The Evolution of Beth Mead

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Beth Mead arrived at Arsenal two and a half years ago with a reputation as England’s finest young striker. Her goals shot Sunderland up two divisions and into the WSL before her teens were behind her. At the age of 20, Mead finished as the top goal scorer in the top-flight with a Sunderland side whose resources were far in arrears compared to the division’s heavyweights.

Highlights included a hat-trick against league leaders Chelsea. She scored twice in a win over Bristol Academy less than a week after rolling her car three times when swerving to avoid a deer. She won the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2016. Arsenal made several approaches for Beth before they finally won her signature in early 2017 (she resolved to finish her university degree in the northeast before committing to move to the capital).

At the time Arsenal had Jodie Taylor on their books, but this was only ever intended as a short-term stint as she waited for her green card papers to be finalised. Mead was the future. Yet in the summer of 2017, the Gunners moved for Vivianne Miedema from Bayern Munich, the world’s foremost young striking talent. It potentially left Beth at a crossroads before her Arsenal career had got going.

Arsenal operated with a 4-3-3 and Mead was moved into a wide forward position to play off Miedema. It took her some time to adjust, she broke her arm shortly after arriving at the club and by the time she returned, Miedema was on board. “It’s been different for me, I’ve had to adapt to different roles at times because I’ve pretty much always played as a number 9,” she told me back in November 2017.

Beth Mead penalty v London Bees

🎥 Take a closer look at Beth Mead's second penalty of the night v London Bees ⚽️Was she aiming for us? 🤔 😅

Posted by Arsenal Women on Friday, 13 October 2017

The arrival of Joe Momtemurro in November 2017 helped Beth, as it did many players. She was still adopted in a wide forward role, but Montemurro’s total football style gives wide players far more freedom to move inside and swap flanks. Mead began to adjust, but she truly cemented her place at the beginning of the 2018-19 season. Dan Carter plays a very similar, wide forward centre forward hybrid role, but a cruciate ligament injury sustained on the final day of the 2017-18 season ruled her out for 10 months.

Heather O’Reilly left the club during the same summer, while Jess Samuelsson’s continuing injury woes meant right winger Lisa Evans was required at right-back. The coast was clear for Mead to play regularly on the left-hand side of the attack. Miedema often moves away from the front line to knit moves together and Mead began to use her striking instincts to pull onto the shoulder of the opposing right-back.

Beth has developed other skills on the training ground to better suit the role too. She has always been blessed with the bursts of pace that natural goal scorers tend to have over short distances. Mead has worked hard to develop this skill with the ball at her feet too, so she can manoeuvre her way past opposing full-backs. Arsenal operate with players that circulate the ball well from deep positions and they are not shy about hitting the channels where Mead can stretch her legs in the space between centre-halves and full-backs.

The Whitby born forward developed an altruistic streak, last season she set a record for WSL assists with 12 and she created more chances than any other player in the division with 54. She combined with Vivianne Miedema for nine goals, making it the most fruitful combination in the division. Many of her assists came from set-pieces. Mead worked very hard to develop her corner and free-kick taking technique.

It’s actually similar to her technique for striking the ball at goal, where she hits through the ball with her laces. In the 4-2 victory over West Ham in January, she set up three Gunners goals- two from corners. However, while Mead’s creative game flourished, her goal scoring dried up. By late February, she had still only scored 3 goals in the WSL and uncharacteristically missed a few gilt-edged chances in the 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Chelsea.

Things changed for Beth in late February when she broke her scoring duck in a 3-0 victory over Yeovil. It reinvigorated her. Following her goal, Yeovil kicked off, Mead immediately wrestled the ball back and went on a jinking 40-yard run into the Yeovil area, before she was brought down for an Arsenal penalty. The goal transformed her season.

It’s important for Beth, on Sunday [against Chelsea] she had some good chances which fell to her which she wasn’t able to take,” Joe Montemurro told me after the Yeovil game. “She just needed that bit of confidence in front of goal and she got a great goal tonight, but she’s been playing well anyway so I’ve not been too worried.”

A week later she went to the SheBelieves Cup with England and she shot to fame with her cross shot in the 2-1 victory over Brazil in Pennsylvania. She was on the score sheet again in the 3-0 final victory over Japan. Mead returned to Arsenal and scored twice in a 5-1 victory over Liverpool and repeated her now patented ‘crot’ at Prenton Park. (Though she insisted this one was an accident, unlike her effort against Brazil).

Mead scored the winner again for her country in a 1-0 friendly victory over Spain in April and set the seal on the Gunners’ title clinching win at Brighton with an outstanding long-range strike. The desire to force her way, not just into the England squad, but the England starting XI proved to be a huge boon for her season. England manager Phil Neville admits to having some harsh words with Mead and he got a reaction from her at the She Believes.

She’d scored against Brazil, this unbelievable goal, and she expected to play in the next game. I got her in and said: ‘You’re not playing; be ready to come in’ and she stormed out of the room, angry. And I thought: ‘Job done; she’s ready now.” The competition is fierce in the Lionesses side in the wide forward spots, with Toni Duggan, Rachel Daly, Karen Carney and Nikita Parris all vying with Beth for two places.

Mead’s feats at club level were also helped by the arrival of Katrine Veje in January. The Dane regularly played at left-back after some chopping and changing in the position due to the unavailability of first choice Emma Mitchell. Veje is a converted left winger and her energy helps her to consistently overlap Beth on the left. The Dane has her part in Beth’s goalscoring resurgence.

