Arsenal 2 West Ham United Women 1: Talking Points and Highlights

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Arsenal began their WSL title defence with a nervy 2-1 win at home to West Ham United on Sunday at Meadow Park. As part of a new feature for this season, Tim Stillman looks at the main talking points from the game.

Arsenal looked disjointed at times, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise…

The Gunners fielded four new signings and had Vivianne Miedema and Lia Walti on the treatment table, with Jordan Nobbs still feeling her way back into action via substitute cameos. That’s a lot of change in the spine of the team and so some adjustment time is to be expected. Joe Montemurro picked Leah Williamson at the base of the midfield and rotated the number 9 and wide left spot between Danielle van de Donk and Beth Mead.

It actually worked pretty well in the first half, with Kim Little and Jill Roord providing good supporting runs from midfield, ensuring the number 9 spot was always filled. Beth Mead scored from the edge of the box from a central position, Jill Roord doubled the lead with a trademark run from midfield and Danielle van de Donk really ought to have made it 3-0 at the beginning of the second half when she lifted the ball over from 5 yards.

But the Gunners missed Miedema in the second half….

However, once West Ham reduced the arrears in the second half and began to build pressure, the lack of a dedicated number 9 hindered Arsenal and allowed West Ham to pin them back. Montemurro’s side carries plenty of goal threat without Miedema, but they don’t have another player that can act as a release valve and hold the ball up when they come under pressure.

That and tired legs meant Arsenal were pinned back more than they would have liked in the second half and they ended up hanging onto the result. Miedema’s omission is thought to be cautionary and she ought to be ready to play in Thursday’s game in Florence. Joe’s biggest challenge this season is going to be choice. Last season, injuries and a small squad meant he had very little of it and the team benefitted with a cohesion and rhythm built up over the season, this year he will have to rotate without upsetting squad harmony. It’s a delicate balance as today’s game showed.

The defending though…

Leah Williamson did a commendable enough job in front of the back four, a role she has played many times before. Given the amount of change in the spine of the team and the injury to Katrine Veje at left-back, I found the decision to start Viki Schnaderbeck at the heart of defence strange. Louise Quinn seemed a more natural choice and she has at least spent some time playing alongside Jen Beattie in pre-season.

Playing Schnaderbeck added greater unfamiliarity to a defence already disrupted by injury and it showed with Schnaderbeck and Leonie Maier picking up yellow cards inside the first fifteen minutes. Viki was comprehensively outjumped for West Ham’s goal and it’s difficult to believe Louise Quinn would have allowed the same outcome in that scenario. It strikes me that Schnaderbeck is more a defensive midfielder than a central defender at this stage of her career.

Lisa Evans continues to quietly impress…

Evans was one of Arsenal’s most effective players last season with her constant raids down the right hand side. She always manages to power her way to the by-line for cutbacks, whether played at right-back or the right-wing. On Sunday, she linked up well with Leonie Maier at right-back to excellent effect too, with an understanding already developing between the two.

Lisa helped herself to an assist for Beth Mead’s opener and played a crucial part in Jill Roord’s goal too, feeding another excellent low ball into the box for Mead to unselfishly tee up Roord. Lisa continues to excel for Arsenal below the radar as one of the Gunners’ most effective and consistent performers. Be it at right-wing or right-back, you always get the same high octane performance from the Scot.

Read exclusive match reaction from Beth Mead 

 

Arsenal Women kicked off their title defence with a solid but by no means straightforward win over West Ham United Women#ARS #WHU #BarclaysFAWSL

Posted by Barclays FA Women's Super League on Monday, 9 September 2019

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Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Brilliant save by Manu but she needs to write a note to herself reminding of the rule regarding picking up a pass back.
Sure it may not have been intentional but it gave the Ref (who had something of a Hammers bias if distribution of yellow cards was anything to go by!) the opportunity to award a free kick.
Next time put your laces through the ball and send it into the film studios! No one will score from there!
That little tip could be applied all around the defence. Yes sure play from the back when appropriate but there were a couple of occasions when West Ham were gifted half chances from misplaced or over-intricate passing near to our own goal area. Being stuck on our own byline when the danger could have been easily averted several passes earlier appears to be an unwelcome continuation from last season.

Finally, I like Vikki but not sure Joe’s call to put her in central defence was inspriational. Might have been better for Vikki and Leah to swap places when after only a few minutes Vikki was on a yellow card and simple lofted balls were turning her and Jen far too easily.

No disrespect to West Ham but we will face better teams this season and will be punished for silly errors.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Oh! BTW Tim. Nice write up and useful addition to the blog. A much better balanced synopsis of the game than the official Arsenal website review.

Stillberto
Stillberto

Cheers man and agree with your comments. When the back pass happened I had flashbacks to the Everton game in April where we conceded from an indirect free kick after a back pass!

BODMAS
BODMAS

But I didnt see that as a back pass, it was clumsy torch

Armchair
Armchair

Let’s hope he’s more objective! I like the website–they do a good job–but we are here for the objectivity–or at least I am. And I agree about Quinn: She was very reliable last year, and so it /was/ odd that she didn’t start yesterday. To go from a very reliable center pairing all last year to two new centerbacks yesterday was bound to be feel different. There’s been a lot of change. Also agree about Evans–she is /consistently/ effective marauding down the right side.

