After defeating Chelsea on the opening day of the season, Arsenal confirmed their status as Women’s Super League title contenders yesterday with an emphatic 5-0 victory against Manchester City.
Kim Little scored twice for the Gunners, while Vivianne Miedema, Katie McCabe and Leah Williamson also grabbed a goal each.
In three matches, Arsenal have now earned nine points, scored 12 goals, and only conceded two.
New manager Jonas Eidevall is spearheading Arsenal’s renaissance. He is slowly but surely transforming the team which only gained one point across four fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester City last season, into one which can challenge both teams for the WSL title.
So what has changed for Arsenal? GiveMeSport Women takes an in-depth look into their impressive season so far.
Under former manager Joe Montemurro, Arsenal played possession based football. This allowed the side to dominate games against weaker opposition, but also meant the team struggled with the high press deployed by sides such as Chelsea and Manchester City.
Eidevall has made Arsenal more adaptable, encouraging the team to be more direct if necessary and play long balls over the top, exploiting the space behind their opponent’s defence. This has been evident in all three of Arsenal’s WSL matches so far.
Arsenal had only 40 percent of possession against Chelsea, and just 35 percent of possession against Manchester City. But through their direct play, the Gunners were able to use the time they had the ball more effectively than their opponents.
Eidevall referenced this in his press conference after the victory against Manchester City.
“Possession is useless as a stat if it can’t be combined with a result,” he said. “There are different ways to control a game and in most aspects of the game we controlled it in a good way today, in defence and offence.
“Space was given to us if we could complete three or four passes, it would’ve been foolish for us to do it the other way around.”
Leah Williamson and Jennifer Beattie have been integral to Arsenal’s new style of play. The two centre-backs have been tasked with knocking the ball over the top of their opponent’s defence, and the statistics show they have been highly successful at this.
Both Williamson and Beattie have the highest number of completed long-range passes in the squad so far, with 49 each. Beattie has an 80.3 percent success rate and Williamson a 70 percent success rate.
Arsenal are also reliant on the pace of Arsenal’s wingers and fullbacks to run into space, latch onto long balls, and drag opposing players out of position – Beth Mead, Steph Catley, Katie McCabe and Noëlle Maritz have all had joy in this department.
Mead has been particularly impressive under Eidevall, scoring three goals and racking up three assists.
Arsenal had a successful summer in the transfer market, adding a number of world-class players to the squad. The Gunners now have excellent depth in a number of positions.
For example, when 4-0 up against Manchester City, Arsenal were able to replace Lia Wälti with Japanese superstar Mana Iwabuchi, and Beth Mead with two-time World Cup winner Tobin Heath.
This depth will allow Arsenal to perform at a high level for the entirety of the 90 minutes, and not drop off in the closing moments of the match. It will also serve the Gunners well when they are balancing midweek Champions League matches with WSL and FA Cup fixtures.
It’s not just new signings on the pitch that are making an impact at Arsenal. Eidevall credited Gary Lewin for keeping the players fit.
Lewin was appointed head of medicine and sports science for Arsenal Women in July, having spent 22 years as head physiotherapist for the men’s team.
“We talk a lot about our signings on the pitch but let’s not forget one off the pitch, Gary Lewin, our head of medicine and sports science. He and the other staff are key to keep the players fit and fresh between the game,” Eidevall said.