Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Nobbs entry changes the game against West Ham

When Arsenal trailed West Ham by a goal to nil with half-time on the horizon and Kim Little limped off injured, Gunners fans could’ve been forgiven for thinking the worst. Jordan Nobbs was sent on in Little’s stead and within a minute, she had scored the equaliser. Jordan was a crucial part of Arsenal’s comeback.

I asked Jonas Eidevall why he opted to switch Jordan in for Kim Little when many might have expected him to bring Vivianne Miedema on and drop Frida Maanum into the 8 position. “We needed to change the point of attack, for example, when Noelle got the ball she needed a short option inside and I couldn’t think of a better player than Jordan Nobbs for that. I know she will be there constantly asking for the ball, making short passes and making the extra pass.

“That was exactly what we needed and she gave us that and a bit more and I am very happy for her and it’s important for the team that she performed the way she did. Potentially, I think it’s why we won the game.” I remain of the opinion that number 8 is Nobbs’ best position, even though she has been played either as a 10 or a wide option for club and country since her ACL injury in late 2018.

I asked Nobbs about this post-match, “I haven’t had much of a chance to play there over the last few years, that 8 has been my role for the last ten years. But I love that role, I am one of those players who wants to get on the ball, it’s a position I’ve always loved. My first priority at the moment is to get on the pitch but it’s definitely something I really enjoy to start deep and go high.” Let’s see how Duracell Jordan helped swing the game back into Arsenal’s favour.

West Ham planned to pack the right half spaces, where Beth Mead is so dangerous. Left-back Kirsty Smith would jump out of her space to press Noelle Maritz when Arsenal built play, with Katie Longhurst then shifting across to mark Beth Mead. It clogged up an important area of Arsenal’s attacking play.

This is the kind of situation Eidevall was talking about, as Noelle Maritz receives the ball on the touchline, Maanum and Mead are cut off by West Ham’s shape and Little is closely marked too.

Maritz is forced backwards to Wubben-Moy.

Wubben-Moy lofts the ball towards Blackstenius but West Ham deal with it and clear. West Ham did a good job of clogging up the right flank but, in this last image, you can see there is a price for that and it is leaving lots of space on the other side of the field. West Ham were potentially vulnerable to switches of play but they weren’t forthcoming before Nobbs’ entry.

Once again here, Wubben-Moy finds Maritz out wide.

Smith abandons her post at left-back to aggressively press the Swiss right-back and forces her backwards.

In this spell, we see again how secure West Ham are on Arsenal’s right. This pass from Maritz for Little is cut out and the Gunners win a throw-in.

From the resulting throw-in, look at how many West Ham bodies are on that right-side. Eventually, Maritz is, again, forced to go back to Wubben-Moy.

From a goal-kick, Wubben-Moy comes inside to Maritz and look at the bottom of the screen. Irons left-back Kirsty Smith sprints over to close Noelle down.

Maritz is again forced back to Wubben-Moy who elects to go long and West Ham win possession back. Arsenal found this right-side blocked up time and again in the first half.

Another small example here. Maritz has the ball on the right, West Ham have Mead and Maanum surrounded. There is some space to Noelle’s right but no Arsenal player standing in it and so she has to go back to Wubben-Moy again.

And the same happens again a few seconds later.

This time when Maritz gets the ball, Smith comes out to close her down but the option is there to pass to Kim Little, which she takes.

Little turns away from Hayashi and Arsenal are in a promising situation.

Little finds Maanum but look at how many West Ham bodies are back. Arsenal need to release the ball more quickly in this space, or else initiate quick switches of play to move West Ham’s defensive block around.

On 39 minutes, Arsenal are a goal down and Kim Little has to hobble off injured. Losing Little should have been a huge blow but Arsenal needed Nobbs’ qualities.

Now, Jordan makes an immediate impact with the equaliser and that clearly changed the game but she swung things in Arsenal’s favour in other ways too. Notice also, the similarity between Nobbs’ goal and Lia Wälti’s at Liverpool last week as Arsenal, once again, pick up a half-cleared corner to score in the second phase of a corner.

When Maritz gets the ball here, Nobbs is immediately on the scene demanding the ball.

Maritz doesn’t immediately go to Nobbs but Jordan’s presence frees up space for Beth Mead, who Maritz can now find.

That attack doesn’t amount to anything but look here again, seconds later. Wubben-Moy finds Maritz, who again can find Mead this time, Beth comes back to Jordan and Arsenal suddenly have more options in that space.

Jordan goes for a first-time pass into space. It doesn’t quite find Blackstenius but Mead counterpresses the clearance and West Ham are kept under duress. Nobbs has created more options in that space and the intensity she has injected into the Gunners’ play has an immediate impact.

West Ham clear the danger and Maritz picks the ball up on the right, she goes back to Wubben-Moy but look at the difference Firstly, Lotte is able to be much higher because Jordan’s first-time pass has pushed West Ham back. Now when Lotte receives the ball, instead of having to go long, she has Nobbs demanding the short pass from her and Arsenal can retain the ball and therefore, can retain pressure.

When Maritz collects this clearance, she again has Nobbs immediately to her right wanting the ball.

Maritz finds her and Nobbs spreads the play to the left. Now West Ham’s defence is being moved around in a much more sustained fashion.

Maritz receives the ball from Wubben-Moy again and look who is on the scene straight away. Kirsty Smith has gone to press but you can see her pointing because she can see Nobbs has become a free player.

