makoye
Makoye

Did you mean the mens team!? 😜

Red Arrow
Red Arrow

Congrats to Arsenal Ladies for winning the league. Hope we can do better in Europe next season – we certainly have the players to do it! Well done to the coach too – you know he’s the real deal when so many of our top players have renewed their contracts. And as others have said – at a time when the men have disappointed – the women have restored some pride to the Arsenal.

Tony Hall
Tony Hall

How the fuck anyone could thumb down any of the below comments is beyond me ?

David Hillier's luggage
David Hillier's luggage

Brilliant stuff! The disparity might not be as big, but you cannot underestimate how big an achievement it is to finish above City & Chelsea given the financial backing those two clubs have. Hopefully the team gets the press recognition they deserve too, they’ve been brilliant this season yet the BBC’s coverage seems to centre around either City & Chelsea or United winning the Championship with effectively a Super League team. Anyway, looking forward to next season!

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

That’s why it is good that BT Sport are showing more games as they have less bias than BBC.

BODMAS
BODMAS

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE LADIES.

Fun Gunner
Fun Gunner

Congratulations to the fantastic Arsenal Women, the kids who stepped up so brilliantly when called upon, Joe Montemurro and his staff! Following the girls has been an absolute privilege this season. Can’t wait to cheer and sing for them on May 11th. (Make it a win, please, girls.)

Thanks also to you, Tim, for all the updates and interviews. (I assume you’ll be giving us transfer tidbits in a month or so?)

This feels like the start of something very special. Arsenal Women are BACK, baby!

Will in Bangkok
Will in Bangkok

I know all of this squad has been fantastic but Viv Miedema is really the Henry of womens football right now, different class ! Great to see what a great job management and squad have done. Wake up Arsenal men.