Eeleen
Eeleen

I agree with maybe playing Leah in defence and Vikki in front of them. For me it seemed Vikki’s and Jen’s pairing to be a little too slow for a team who plays with such a high line. Katie and Leonie were upfield for most of the game anyway :).

I personally don’t mind taking risks at the back (saying that Manu should have booted the ball into the film studios 🙂 like you said). It is high risk high reward and uncomfortable for viewers sometimes, but we had the best defensive record last season, so we were in the long run doing it the right way, even if we gave supperters couple of heart attacks. Those girls played together for a first time, so it will take some time to click.

By the time West Ham scored the first goal, we should have been out of sight anyway. We had chanses to be 4 or 5 up by that point. That was the most positive thing about the game, that even without Jordan, Viv we could have scored a loads.

And the yellow given to Vikki really annoyd the hell out of me. These kind of cards are never given in the 50th second of the game. If those were ManCitys mens team would end all games with 7 men. I would be okay with it, if all these kinds all fouls would be punished consistently, but those won’t be.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Correct the game should have been out of sight before West Ham scored.
I’d rather not have a heart attack so from now on can we simply put away all of our chances and when we play against a quick counter attacking side not be frightened of the “safety first” approach!
I believe we have the squad to compete in Europe we just need to ensure that we concentrate for 90 minutes and instigate plan B when plan A might drop us in it!

Stillberto
Stillberto

Agree on Manu, I’m fine with her. She will give you a heart attack from time to time, but in the long run it’ll help the team more than it hinders. I think she’s much better at playing out than PPM, whose distribution i find sketchy.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Oh yes I’m impressed with the signing after all you don’t play over 50 games for Bayern if you are a numpty!
What was impressive was the way she dealt with the free kick after giving it away. So many keepers would have stood on their line and put a wall in front of the ball but by being the closest Arsenal player to the ball she gave herself a clear sight and the maximum chance of blocking the shot which is what she did.

Bea
Bea

I didn’t think it was a backpass on the day. Katie tried to control it went to smash it away but Manu got there and picked it up. It wasn’t a purposeful pass from a defender. (which is I think her argument to the ref).
I’d also have rather seen Viki in dm and Leah at cb but we got the win. No one looks great yet and we’ve got another 2 games in a week and if this keeps us strong for those two I’ll be happy.

Hello
Hello

Thanks for this, Tim, it’s a really good read!

Chris Humphrey
Chris Humphrey

Viv’s absence was an obvious miss as highlighted in Tim’s synopsis. The going forward was not a problem yesterday other than profligacy in front of goal , most unusually from DvdD.
Our uncertainties from the outset were at the back starting with the unusual CB pairing of Viki with Jen. Not disrespect to Viki but her selection in that position ahead of Louise, certainly questionable. Also, the loss of Kat Veje down the left compounded the defensive uncertainties. Katie is a great all rounder but she does seem to struggle with positioning in the left back area. Perhaps Mitch would have added a bit defensive certainty on the day.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Bit harsh on DvD who on the whole had a good game but she did miss two absolute sitters! Never mind Viv my Dachshund could have knocked both of those in with her head!
Maybe Mitch is being saved for Thursday. We have to do rotation now but agree Kat offers similar attack to Katie but perhaps with a bit more defensive savvy despite them both being classified as “forwards” on the Arsenal website.

Gooner1
Gooner1

To be fair to Joe in regard to viki starting ahead of leah and louise in the cb position it could be just him managing minutes for the fiorentina game in midweek (quinn will probably play against them). We all know how much this Arsenal team struggle with injuries

Bea
Bea

Katie might not be the best defensively but she gives her absolute all every second of the game. I’d say future club captain but we’ve got at least 5 women I’d happily see own the armband after Kim!

Chris Humphrey
Chris Humphrey

Thoroughly agree about Katie. My point was specifically related to Sunday’s defensive aberrations being directly linked to two of the back 4 not playing in their natural positions when we had 2 players on the bench (Mitch & Louise) who could have been playing in their natural positions. I appreciate that rotation must come into play with the busy months ahead but for the first league game of the season it seemed particularly odd to experiment with the CB pairing.

Fun Gunner
Fun Gunner

Good write-up, Tim. Thanks.

I think we are going to have to get used to squeaky bum type games this season – for all the reasons mentioned.
Facing European opposition will be very testing on our defenders, so I can understand holding Quinn back. Williamson’s and Schnaderbeck’s respective positions did seem a bit perverse, but perhaps Joe was just trying stuff. Or giving the England manager a little hint about Williamson? (Can’t understand why Neville is trying to turn “the best rb in the world” into a central midfielder when Jordan is back soon and hello…there’s Leah!)

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Yeah Phil Neville also trying odd position tactics.
As you say, why would you play Lucy Bronze anywhere other than right back if you didn’t have to?

Armchair
Armchair

According to a Dutch news report, Miedema will not play in Sunday’s Champions League match. That is too bad but you have to be careful with hamstring pulls and allow the time needed for a complete recovery, as re-injuring it would be disastrous.

Peter Story Teller
Peter Story Teller

Perhaps it lost something in the translation.
Champions League game is Thursday and we play Man United on Monday.