Birmingham City 2-0 Arsenal Women
Crappy New Year, Gooners!
It’s fair to say that no one really expected to start this 2022 in such a miserable fashion.
There are many ways in which you can lose a football game when entering it as favorite but the team chose the worst possible one: the I-don’t-bother-that-much way.
The players were not at the required level both physically and mentally, they were second-best all over the pitch and barely won any duel or second ball.
I thought that Jonas Eidevall and the players could benefit from the extended winter break but it didn’t do any good to our team, apparently: we are still as sloppy and hesistant as we’ve been against Chelsea and Hoffenheim, which doesn’t bode well for the second part of our campaign. Despite it being our first defeat in the league, it is a damning one because it comes against one of the opponents from which we are expected to take six points across the board; to put it in a politically incorrect way, teams like Birmingham shouldn’t even have a sniff at taking points against us, such is the gulf in quality between us and them.
This is not to disrespect Birmingham City or to take anything away from their win, which was throughly deserved, but we made it way too easy for them. Above anything, our performance lacked the intensity required to match Birmingham’s, a team that is fighting tooth and nails to avoid the relegation to the Championship. They were brilliant in keeping the shape out of possession, hitting on the counter and close any space between the lines. Their plan was rather simple but was excectured with such diligence and drive that our players simply couldn’t find their way back into the game. Had we showed a fraction of their dedication and discipline, we could have turned the game around after going down early on, instead we remained passive and couldn’t match their level.
Back then, we we lost against Barcelona, Jonas Eidevall said that the team deserved a good battering, to get their feet back on the ground and not be carried away by the sensational start of the season: since then, we rescued a point in the North London Derby, lost again against Barcelona, we were humbled by Chelsea in the FA Cup final and flirted with a shock elimination from the group stage of the Champions League.
Are we sure the coach and the players learned from their first, heavy defeat of the season? If anything, the loss against Birmingham showed that one of the teams wanted the win really badly and it wasn’t ours.
There isn’t very much to talk about, tactics-wise, because we first and foremost lost the game because of our attitude. They were ready to go from the whistle, we slept throught the whole first half and large chunks of the second. I believe that we missed Lia Wälti composure and awareness in front of the back four, especially when defending: Frida Maanum, who replaced the Swiss midfielder, tried hard but couldn’t really win any duels and didn’t track Sarri’s run when Birmingham scored the second goal; overall, the Norwegian playmaker failed to protect Jen Beattie and Simone Boye, who were exposed several times throughout the game.
Leah Williamson could not return soon enough, because we cannot afford to play such a high line without her anticipation and pace; similarily to what happened against Chelsea in the FA Cup final, we left too much space behind our last line and could not catch Birmingham’s forwards when they played the ball behind our defence, with Jen Beattie and Simone Boye’s lack of speed showing.
Jonas Eidevall has a lot of work to do if he was to bring the team back to the level where it was at the beginning of the campaign, both defensively and offensively, and he better make some changes soon because we will face Reading, Manchester United and Manchester City within one week, starting next Sunday. As of today, they are sixth, fourth and fifth in the league, respectively, and look far more equipped to pile on our mysery than Birmigham.
It sounds like we’re at a very important crossroads, with a lot at stakes. Over to you, girls.
Italian living in Switzerland, Gooner since mid-nineties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. I started my own blog and podcast (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Covering Arsenal Women with the occasional rant about the boys.
Excellent review and anaylsis of the game. I’m sorry I didn’t find this blog sooner!
I’m in complete agreement that the attitude was far too casual from the start, and it’s very difficult to significantly raise the intensity when you start so slowly. It’s also nice to find another voice pointing out how valuable Lia Waelti is. She has been getting some criticism lately as Arsenal have stumbled, but I’m convinced it’s because she doesn’t do a glamourous job: she doesn’t score, doesn’t really provide assists, doesn’t do Williamson-style long range passes, but when she isn’t there, that shield for the defense is lacking, and her game awareness is also a huge miss. She’s always the player who instinctively drop back to cover McCabe when she steams forwards, or covers Williamson when she does similar. Non of the other midfielders are exclusively defensive, and that shows.
There does need to be a response collectively, and it needs to be immediate.
Andrea covers every match on GT
Thanks for the feedback, Neil, I’m glad you liked my article. As pointed out by Dave, you can find a new issue of my AWFC Journal after every Arsenal Women’s game. See you there 😉