Given their recent form and the extent of their injury list, Arsenal were perhaps expected to defeat Manchester City at Boreham Wood on Sunday but nobody would have predicted a 5-0 demolition. From the start of the game, it was clear how things have changed under new coach Jonas Eidevall, with a seam of pragmatism sewn into their approach.
Arsenal were content to let City have the ball before forcing transitions and going over the top of the City centre-halves. I asked Jonas Eidevall about this after the game, “It was something we talked about, we know City play a pretty high line and their full-backs are very aggressive,” Eidevall said.
“In their game against Tottenham they were exposed there quite often, and with the pace we have in behind it was something we talked about. We knew it could be a reward if we pressed them high and won the ball or played out from their high pressure.” This was evident right from the start of the match.
Literally the first thing that Arsenal do from kickoff is drop a long ball over the top of City left-back Demi Stokes. From the centre, Miedema passes to Wälti, who knocks the ball back to Leah Williamson.
Williamson assesses her options before immediately launching a ball over the top of Stokes towards Beth Mead.
Immediately, it puts City in trouble and Beth Mead is able to put a cross into the City area inside the first 15 seconds. It is kind of astonishing that such a good team can be caught out so early in the game by this tactic, it was a portent of things to come for a beleaguered City defence.
The angle from behind illustrates how high and how open the City backline is with Mead stretching the pitch and Little looking to run into the channel between Stokes and Kennedy. This is significant because this is exactly where the first two goals come from- Mead causing trouble out wide (first goal) and Little exploiting the channels (second goal).
Arsenal are encouraged by City’s high line for their second attack too. Look at how much space and time Lia Wälti has as she collects the ball from Frida Maanum.
Wälti can once again see how high and vulnerable City’s defensive line is and she simply plays the ball into the space between their defence and goalkeeper. On this occasion, Mead is offside and City goalkeeper Taieb is on hand to cut the pass out anyway but again, you see the intention immediately.
Arsenal’s next attack is just as direct. Arsenal win a free kick in their own half, Beattie and Wälti exchange passes and Jen Beattie again launches the ball behind the City full-back for McCabe to run onto.
McCabe is narrowly offside on this occasion but the template is clear and Arsenal aren’t having to work terribly hard to get their players into space near the penalty area.
Eidevall also explained how he asked his players to try to force turnovers high up the pitch to exploit City’s high line and here we see that tactic twice in the space of a few seconds.
First watch Miedema hunt down Laura Coombs here as City pass out from the back. It doesn’t turn into a chance but, again, the intent is clear.
That move breaks down but as City regain the ball and win a throw-in on their left, Mead and Miedema combine to force another turnover.
By now, Arsenal’s plan is clear. Either drop the ball over the top of the City full-backs early and exploit the space in behind or press them high up, force turnovers and try to exploit them that way. It pays off for all of the first three goals.
It’s the persistence of Beth Mead that gives Arsenal the lead. Alana Kennedy’s back pass to Taieb in the City goal is undercooked and Mead doesn’t need a second invitation to chase it down. Even before the pass is hit, look at Mead’s body shape, she is already braced to press the City ‘keeper and she is rewarded.
Her acceleration is remarkable too, look at this frame. Mead simply has no right to win this race but she does.
Having won the 50-50 with Taieb, she has the presence of mind to look up and pass the ball to Miedema first time and there is simply no doubting that Miedema will finish in that scenario.
MEADEMA! 🔥@bmeado9 & @VivianneMiedema link up AGAIN!
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The second goal owes a lot to Arsenal’s superior sharpness of mind and body too. There is a drop ball after Lauren Hemp catches a ball in the face and, again, look at how disorganised the City defence is with Arsenal about to gain possession in a dangerous area. Leaving a big gap in the centre of your defence where Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema are standing is not a very good idea.
Even as the ball is dropped, Demi Stokes is facing the wrong way and centre-halves Alex Greenwood and Alana Kennedy are still having a socially distanced chat. Laura Coombs is standing around 12 yards away from Kim Little.
When Wälti plays the ball to Miedema, the Dutch striker is tightly marked but she knows that any sort of touch frees Kim Little with Laura Coombs still not picking up Little and with Kennedy and Stanway in one another’s pockets several yards away.
