Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Spurs Women 1 Arsenal 1 Analysis: Gunners left to rue missed chances

“When you look at the game objectively as a whole, we should have won because we created so many goal scoring opportunities. The game was similar to plenty of games we have won three or four nil with the difference that we didn’t convert the chances.” These were Jonas Eidevall’s words to Arseblog News post-match.

Arsenal had 19 shots against Spurs, six of which were on target. Spurs had 11 and also had six on target. FBRef had Arsenal at 2.0 XG and Spurs at 1.5XG. For comparison, in the 4-0 victory over West Ham, FBRef awards Arsenal 3.0 XG and West Ham 0.7. In the 3-0 win over Everton, it was 1.8 to 0.2 XG in Arsenal’s favour. The 4-0 victory over Aston Villa saw Arsenal produce 1.7XG to 0.5.

Broadly, Eidevall is correct about Arsenal’s chance creation but the difference is that Spurs created chances themselves and though the visitors did enough to win the game, this was the closest contest in terms of XG for Arsenal since the opening day victory over Chelsea.

Spurs boss Rehanne Skinner said post-match that she and her team had learned from Arsenal’s mastery of transitions in the recent 5-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Arsenal. Spurs certainly did that, however, Arsenal forced a great chance in the first minute from a high turnover, as McCabe collects Zadorsky’s underhit clearance and combines with Miedema to set up Beth Mead at the back post.

If this opportunity is taken inside the first 40 seconds, it’s a very different game. However, Arsenal did struggle to create by playing through Tottenham. This was down to a mixture of Spurs’ organisation, their greater concentration on transitions and the fact that Arsenal were probably light a scheming, creative presence.

This was the same midfield that started the away match against Aston Villa and were held pretty comfortably to a scoreless first half until Mana Iwabuchi was introduced at half-time and changed the game. Iwabuchi did not come on until the 84th minute and Jordan Nobbs not until the 67th. Arsenal needed at least one of them earlier for greater presence between the lines to open the game up.

Look at this shot as Frida Maanum collects the ball and Arsenal try to build an attack. The midfield trio is very flat and there isn’t a buffer between the midfield and Vivianne Miedema. Ria Percival is a spare Spurs defender in the centre circle because nobody is giving her a problem or causing her issues with movement. Arsenal do end this move by forcing a corner as McCabe carries the ball forward but she gets no further than the corner flag.

Look again here as the ball breaks for Arsenal after they clear a Tottenham attack. Maanum and Wälti are in the same position with Little vertically across from them. Ideally, Miedema should be a few yards further forward here with either Maanum or Little standing where she is to give Arsenal an extra line of attack. Once again, Ria Percival is a spare defender with nobody to mark. Spurs win the ball back on this occasion through Ashleigh Neville.

Arsenal repel the subsequent attack and feed the ball out to Beth Mead on the right but again Arsenal’s midfield structure could do with a more advanced presence. It’s Clemaron, who played alongside Percival in the double pivot, who has nobody to mark really and Miedema is isolated again.

In this example, Maanum has made a run beyond Clemaron and Catley finds her and we can see that it creates a much more dangerous situation.

As a result, Ashleigh Neville is pulled out of position to meet Maanum and McCabe has space to attack on the left.

On this occasion, Neville gets back well in fairness and makes a last ditch tackle. But it creates stress for Spurs, the likes of which Arsenal didn’t quite force often enough.

Arsenal’s other big chance from open play came about when Frida Maanum takes up a dangerous position between the lines as Lotte Wubben-Moy takes the ball forward.

Maanum’s pass is initially intercepted by Neville but McCabe forces the turnover by winning it back. Maanum’s aggressive positioning has created a hole in the Spurs defence.

