What a game, heh?
Arsenal and Chelsea played the most intense, entertaining and energetic nil-nil one could imagine, trying to win the game until the very last minute instead of not losing it.
Jonas Eidevall’s decision to field a very offensive team paid off, in the end, as Chelsea could not exert much pressure when on the ball because they could not afford to leave space in-behind to Stina Blackstenius, nor allow too much freedom to Vivianne Miedema between the lines.
The aggressive setup, paired with the return of Leah Williamson at the back, meant that we could control large portions of the game and find some very nice combinations, which was far from a given after the traumatic FA Cup Final in Wembley.
After the home draw against Manchester United, I wrote here that I hoped Jonas Eidevall would try a 4-2-3-1 formation with Lia Wälti and Kim Little in a double pivot, so I was really pleased to learn that the Swede is an avid reader of the Arsenal Women Journal on GunnersTown…jokes aside, I liked the boldness of this choice, especially in a crucial game like the one at Chelsea.
This is the way forward, in my opinion, because we have so many talented players in attack that it would be a waste not to field as many as them, together.
It was sad to see Tobin Heath on the bench but something has got to give (or rather someone?).
The American will prove decisive again, like she did against Manchester City, and could have been a very important asset off the bench, in the right circumstances. I guess that Rafaelle’s injury somehow had an impact on Jonas Eidevall’s strategy. The fact that the head coach didn’t replace the Brazilian with a natural defender was very telling of his willingness to build from the back and keep the front-foot approach, and Lia Wälti was again very impressive and composed alongside Leah Williamson.
We could have won the game but we could have also lost it; we could have had a penalty in the first half but Chelsea could (should) have had one in the very last minute so the final result is fair to both teams, yet both teams are entitled to feel disappointed of not having won it. It was a big game, a great game and a game that, to quote Jonas Eidevall, deserved to be watched by thirty or forty thousands people, rather than three or four thousands.
My takeaway from this game is the massive improvement made by the team in the big games: the Arsenal will remain unbeaten against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United this season (three wins, three draws) which is quite a turnaround, given how we only collected four points last season (one win, one draw, four losses). In perspective, this could be the first step to a new golden era for the Club, which seems to be on the right path to success.
Although we lost points against lesser opponents, we fixed what seemed to be a major psychological problem and are now able to play the big teams without fear and I believe that it will pay off, eventually.
I might be proven wrong but finding a way to beat opponents like Birmingham looks far easier than doing it against Chelsea or Manchester City, hence my optimism.
I want to wrap this up by praising some individuals: Manu Zinsberger made some vital saves, Kim Little was the best of the night, Lia Wälti impressed in both her roles and Steph Catley proved decisive in a couple of big moments. Nights like this one will reinforce the team’s self-believe and made them stronger. I can’t wait to see how the season unfolds.
It’s time to take a break now, as the Arsenal won’t be back on the field until February, 27th, when we will face Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Until then, 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.