Thursday, March 30, 2023

Arsenal 0 – 3 Chelsea Women Analysis: Disorganised Arsenal have no answer to Chelsea press

Arsenal were soundly and deservedly beaten by Chelsea in Sunday’s FA Cup Final at Wembley. There were three main factors manager Jonas Eidevall highlighted in the wake of the defeat. He said that, in the first half, Arsenal were too late in dropping off in transition moments, which exposed the centre halves.

“I don’t think it’ necessarily down to running duels with the strikers,” he said when I asked him why Chelsea were able to get in behind the Gunners rearguard so often. “I think we were dropping way too late and we weren’t good enough at recognising the moment.” Eidevall also bemoaned Arsenal’s security in possession in the second half, as well as failing to recognise Chelsea’s pressing patterns. So let’s pull out some examples of what he is talking about.

Well, Chelsea took the lead inside two minutes through Fran Kirby and, as you would expect with opponents of this quality, the Gunners were punished the first time they erred.

Millie Bright hits a long clearance, which Jen Beattie cranes her neck to head away and Chelsea are quick to counter press. The header falls to Jessie Fleming and you can already see Fran Kirby on the edge of the centre circle. Beattie and Wubben-Moy hold their line and don’t drop.

Maanum recovers and tracks the run of Kirby as Fleming tries to find her but can’t quite bring her interception under control on the stretch. Beattie and Wubben-Moy are both attracted to the loose ball when, ideally, at least one of them should drop in case Kirby or Kerr wins the foot race.

Kerr gets to the ball first and tries to flick it towards Kirby, it actually hits Maanum and her momentum carries the ball towards the goal. With Wubben-Moy and Beattie both attracted to the ball, a space is created behind them which Kirby gleefully runs into to score.

The angle from behind the goal shows you exactly how the move is going to unfold if one of Wubben-Moy or Beattie doesn’t win the ball. Better communication was needed from the centre-halves.

Arsenal get a throw-in in their own half and look how quickly Chelsea press Maanum’s touch back to Catley and look where Kerr is positioned as she does so. If Chelsea win this ball, Kerr is in space next to the Arsenal area.

Arsenal just about resist the first wave of pressure but the second wave proves too much. Fleming and Kirby are all over Lia Wälti and Kerr is still in space.

Walti gets away from Kirby and Fleming but Ingle is straight onto the scene and Kerr is still in space and now, so is Kirby.

Ingle finds Kerr and Kirby and Kerr play a quick one-two that sets Kerr through on goal. Fortunately Zinsberger rushes out to make a fine save. Beattie tangles feet with Kerr in the box too, which knocks Kerr off balance. Fortunately for Arsenal, Kerr tries to stagger through and score. If she goes down, it’s unquestionably a penalty.

This transition moment in the 12th minute emphasises the point again. Miedema’s shot is charged down and with one clearance, Kerr and Kirby are two on two with lots of green space behind the centre-halves and the midfield over committed.

Jess Fleming ends up getting the ball to Fran Kirby on the left horribly wrong but you can see Arsenal’s disorganisation and the amount of space it leaves Chelsea’s forwards.

Seconds later, as Catley passes to Miedema and Leupolz and Bright smuggle the ball away from her, the ball breaks to Ingle and look again at the space that Kirby and Kerr are in.

Kirby collects and plays the ball in behind Beattie to Kerr in the channel, the Australian tries to return the favour but Maritz gets back to block the cross. Wubben-Moy and Beattie end up swapping positions in this move because they have been pulled apart by the movement of Kerr and Kirby and a midfield line that has been exposed in a transition moment.

Chelsea’s next big chance comes from another transition moment. Beattie stoops to head Cuthbert’s long ball away and it bounces straight to Fleming and, again, look at where Kirby is standing in space.

Sure enough, Fleming finds a first-time pass to Kirby, who, in turn, finds a first time cross to Kerr. Zinsberger saves her shot, though Kerr is flagged offside. It’s not just how well Chelsea press, it is how quickly they act. If there is a learning point for Arsenal in how they develop their own counterpressing game, it’s the impact of one touch passing as opposed to taking lots of touches and over elaborating. In my view, this is why Jordan Nobbs would be so useful to this side because of the speed with which she moves the ball.

It’s not long before Arsenal are exposed again by a Cuthbert long ball. Again, the Arsenal defensive line hasn’t dropped off in time.