It just buys McCabe enough time and space to prepare a shot, which clips the crossbar. But Arsenal just didn’t quite do this regularly enough during the game. Spurs also did a good job of compressing the space between their lines. In the 5-1 Cup defeat they played a fairly flat 532 system, here they played a 4231 to give the team an extra platform both to defend and attack. The double pivot of Percival and Clemaron stayed put in front of the defence and that allowed the attacking quartet of Ubogagu, Graham, Simon and Williams to seek opportunities to counter-press and counter-attack.

Arsenal ought to have had an equaliser in the 80th minute but for one of the worst refereeing calls I think I’ve ever seen. Jordan Nobbs wins the ball on the left and funnels it towards Beth Mead and, crucially, immediately runs into the space. This was the sort of forward momentum a lot of Arsenal’s play missed in the first two thirds of the game. It was also one of the few times that they really created a triangle on the flank and those triangles have been a big part of the team’s success in recent weeks.

Nobbs receives the return pass from McCabe but, having let Arsenal’s advantage run for four whole seconds, the referee decides, inexplicably, to pull the play back just as Nobbs winds up a shot from 18 yards. Difficult to take from an Arsenal perspective but an example of the kind of forward motion Arsenal’s midfield didn’t quite show enough of overall. The referee then compounds the error by booking Beth Mead for, I think, taking the subsequent free-kick too quickly (?!)

“We had a really poor ten minutes after their goal where we lose control and where the game could have gotten away from us if Tottenham had scored a second goal.” This formed a key part of Eidevall’s assessment post-match and he is not wrong, the vast majority of Tottenham’s 1.5XG is made up by the goal itself and the ten minutes just after.

Game state was partially responsible for Tottenham’s greater goal threat compared to a lot of Arsenal’s opponents this season. Spurs had three shots in a six minute interval between the 46th and 52nd minutes and then another five in a six minute spell between the 65th and 71st minutes. They had two further in the 80th and 87th minutes. The majority of their threat was carried in two condensed periods of the game when, in truth, the result ought to have already been beyond them.

Some of Tottenham’s high XG is accounted for by the fact that the goal comes from a rebound (so there are two lots of XG counted for one play) and their other big opportunity, the miss from Ashleigh Neville, also comes from a rebound.

However, on this occasion, Tottenham were well organised and compressed the space between the lines very well, not allowing Arsenal to pick through or to hit them in transition and Arsenal probably didn’t do enough to move Percival and Clemaron around in front of the Tottenham back four. However, Arsenal created enough good chances to make a breakthrough well before Rachel Williams’ goal and had they converted one of those chances, this likely would have been a different result.

The increased focus on set plays paid off in the end as Miedema’s stoppage time header came from McCabe’s corner. Arsenal have already equaled their tally of setpiece goals from last season.

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Peter Story Teller

Much as it pains me to say we have to admit that Spuds are much improved since they appointed Rehanne Skinner and they are not a team anyone is going to beat 10-0 now. Sure we should have had the game won in the first half but we didn’t and have to suffer the consequences. Jonas has a wise head on his shoulders and he is getting the best out of players like Meado so I hope he has a quiet word in Viv’s ear and suggests that she tries to be a bit more spontaneous with a few more… Read more »


Thank you for a great in-depth article as always. “Triangle on the flanks” is my take-away phrase from your analysis. Did I mention I love Nobb’s positioning and style of play? Of course I did.. 🙂

The ref’s call not to allow the play to go on in the advantage was downright horrendous.


Has to be said that referring in the women’s game still leaves a lot to be desired.


Hi Tim,
has Zinsberger’s ball handling ever been questioned? I’ve noticed this season how poor it’s been. Always needing a second chance on long distance shots and constantly parrying others centrally. She just does not seem very comfortable handling the ball and in my opinion it has cost us s season.
Keep up the great work!