Mead scored 77 goals in 78 appearances for Sunderland in her teens and early 20s. It’s difficult to reconcile that pure goal scorer with the wide forward she has become. She has rediscovered her scoring instincts but has worked hard on her creative game- especially her delivery. I have always had a theory that strikers make the best crossers because they understand exactly how and where a centre-forward wants the ball. Mead’s development has been a big plus for England and hopefully, will remain so in the red and white of Arsenal.

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GraeB
GraeB

Freudian slip? “busts of pace“, “opening her legs “

Henkamp
Henkamp

Dear me! I need to follow Arsenal women more.

I have seen all her assists (3 so far) for England at this WC. And I was very impressed especially with the first two.

I wash wishing we had such a decisive and energetic winger in the men’s team — without even knowing she’s actually a striker. Good going, Beth. Long may it continue!

Truj
Truj

Who cares woman football? That’s a different story. For example who will watch Hull City’s games or 3rd string games. It is just for local supporters and for the family. This is just my opinion of course but watch the TV or the attendance stats carefully.

Stillberto
Stillberto

England’s game against Norway drew 7 million viewers in the UK and had a higher peak audience than the FA Cup Final. I think it’s you that needs to ‘peep the stats’ more carefully. And, as ever, remember that you are not the arbiter of what people want to read. If you don’t want to read about women’s football, don’t. Nobody cares whether you like it or not, I can say with great confidence that nobody cares about what you don’t like watching.

truj
truj

At least I upvoted myself.

Wilshere's Middle Finger
Wilshere's Middle Finger

Bore off 😴 A gooners a grooner regardless of gender. Take your misogyny somewhere else where I hope it makes you feel all worthy and masculine.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Was that twice? I cannot imagine anyone else upvoting that post unless they did not understand it.
Arsenal women are current League Champions, FA Cup Finalists, and have qualified for Champions League for next season.
On top of that they have recruited more world class players to extend the squad and the ones they had already that spent most of last season injured should be back on the pitch for the new season.
What have the men’s team done recently?
To answer your question in the OP we care!

truj
truj

All respect to the ladies. The gents are often soo poor and hopeless. But I prefer high quality football than watching diligent women. And yes, you are right, I’m caught, upvoted myself twice. But the other three are mysterious bastards.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

If you enjoy watching ‘high quality football’ and you do not want to watch Arsenal Women or female football in general you may have to start tuning into to Liverpool or dare I say it Spuds games then!
The rest of us are happy to witness goals that Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud of or Meado swinging the ball into the net from the touchline and she has done it more than once so ‘the crot’ is no fluke despite what is sometimes said!
It will be a while before the men’s first team can provide such entertainment.

Devlin
Devlin

Sorry for saying this on a Beth mead praise article, but I wish we could get Alex Morgan for Arsenal.

She is such a special player. Playing upfront against France, she was physical, technical and such an all rounded player in that forward role. I saw Miedema play against Italy and even if her all round play wasn’t really up there but she is a goalscorer. I think they would be amazing together up top, especially with a Van De Donk and Little behind them.

Maybe I am just dreaming, but Morgan was just so good. I wished we could get her. Plus, she fits with the fearlessness personalities of Miedema and Van De Donk, even though with Van De Donk, she has a little confrontational streak in her.

I also wish Dominique Bloodworth hadn’t left. I wonder if there was nothing we could have done to keep her in north London.

I haven’t watched England even once the whole tournament, mostly because it is so bereft of Arsenal players, but I hope I will get to watch the semi-final in person.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Unfortunately, Dom wanted to leave after all it is difficult to say “no” to Wolfsberg. The bottom line is if a player is unhappy because she is playing out of her preferred position at Arsenal and one of Europe’s top clubs can offer what she wants there is little point in trying to convince her otherwise.
Joe is too shrewd to try that.
It is worth reading Tim’s excellent blog specifically about the player’s time with the Gunners if you haven’t done so already as it does give an insight into what at first glance appears a strange decision.

Wayywarddamz
Wayywarddamz

Honestly I think it’s better to support the women’s team than the men’s

Chris Humphrey
Chris Humphrey

Beth was crucial to our title success. Noting she has been a Gooner for 2 years now and 2 years has been the normal length of WSL contracts. Has Beth signed a new contract with us recently?

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

You are correct Meado joined us January 2017 but strangely Arsenal were very cagey about the details stating the contract was for an undisclosed time.
Her previous contract with Sunderland was for four years so she should only have left the Black Cats this season but, of course, we know different.
I guess when you score 77 goals in 78 games you can name your own terms and conditions but you would not necessarily want the rest of the world or indeed your team mates to know about it.
Perhaps Stillberto could investigate because she is definitely a player that needs to be retained.

mashkeyboardgetusername
mashkeyboardgetusername

It’s easy to forget how relatively young Mead is and how recently she’s broken into the senior team, not to mention coping with the position change. It’s really impressive how much she’s come on in a relatively short time, feels like she’s been playing as a wide forward for ages.

Also, it always makes you feel faintly dirty praising ex-players from That Club, but I’ve been pretty impressed with the way Neville’s gone about his business with the Lionesses. Plus, talking England, I did enjoy Williamson’s standing-her-ground moment against Cameroon – nothing close to a foul, just a little “you’re not getting past me” bump.

MarinPK
MarinPK

It’s nice to read about the ladies, especially in these kind of depressing times for the men’s team. I’m getting more and more interested in women football, I guess seeing a winning Arsenal team helped as well as the World Cup in my country. And thanks to the Arseblog I have some knowledge on various WC semifinalists and I’m proud when Vivianne scores. So I hape that you will continue the develop the Arsenal Women session, I don’t know if the stats are great for these articles but there surely is a growing audience and we all need stories on players in red and white who shine. Plus as the WSL is not very mediatised (especially out of England) we rely more on your qualitative articles, so keep it up with the good work!