Nobbs again plays it first time, quickly and with intent.

And look at the situation Arsenal are in as a result. Because Smith has been instructed to abandon left-back to press Maritz and Longhurst is asked to shuffle over to left-back, it creates a numerical deficit for West Ham in defence which Arsenal were too ponderous to exploit earlier in the half. Before Nobbs came on, Arsenal were not moving the ball quickly enough or getting enough numbers in that right half-space to take advantage.

West Ham have a free-kick which Arsenal clear and Wubben-Moy cushions the ball to Maanum. Just pay attention to Jordan Nobbs’ body language compared to every other player here, she is already on the prowl and looking to go forward the millisecond Arsenal have the ball.

Maanum controls the clearance and Nobbs is, again, absolutely demanding the ball.

Maanum does as she’s told and Nobbs drives past Hayashi and Arsenal are in a good attacking situation again. It’s not immensely complicated, Jordan just sees and does things very quickly and that is exactly what Arsenal needed after a sleepy first 40 minutes.

In the second half, the pattern continued albeit Arsenal were more stable and more intense all over the pitch. When Nobbs collects the ball here, we see again that West Ham have that right half-space clogged up.

She looks for a lofted pass to Foord, it is intercepted by Shimizu but Nobbs’ proactivity and willingness to ask questions of defences tires them physically and mentally.

In the build-up to the third goal, Nobbs again poses problems for the West Ham defence with her intensity and willingness to take decisive action at speed. As Blackstenius holds the ball up, here she is again demanding the pass.

She already knows that Foord is free at the back post and she plays a first time cross to the Australian, who probably should hit it first-time. But Foord nudges the ball back to McCabe and Maanum heads her cross home. Nobbs’ swift intervention means Arsenal are able to keep West Ham under pressure.

At time of writing, there is no news on the severity of Kim Little’s injury, her loss is a blow but it needn’t be an insurmountable one if Arsenal are willing to play Jordan Nobbs in that number 8 role where, for my money, her qualities have been undervalued by Arsenal and England in a way I still don’t entirely understand.

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Satoshi Nagamoto

So happy for Nobbs, she was one of the first players that made an impression as she was just coming through when I started actively following Arsenal women, she has been so unlucky with injuries over the years

onenil

Really good analysis. Breaking things down like this really helped me understand what happened on the pitch, and why the game changed so much with Nobbs introduction.
I am delighted she is back. She was always one of my favourite players and I feared her career was tailing off after the injuries. But she’s back, big time!

Collibosher

It’s quite amazing how both the men’s and women’s teams, on the same day, had to make injury-enforced substitutions of their most consistent and reliable players, and both subs were POTM.

Dan

Really great analysis.

i’ve not been following either arsenal or specific players for England long enough to fully know how Jordan was used in the past but it’s def felt like she’s been undervalued and I really hope this is a change in the tide for her and a great confidence boost. It’s been a shame in the last few years that I’ve started really following the game, that she’d not featured much – here’s to more!

who is downvoting positive comments? grow up mate!

Collibosher

I’ve noticed that every comment on news about the women’s team, no matter how inoffensive or uncontroversial, gets at least one downvote. I wonder why? Correction: I know exactly why.

Fun Gunner

I know. Once I commented “Thanks, Tim” and someone voted that down! 😂

Collibosher

I should feel privileged, I just got one more downvote than everyone else! hee hee

Redwall

maybe the people doing the downvoting should not come to this site if they are not happy with it.

Goonersince55

That analysis really clarifies for me the frustration I felt during the first half. Other teams now realise the threat that Beth poses and detail players to restrict her movement as much as possible (which sometimes extends to regular fouling). It’s then necessary to switch play quickly to other parts of the pitch where we can have the overload. I’m so pleased to be proved wrong as I really believed that repeated injuries had stopped Jordan from ever getting back to being the player she was four years ago. I love the stance she takes when she wants the ball:… Read more »

MartynJ

I think one of the reasons why West Ham’s focus on Beth in the first half was successful is the current absence of that ability to switch play – Lotte isn’t Leah when it comes to making those kind of passes. The absence of Leah and Rafa also impacts on the ability to change the pace as well as direction of forward movement. Looking forward to at least two thumbs down or I’ll be very disappointed.

Fun Gunner

Exactly.
Also waiting with bated breath for the thumbs down…

Chrishgooner

Excellent analysis of Jordan’s qualities. Losing Kim is a blow but without the introduction ofJordan’s
energy the game could so easily have drifted away from us.

SLC Gooner

Well done Tim. Appreciate the amount of work that went into this.

Gunner H

Brilliant for Jordan, who is at last getting the chance to show Jonas what she’s really capable of.

It’s also great and very timely that Stina, Caitlyn and Frida are all now in the very best of form, which partially counters the attention Beth is receiving from opposition defenders.

Let’s also remember that Iwabuchi was really good for us against Zurich.

I didn’t see the West Ham game as don’t have Sky, but was devastated to read of Kim’s injury, and am anxiously awaiting the club’s update on this.

Collibosher

I saw after the game that the full game had been a live DAZN YouTube broadcast, and you can now see the full 90+ minutes on there. I don’t know whether it was geo-blocked in the UK while it was being played though. Maybe next time I’ll check.

Gunner H

Thanks very much Mr Collibosher – I will definitely check this next time.

Fun Gunner

This is great, Tim. Thanks.

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