Miedema gets the touch around the corner, there is still plenty for Kim Little to do, mind. But Greenwood and Coombs are coming from behind Little and can’t risk bringing her down, Kennedy has given herself too far to shuffle across to make the challenge. That said, it’s still a really difficult chance and Little’s supreme dribbling skills- and some generous goalkeeping- complete the finish.
Quick feet and a cracking strike… that's Kim Little magic! ✨
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As for Arsenal’s third goal, well, I don’t need to explain it to you again. Just look at the images and you’ll see how the direct approach has paid off against a high and disorganised City defence. Zinsberger plays the ball to Wälti from a goal kick and, well…
PING! Space has been created for McCabe by Miedema peeling away from the front line and again attracting Alex Greenwood towards her. It means that once again Greenwood has to turn tail and run towards her own goal as an Arsenal player sizes up a shot.
McCabe gets a fortunate ricochet as she brings the ball down in the area and Taieb once again shows vulnerability. She simply doesn’t come off her line to deal with the loose ball having been burned by Beth Mead for the opening goal. From this angle we see that she backs off and shows McCabe a big section of the goal and the Irish international makes no mistake on her left foot.
She doesn't just assist, @Katie_McCabe11 knows how to score 'em too 💥
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All in all, a satisfying day at the office. The desire to press high and the willingness to be direct are notable changes under Jonas Eidevall this season and they worked very well in this game, aided and abetted by an injury ravaged City defence.
Kudos to the team! A fantastic win capped by a magnificent tactical performance
Thanks so much, Tim. Really interesting.
City are kind of like a train running on rails so far this season. If they get going the way that they want to, they’re very powerful and difficult to stop but if you derail them, that’s it. They can’t/don’t adapt. I’m sure they will fix their issues at some stage, so it’s good that we got an early strike in.
I’m pretty sure that City’s main issue is that it was missing at least four starters–including starting keeper, best outside back in the game, starting CB and captain, starting forward who’s a starter for the national team, and also, I think I starting midfielder–which makes five. That’s my chief analysis. It’s the same situation we saw with Arsenal a year or two ago when it was missing three/four starters and were playing inexperienced players against Chelsea and ManCity. It’s probably not going to go well. Kennedy is not even a centerback, I don’t believe; I think she’s played midfield nearly… Read more »
I see your point and would agree more so if we won 1-0 or 2-1, but 5-0 is quite substantial and makes you think…hmmm.
That said, it certainly will be a different game when Bronze, Roebuck and the rest return..as you alluded to. I gave you a thumbs up for being humble, LOL
Special mention to Maanum, I think. She must have incredible lungs. To still be ferociously pressing and running into the box to support the attack in the dying minutes of the game is just amazing.
My signing of the season, so far.
Very clearly an Eidevall player.
It is facinationg to compare us this season to last. I think Leah’s long balls were our main ball progression choice last season also, but this year we do it straight away, last year we played a lot of passes between keeper and CB’s and in the end still went long. Also it was notable that ManC didn’t press us at all yesterday. Seems like other teams knowing that we are willing to go direct, gives our defenders much more room. Yesterday it felt at times watching Arsenal was like watching the best version of Chelsea. We didn’t seem to… Read more »
This was the exact feeling I had. In the first half I thought ‘we’ve been City in these games.’ Coming away feeling like you’ve created good situations, having good possession but then losing to the more ruthless team.’
Superb and interesting detailed analysis.
Loved the bit about Mead’s acceleration for the 1st goal, where she had to gently “negotiate” the goalkeeper too.
Kim’s penalty for the 4th was sublime, right into the top corner after keeping her cool whilst substitutions were made by both sides.
Leah’s header for the 5th was perfectly placed whilst her celebration was a wonderful mixture of delight and surprise 🙂
Love the directness under Jonas!
I do wonder how much of yesterday was our brilliance versus their weakness…. I guess us winning was our brilliance but then the scoreline we won with was their weakness
I do wonder about the new coach in that he’s /very/ intense and one can see him standing on the touch line barking directions at the players constantly. He seems the very opposite of Monte. At some point his intense style may start to wear, but for now all is good.