And Kerr again finds space behind Beattie. Look at Fran Kirby coming into shot with nobody tracking her run.

Kerr cuts back to Kirby and, once more, Arsenal are thankful to Zinsberger who comes up with the save.

Arsenal were again fortunate that Sam Kerr didn’t make more of this challenge from Beattie in the box, which should have been a penalty.

Here’s another example of Arsenal not being quick enough to drop their defensive line in a transition moment as Kirby collects an Ingle clearance.

With one simple pass, Chelsea have virtually created a three on three situation with Wubben-Moy and Beattie scurrying back towards their goal, which is not a favourable body shape to defend a situation.

Wubben-Moy and Beattie are both attracted to the run of Sam Kerr and, again, Kirby is floating freely behind her without close attention.

Reiten finds Kirby, who now has time and space for a shot. Again, Arsenal are indebted to Zinsberger for keeping it out. A theme that came out time and again from the first half, was how Chelsea used Kerr and, particularly, Jess Fleming to press and allowed Fran Kirby to roam and pick up the loose pieces.

In the second half, Arsenal did sort out their defensive organisation a little more but didn’t really try to move the ball through the thirds to hurt Chelsea. They often targeted balls along the floor into the channels and high balls towards Miedema but Chelsea were comfortable with both approaches.

For the killer second goal, Mead is dispossessed on the edge of the Chelsea area- which is a perfectly acceptable place to lose the ball.

Leupolz finds Kirby, who has again pulled into space and one ball into the channel puts Arsenal intro trouble as Kerr gets into a foot race with Wubben-Moy.

Kerr has the beating of Wubben-Moy for pace and with this amount of space to play with, the Australian makes little mistake. Though Wubben-Moy doesn’t do a lot wrong from a technical standpoint. She is outpaced but once she engages Kerr, she can’t commit too much due to a lack of cover around her. The issue was the defensive line being too high too late.

It’s a clever finish from Kerr too. Zinsberger read Kerr and Kirby to make great saves in the first half but Kerr disguises the finish and goes for the near post this time, with Zinsberger’s weight shifted anticipating the far post strike. Chelsea don’t often lose from 1-0 leads, they certainly don’t give away two goal leads. As it turned out, Arsenal didn’t manage a shot on target, which says that their attacking approach wasn’t much better than their defensive organisation on this occasion.

At 2-0 a game becomes a lot more disorganised as one side pushes on to try and score. But this isn’t the first time Arsenal are undone by a Cuthbert long ball.

Cuthbert’s clearance finds Kerr in space, who helps the ball in-field to an unmarked Kirby. Once again, Arsenal’s defensive line is difficult to reconcile.

Kirby has the freedom of Wembley to drive forwards and her shot cannons off the post.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the third goal comes in a transition moment. Here, Maanum takes a heavy touch and Harder, Fleming and Leupolz are all over it.

Leupolz has an easy decision to find the run of Kerr, who has peeled away to the left. Harder, now on for Kirby, has assumed the Kirby role of roaming free and looking to benefit from turnovers.

From here, Kerr shows her class. It’s a dangerous position, sure. But for her to take just one touch before lobbing the goalkeeper from this position is a world class piece of play.

Zinsberger has not even moved that far from her line when Kerr makes the decision, but she is so aware, so quickly, of Zinsbeger’s intention that she uses the Austrian’s momentum against her, much like a martial artist. It’s similar to her first finish in that respect, Kerr recognises the shifting of Zinsberger’s weight in a nanosecond.

In the end, 3-0 was the least Chelsea deserved and, for Arsenal, they will have to learn painful lessons from this match. All three goals are conceded in five touches or fewer after a turnover, Arsenal just weren’t organised enough to deal with Chelsea’s press, nor was their attacking game varied or inventive enough to cause the Chelsea defence any issues.


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They kinda relocated the same tactics we used against them in the WSL season opener. They hit a lot of long balls I to the channels and looked really sharp. It was also surprising to see a lot of our players just looking lethargic. It was really strange like they had been weakened with a special kind of injection or something. I have seen Juve and Wolfsburg give Chelsea a proper game, and I don’t think we are as bad as we played yesterday. Hopefully, this opens Jonas’ eyes to the magnitude of the task ahead and he reshapes the… Read more »


Jonathan Pearce in commentary also noted the seeming lethargy of Arsenal’s players. I think at one point he referred to how Beattie and Wubben-Moy weren’t sprinting back when Chelsea looked to be through on goal. Perhaps that was simply down to their lack of pace though. Chelsea certainly looked stronger and fitter and I’m not really sure what to make of that given their players have also had a packed schedule of three matches a week. Maybe it’s the effects of the early start to the season with the Champion’s League qualification matches.