Peter Story Teller

Have you followed Manu for long? She has actually improved (a lot) this season. I don’t even think you can blame her for the goal in this match there were several players equally culpable. Easy for us to say but why didn’t Lotte just hoof it into row Z rather than hold it up on the goal line while deciding what to do, for example. I thought where Manu made the save and gave Neville an open goal to shoot at was worse but fortunately Neville is no Sam Kerr and missed. Still these things happen in football and the… Read more »


Hi Peter,
thanks for your reply. Been following for the last couple of seasons. My criticism wasn’t specific to this game but was highlighted again by it. You know how you keep seeing certain traits in players over the years, this is just one that’s stood out for me. Even more so this season. Glad we avoided the L at the weekend. Here’s hoping we can get back on track again for the remainder of the season.

Peter Story Teller

I guess the other thing is she rarely has much to do because we have so much possession in the opposition half in most games that she is a spectator along with the rest of us! Now we have brought young Fran back from loan I’d like to see her in a few games. We cannot keep saving her for the future and warming the bench as No.3 isn’t going to improve her ability to step in when needed. We sent her on loan to gain experience, then brought her back again to not play matches. Perhaps Jonas can give… Read more »


My take on Lotte’s “inaction” was she was waiting for Manu to grab the ball. I think if she just would have hoofed it, as you suggest, Manu’s head may have been in the stands as well.

I should watch it again, but it makes me noxious.

Peter Story Teller

LOL! The joy of being a goalkeeper! Have you noticed they all seem a bit scatty? Sensible folk who want to play football take up an outfield position 🙂


We should have won. Simple.

But got to say that was a much, much improved display from Sp*rs. Some of their combination play at times was superb and THEY WERE PHYSICAL with us as well, which we struggled with (has always been an issue, this).

It sucks that Man City are so terrible at they moment that they couldn’t even at least nick a point off Chelsea. We need someone to take some points from them sooner rather than later.


Guess we will have to do it again…


I hope that we learn from this game that we need more expansive midfield to break down organized teams, who sit deep. Jordan and Frida had almost same amount of passes despite one playing 20 mins and other 70 mins. I didn’t even think Jordan was that good (gamestate and stuff) besides the disallowed goal episode, but just to have more midfield influence in the game. I would prefer to have both Jordan and Mana for those game, if Tobin is not available. Just more creative players to have better balance in attack and attacking midfield. Also for me still… Read more »


Also about the referee. I don’t have much of the problem with wrong decisions, if ref didn’t see the situation, just made a mistake or interpreted the situations differently than I would. But this game wasn’t that – it was just incompetence. It was just referee who wasn’t up to the standard of the game. The women’s game is also too quick for referees who need 5 seconds to reach for a conclusion. Also shows why VAR conversations are pointless – game desperately needs to get the standard up for refs, because game is developing much more quickly than refereeing… Read more »

Tim Stillman

Same, we go OTT on ref errors and often fail to understand why they happen but this one was impossible to understand. She actually played the advantage then pulled it back when the advantage was realised. It’s difficult to understand what she was thinking and the only conclusion you can really come to is that she didn’t know what she was doing.


Thanks, as always, for adding to the matchday experience Tim. This was the first REAL NLD between our women’s teams. It had a bit of everything. On another day we would have been out of sight by half time and it would have been “same’ol, same’ol”.

David Clarke

My one and only comment on this game is how clueless the commentators where in giving Neville player of the game,I’ve been watching professional football since 1961 and am a spurs fan,Neville in my opinion was the worst player on the pitch,if you rerun the video of the game and study Nevilles performance you will see clearly that Neville either got herself the wrong side of her opponent or she got caught in possession or she gave the ball away resulting in several Arsenal chances to score,she made one fantastic block in front of goal,but to round things off she… Read more »

Peter Story Teller

Strange to have a Spuds fan commenting on an Arsenal blog but to be fair, David, I think most of us would agree with you on this occasion. Your goalie played an absolute blinder and stopped us from scoring at least two if not three in the first half while Neville did what Neville does!


Thank you, I thought maybe I was just too biased. I guess her gung ho style look appealing to some and she did pull off a couple of nice stunts offensively but such a big liability defensively. Really undisciplined. Your keeper deffo player of match.

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