Mission. Accomplished. The quest for the 15th trophy is still on.
We were favorites against the London City Lionesses and it showed, although ours wasn’t exactly a scintillating performance. Journalists often refer to this kind of wins as “professional”, as if others weren’t.
Anyway, we progress to the next round thanks to Vivianne Miedema’s first-half goal, scored after a nice, old-school high-press turnover instigated by Kim Little. The Dutch striker played the opening 45 minutes through an intense migraine at it showed, at times, yet managed to finish off Kim Little’s chance before being hauled off at the break.
Jonas Eidevall confirmed that Vivianne Miedema could no longer tolerate the pain and, given the lead and overall control over the game, it was decided to rest her. The former Bayern forward was part of a very strong starting XI fielded by the coach, which included Noelle Maritz, Kim Little, Jordan Nobbs, Beth Mead and Katie McCabe.
Jonas Eidevall would have loved to rest more senior players on top of Leah Williamson, Tobin Heath, Rafaelle and Lia Wälti but didn’t want to disrupt the chemistry within the team and take too many risks, hence the strong lineup. This is where the headaches kick in, because at present the squad is so thin that Jonas Eidevall cannot rotate his star players for an FA Cup fourth-round home tie against an opponent from a lower division. It’s a worrying sign but hopefully a temporary one, because the squad is being hit quite hard by a “illness”, which doesn’t seem Covid related, and the Asian Cup is still ongoing.
Regardless, we go into what is going to be a season-defining month with plenty of doubts and vivid memories of the bench named by Jonas Eidevall for the Super League’s all-important clash against Brighton:
With Australia eliminated from the Asian Cup by South Korea, we should be able to get Lydia Williams, Steph Catley and Caitiln Foord back soon, while Mana Iwabuchi made it to the semi-finals with Japan after making her debut against Thailand. It remains to be seen whether Stina Blackstenius, Fran Stenson and Jen Beattie will recover in time from the illness.
Back to the game against the Lionesses, Jonas Eidevall was pleased with the way the players controlled the game and saved some energies, something that the team managed to do pretty well, limiting our opponents’ chances to zero. The most encouraging aspect of this “professional” win surely was the way we applied pressure on the Lionesses’ players and forced turnovers quite regularly, something that we couldn’t really do during the last games of 2021 and the first handful of games of the new year.
Kim Little, Beth Mead, Frida Maanum and Jordan Nobbs were again very aggressive and alert, closing down the player on the ball and cutting the main passing lines, although we couldn’t really build on those ball recoveries efficiently enough. If the pressure was very well-executed, the finishing touches often disappointed and disrupted the ball progression. We did have 17 shots (10 on target) and the Lionesses’ goalkeeper made some decent saves but we could and should have sealed the qualification much earlier and made it easier for ourselves.
We still lack composure and clarity in the final third, especially through Nikita Parris: the former Lyon and Manchester City’s forward is exemplary in her off-the-ball work still looks on a different wavelength, compared to the rest of the team, and is not providing the goals and assists that should come with a player of her calibre. It is way to soon to judge her integration and output but I believe that her poor return (so far…) comes as a surprise to the majority of Arsenal supporters and neutral observers. Hopefully she will become a factor in the second part of the season but so far she’s not quite there, yet.
Next up is Manchester United at home, on Saturday at lunch time, but before that we will get to know who will be our opponents for the FA Cup fifth-round, with the draw scheduled for 7.30pm on Monday.
I’ll see you for the next issue of the Arsenal Women Journals. Take it easy, Gooners!
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.