Great analysis, certainly a difficult game to watch at times.


Great analysis Tim. Much to sort out and agreed, the lack of Nobbs (no.half time sub at all when it was clear we were utterly outplayed) was a surprise. Perhaps you can do another explainer on how and why very little could be mustered as an attacking threat.

Peter Story Teller

It’s because Chelsea know how to defend against us. We always want an age on the ball which is fine against lower ranked teams but not at this level. All of our out-ball opportunities were blocked off so we were resorting to backwards and sideways once again. Agree that Jordan should have come on even in the first half as her energy and speed of thought might have generated some openings to get out of our own half. FA Cup final at Wembley on BBC1 and we didn’t take a shot at goal even with the best player of the… Read more »


I like Nobbs but chuckle at how people here always think that she’s the secret sauce–the one who would have turned a Chelsea blowout into an Arsenal win. Arsenal played yesterday like the played against Barca–tentative and almost scared. But then it’s also likely true that both of those teams are just better….

Peter Story Teller

I don’t believe we would have won if Jordan was on the pitch because we were out-played and out-thought everywhere but at least she may have given us a bit more movement to progress the ball forward and a bit more speed to chase back the Chelsea runners. We wouldn’t then have looked like the numpties we did on national television!


In the matches against Barcelona and Spurs I put the lack of sharpness down to tiring European travel arrangements, but not this time. I can’t help but feel there was some sort of malaise over and above the obvious tactical errors.

Peter Story Teller

No European travel? What about those bloody internationals?
Our Aussies have been to the other side of the world and back, haven’t they?


Yes, but also Flemming and Kerr have been to the other side of the world. I would guess that none of our forwards have played as much as Kerr and she destroyed us.


Kerr needed a lot of chances to do so though 😉 But unfortunately, we kept giving her chances.
Anyway, hope the girls and Jonas learn from this and not let fear or negativity get into their heads against Barca.


This is why I felt there was more to our problems than simple fatigue. I thought that Caitlin was one of our most energetic players when she came on, and the most effective of our substitutes.

Fun Gunner

I think it was nerves. The slow reactions, the lack of sharpness, the running through treacle.


The worst I’ve seen us play in a while, only a couple of players had a decent touch, some poor passes and almost no awareness.

it was like they had watched aubameyang and partey as examples. Feel for viv she had no service and we really miss Leah

Peter Story Teller

Trouble is football is a game for 11 players. We cannot rely on Leah 100% of the time!
I know she is an Arsenal girl through and through but there is still a possibility she will not be with us next season and what then?


I saw nobody who could beat a mark and get the ball forward and into space and put pressure on Chelsea, except maybe Little. Does Catley have a right foot? She is too wedded to the left touchline, IMO, and Maritz was invisible in most of this match. She did start, didn’t she?


Besides hoping that 3 injured CB’s make up one not injured one, we can also question the decision to have 3 Jen replacements and no Leah type. I believe that for Lotte to succeed as CB in highest level (even as 3rd choice) she and coaches need to define her game more to Jen mold and not as Leah type, which it seems what we are trying to do. She is not as fast as Leah, but I would think comfortably as fast as Bright/Erikssen and their lack of speed wasn’t a problem at all yesterday. And we probably are… Read more »

Tim Stillman

I felt bad writing some of this because it was so obvious that they targeted Jen and I love Jen and when she doesn’t have to run, she is still a great defender. Alas, she will have to run and opponents will focus on making her.

Peter Story Teller

I feel for you, Tim.
You are friendly with a majority of the team and it is tough writing the truth from your position. As the saying goes “you can’t polish a **** ” and unfortunately that is how we played yesterday!


Unfortunately, other teams have picked this up. Barca did it too. Not all have the players to take advantage of it, but we will need to have a plan B for those that do. Sit deeper maybe or try to figure out better cover, the way Koscienly covered for Mertesacker.


