Arsenal Women surprisingly drew 0-0 with Brighton & Hove Albion in the Conti Cup group stage on Sunday. In the group stage format, if the match finishes in a draw, penalties are used to decide who should get an extra point. Brighton prevailed 4-3 on spot kicks. Tim Stillman was at the game for Arseblog News, casting a beady eye over proceedings.
Arsenal were not at their fluent best….
But there actually wasn’t a huge amount to worry about in this game or in the performance, even if it was slightly below par. The Gunners started with Beth Mead on the right and Katie McCabe on the left, with Jill Roord upfront. This is the first time Mead, McCabe and Roord have played together as a front three and it, understandably, showed.
Roord played as a centre-forward as a teenager, but with Dan Carter injured, Arsenal don’t have many centre-forward alternatives without Vivianne Miedema. Joe used a lesser competition in which the team are certainly going to qualify from their group to try something new. Katie McCabe has only played as a left-back this season, while Mead usually operates from the left of the attack.
Arsenal struggled to hit their stride in the opening half an hour with Miedema and van de Donk, two players crucial to Arsenal’s build-up play, missing. With Mead and McCabe playing on their natural sides, the attack became too predictable and the wingers ended up hitting crosses into the Brighton area, which the Seagulls were prepared for.
That said, Arsenal created four clear cut chances in a crazy two minute spell towards the end of the half, with McCabe, Mead, Little and Roord all going close. The chances varied greatly in difficulty- Little’s volley would have been a genuine goal of the season contender- but again, with van de Donk or Miedema on the pitch I am sure one of them would have rustled the net.
Jill Roord moving away from the frontline a lot more already in this half to allow runners in behind.
— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) November 3, 2019
Joe changed the configuration of the forward line at half-time…
“We tried to bring Jill Roord out a bit and away from the frontline to get her and Jordan closer together,” Joe told me after the game. “We thought that would open things up a little and get runners in behind.” Mead moved to the left and McCabe to the right as Montemurro inverted the wingers and Arsenal resisted the urge to opt for hopeful crosses.
It worked initially as Arsenal penned Brighton in and they were very unfortunate not to take the lead in this period of the match when Jill Roord’s header hit the connection between the post and crossbar. However, Brighton responded well to the period of pressure with a couple of dangerous counter-attacks.
“We started the second half pretty well and we were pinning them back and getting through them. But then we let them back into the game,” Louise Quinn told me post-match. Umotong posed a constant threat on the break, ably supported by the support running of Ellie Brazil. Brighton often found counter-attack to be the best method of defence.
With a more clinical striker, the Seagulls would have scored themselves. Quinn intimated that that put some doubt into the team’s minds. “We needed to be tidier and we were letting them in too easily sometimes and that can have an effect on the rest of the team.” Montemurro sent for DvD and Miedema for the final ten minutes and Viv instantly latched onto a Little through ball to force a good save from ‘keeper Sophie Harris.
Arsenal lost patience in the final ten minutes…
“Yeah, that can happen when you’re looking for a goal. We were just trying too hard to force it,” Montemurro reflected when we spoke post-match. A series of overhit crosses and mishit through balls blighted the final period of the game when there were visible signs of fatigue from the Brighton players. The pitch was heavy at Crawley, which often resulted in awkward moments.
McCabe received the ball behind the Brighton defence during the second half, only to find the ball became stuck in the goalmouth mud, causing her to lose her footing. It was that kind of day. That said, Brighton played a weakened side and rested several key players and this is a game Arsenal ought to have won comfortably.
The defence and midfield were broadly fine, as you would expect given how often the midfielders and defenders had played together. That familiarity wasn’t quite there in the final third, which cost them the victory. However, it was absolutely right that Miedema and van de Donk were rested for this game.
The lost points don’t mean much in the grand scheme of the competition and the loss of chemistry is the price of rotating two of your most effective attackers. We saw that Arsenal might struggle if they are forced to play without Vivianne Miedema for a long period, but I am not sure that wasn’t already apparent.
Barcelona will struggle without Messi, exceptional players are difficult to replace. But I don’t think this was an issue of quality in the replacements so much as chemistry. That, I think, was the story of this game.
The good news is that nobody else in Arsenal’s group won. London City Lionesses beat Bristol City On penalties and London Bees beat Charlton on penalties too. Nobody took the full 3 points.
— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) November 3, 2019
Hi guys. Thanks for your work and effort that goes into the women’s section, however can it be filed separately as some of us just don’t have an interest in that? I understand the academy news etc as that leads to the first team. However, except by name this has no relation to The Arsenal that I support.
The word “women” is in the title of the piece. The picture accompanying the piece is of the women’s team and it goes in the women’s section of the site. If you still can’t avoid it after that, then there’s not much more we can do to help you.
Well, Tommmy. Every Gooner has an opinion of course. I’m glad to say that I am one of many committed Gooners that do not share yours about Arsenal Women. They are an integral part of THE Arsenal that I support. A highly motivated group of professional athletes, extremely well managed and playing a brand of football that better represents the Arsenal tradition than the men at this time.
Proof of the pudding? Take in a game.
Arsenal Women are a bona fide Arsenal team and deserve as much exposure as the other teams. If you are not interested that is your prerogative but lots of supporters are especially since this team is still in the League Cup, Champions League, in contention to defend the league title they won last season and, of course, the FA cup has yet to start so they are still in that! Don’t read the articles if you don’t want to but don’t expect information about Arsenal’s current best performing side to be hidden away from view simply because you are unable… Read more »
The real shame is why they still have to be referred to as “Arsenal Women”…We don’t say “Arsenal men” when we talk about the men’s team do we? Why can’t they also just be “The Arsenal”?
Might get a bit confusing, don’t you think?
I get your point but “Women” is a move forward from “Ladies” when describing world class professional athletes where every single member of the 20 in the squad is a full international (and even the 3 named academy youngsters are youth internationals).
The official Arsenal style guide is that they are referred to ‘Arsenal’ and only referred to as ‘Arsenal Women’ when there is a specific need to differentiate from the men’s team. You may notice on the site that we rarely use “Arsenal Women” because the use of “Women” or “Ladies” in the opposition team removes the need to do so for Arsenal 🙂
Why not call them good arsenal and bad arsenal. Easy to distinguish then
Don’t click on the links, then.
Great reporting Tim. Interesting read as always. Keep up the good work! 🙂
Nice atmosphere at Crawley yesterday. Credit to Hope Powell and her team to bounce back from the mauling they took at Meadow Park last encounter.
Although Joe always emphasises respect for the opposition still a timely reminder that beating MankC, Chelski and the likes is not necessarily where titles are won (although it helps!). The loss of a couple of league cup group points may have a more beneficial outcome in the overal plan for the season.
Rather here than in the league- especially the next game- put it that way!
Most definitely! Rather back to back the WSL than win the Conti Cup but it is only the crazy rules of the competition whereby penalties are required that make it appear like a defeat anyway… Oh and the fact we normally beat the Seagulls 4:0!
I’ll second that. Really looking forward to seeing Spud’s Toilet Bowl. The pitch should really suite our style better than the rather sticky stuff at Crawley yesterday.
That’s the problem with being used to the billiard table at Borehamwood! I can still remember when the old 1st Division pitches turned into ploughed fields during December and January. Derby’s Baseball Ground was particulary bad. Hoof the ball as hard as you could and it would move 5 yards if you were lucky. Those were the days when you got real cup upsets. Even lower division grounds are generally quite good these days.
Hopefully we’ll have a repeat of the pre-season match against the Spuds with 10,000’s there to witness!
Ah those swamps of yesteryear commonly referred to as football pitches. A vintage year for mudbaths,1969,the clash of the water buffaloes aka Peter Storey v Chopper Harris at Highbury. Even Wembley, hosting the Horse of the Year Show and giving a “Harvey Smith” to the Don Rodger’s League Cup Final the following week. A not so happy Gooner memory!!
So to the Spud’s Toilet Bowl in 12 days. I think we will have a playing surface to match Meadow Park although I doubt it will be a walk in the Meadow Park like the pre-season stroll.
I fear not, six without reply may be flattering but 2 or 3 nil will do!
Thanks, Tim. Disappointing result but I am glad that Joe tried something different and that you feel the lack of cohesion was a chemistry issue, because that can be fixed. We have to have a plan B in case Viv is injured for any length of time. Not having seen the match, I am only guessing, but do you think Jill was a bit daunted by the size of the boots she had to fill? That would be very understandable. I hope her confidence isn’t affected, she’s an exciting, really versatile player, especially considering her age. It does really underline… Read more »