I felt that it was a good time for us to play City with the number of absentees they had (now they know how we have felt for the last couple of seasons) but it wasn’t exactly a team full of numpties they sent out there. They are still a strong team but they appeared totally disorganised, for example, what were they thinking when Wally played the drop ball?
Still that’s 6 points on the board already that we wouldn’t have got last season so the future is bright!
I dont think we need to be too embarrassed about being ruthless against a team that is a wounded animal. I say a wounded animal not so much because they are missing players (they could still bring on 4 senior players off the bench), but because they have suffered 2 shock defeats in a row prior to the match. On city’s quality that they still managed to field – A midfield with Angeldahl, Losada and Weir. I think any team will take it. Angeldahl caught my eye at the olympics- very able lieutenant to Seger. – Kennedy is still an… Read more »
I saw your tweet about Alanna Kennedy – I have been thinking the same – an odd signing, considering City can afford and attract pretty much any player. She seems to have a bad mistake in her per game. Is she maybe one of those players who is seen to have a big upside that cancels out the c*ck-ups? Head-scratcher, that one.
I saw a Spurs fan say that she was nowhere near this bad for them last season. The pressure of moving to a top club can get to some players. I obviously have no interest in her playing well but from a human perspective the Aussies in the WSL will be suffering a lot mentally from (possibly) not seeing their family for well over a year.
She can be prone to defensive errors to be fair, but when she is good she is good. For the Matildas (Australia’s national team) she very nearly scored an own goal in their recent friendly against Ireland it just bounced off the crossbar and in the Olympics bronze medal match a terrible clearance in front of goal led to Rapinoe scoring as two recent instances, also got a very unfortunate red card in WWC 2019. But then it seems like she is still important to that team and she was solid against Team GB which someone else mentioned. And yeah… Read more »
Could be related to her goal and performance versus Team GB in the Olympics quarter-final match
Just an observation, but all of the links in the 5-0 victory wrap ups have been blocked due to area here in Canada, any chance you could source videos from other areas? I love these analyses, but just can’t watch the videos.
Another option would be to use a VPN through a region that isn’t geo-blocked
Can you not sign up to FA Player? It’s free and the whole game is on there now along with edited highlights if you just want to see the talking points.
Will have to think about how to do this- every video will be geoblocked somewhere but I will make some inquiries!
As I said on the Jonas’ reaction thread, City had twice the possession that we had and we stuffed them for 5! This game is not about possession it is what you do with it and what you do when you don’t have it that counts and that is the main lesson learnt since Jonas’ arrival. It’s good to see the players enjoying their game and work for each other. For far too long we appear to have been in the duldrums and expect Viv’s skill to dig us out of the hole we pretty much created for ourselves in… Read more »
now do number 4 and 5!
The 5th goal. The skill by Mana Iwabuchi. 😂😂
And then Lotte appearing on the right wing to put in a perfect cross for Leah.
I love the intensity that we have started the season with. It’s gonna be a challenge to maintain this all season, but hopefully we can keep this going, and sets an eary marker after quite comfortably demolishing the other two big teams. Very impressed by how Jonas has us playing this way so quickly, but also mixing it up. Utilising the longer balls gives us a complete extra dimension, especially against Chelsea and City where over the past couple years, we could probably be acused of being a little one dimensional against them. Keep it going, it’s been such fun… Read more »
Understandably, this was a weakened City team but it still feels incredible to win so convincingly against a side that Arsenal has had so much difficulty against in the last few years.
This is real and tangible progress.
Great stuff as always Tim. Do you expect to see McCabe pop up in central areas more often this season or is more on a game to game basis?
The front 3 seemed quite fluid within the game. Both Mead and McCabe have played all across the front 3 in their careers, and obviously Viv is Viv and can link play from anywhere. It’s probably the most mobile, athletic front 3 we could pick. The pressing and runs in behind were great and we’ll get even better at it once they cut out silly offsides. I think McCabe in particular an be so dangerous cutting in from the right and shooting (Birmingham 2019 anyone?).