Then to take that away you don’t play a high defensive backline. Jen and Lotte don’t have the pace and Kerr and Kirby had all the time to run past them with a half decent ball in behind. Did we even give that kind of service to Viv? Nothing but trying to play the ball down the wings when Chelsea had an easy job defending it. Blame Jen all you want but you can tactically negate the pace issue. We also never had a back 4 most of the game the last line was our 2 CBs and they got… Read more »


Good point–there was no help from the outside backs or mids–all too far forward.

Peter Story Teller

Yep agree fully. None of our in-form players even saw the ball yesterday and no matter how good they are if we cannot get the ball to them they are passengers. I suspect that is why Beth looked so pee’d off after the match. She just couldn’t influence it at all! I really do not like Emmer Ayes’ personality but you have to credit her management in assembling an excellent squad and drilling them to play in such an effective way. You have to wonder where Arsenal would be now if she had stayed with us and taken over from… Read more »


Agree with you about Emma Hayes. She’s not everyone’s cup of tea but she’s undoubtedly done great work at Chelsea. She’s developed them into a team of winners and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she takes them to the Champion’s League title this season. I bet she’s itching to have another crack at Barcelona!

North for Short

Outplayed, definitely however things could have been different if the Ref or Ref’s assistant spotted the handball. Whether accidental or not, that surely had to be nailed on. Was painful to watch. It was as if we had no defence whatsoever. Missed Jordan Nobbs big time. Some of our foreign stars are flattering to deceive, especially Wubben Moy and I believe Manuum was like a deer caught in headlights. Also in a previous comment. We didn’t do what we did to Chelsea in the first game, they did it to us.


Wubben-Moy was born in London..

Peter Story Teller

Bow in fact so she is the most local girl of the squad!

Peter Story Teller

Well she would be to the Emirates!
Anna was probably born slightly closer to Meadow Park 🙂

Gunner H

Let us not forget that Jonas is still relatively new and is still getting to used to the League & British culture too – the man has been brilliant from Day One, and Yes, we had a VERY bad day at the office but personally I still feel confident in this group of players under this intelligent manager along with the oft praise backroom staff. It was the first Cup Final at Wembley for our young manager in front of a huge crowd. I knew Leah would be a huge miss & I think her absence was in the player’s… Read more »

Peter Story Teller

I like what Jonas is doing and think he shall come good but tactically he made a pig’s ear of it yesterday. You don’t need to have experience of WSL or British culture to see what Chelsea were doing to our centre backs right from the kick off but nothing was done about it. The only tactical change before well into the second half substitutions was Beth and Katie swapping wings which ruffled Chelsea feathers for 10 minutes or so but then they covered it. Unfortunately, it seems we had a plan and decided to stick to it regardless of… Read more »


I’m not sure how any coach could be called “brilliant” after what we saw yesterday. That was the opposite of brilliant.


When you’ve been at a match, it’s hard to recall details accurately. However, I have little memory of Chelsea making any significant attacks down the wings. Emma Hayes was clearly aware of our weakness at CB and instructed Kerr and Kirby to exploit that. Looking slightly more on the bright side, she probably also realised that Noëlle and Steph are very good fullbacks and so there were more profitable avenues to pursue. I’m a great admirer of Lauren Hemp, and I think Noëlle played her better than any other team’s right back this season.

Peter Story Teller

I agree that Noelle has been a good signing not just for her ability but she has got a bit of steel about her like DvD has. In that match though Chelsea saw our weakness and went for it. What I don’t understand is why Jonas didn’t instruct Noelle and Steph not to worry about trying to get forward since they couldn’t with Beth and Katie right in front of them and to narrow up and lend the centre backs a hand. Perhaps next time?


But that is about tactics. Jonas wants us to build the play only through wide areas, so Steph specially and also Noelle were supposed to be the buildup players, which means they have to move wide and also high. Which also means they can’t at the same time help out CB’s. Emma Hayes knew that and made Chelsea play accordingly. Chelsea dictated the areas where the match was played – in their strongest and our weakest area. I personally don’t believe that team who decides to make midfield a non-issue, can ever decide where the game is played.

Kevin Lee

Tim, great analysis as always. Their is an old saying in basketball that teams that likes to press doesn’t like to be pressed. Seems like the Gunners REALLY don’t like to be pressed, like the first game against Barca they crumbled. Shell shocked, Easy passes went astray, players out of position, etc. For the second time this season they looked like they didn’t belong on the same pitch as their opponents. The only 2 bright spots were Manuela”s brilliant play and how hard the players took the loss. Seeing their faces after the game was tough to watch. I thought… Read more »

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