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The Arsenal Women Journal – End of the Road

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That’s it, our European journey came to an abrupt end at the Volkswagen Arena, last night.
It hurts but we can hardly say the outcome was unfair: over the two legs, Wolfsburg has been the better team.

Although we grew into the game and could have had more luck with some of our shots, the first half was disappointing in the way we allowed Wolfsburg to hit us repeatedly on the counter and for the space we gave them on our left-hand side, where Steph Catley was outnumbered on several occasions. Conceding so early from a set-piece obviously wasn’t ideal but, in my humble opinion, that wasn’t the decisive moment of the game: we had plenty of time to level the tie but we were unable to truly test their goalkeeper or their defensive line, mostly because we were not efficient enough in the build-up.

Lia Wälti’s absence made a huge difference because we clearly lacked composure in our final third and I suspect that the Swiss midfielder would have been an important outlet to beat their pressing and find those passing lanes to Heath, McCabe, Miedema and Blackstenius. Likewise, not having someone like Rafaelle alongside Williamson was a big blow because the Brazilian is excellent at passing and carrying the ball, which would have been problematic to deal with for the hosts.

I was slightly disappointed by the more experienced players on the pitch, because somehow I was expecting them to carry the team and show the example to the younger, less experienced teammates: besides Kim Little, who tried the hardest, the likes of Tobin Heath, Vivianne Miedema and Steph Catley were slightly underwhelming. It is always difficult to influence a game when you don’t see much of the ball but I can’t help feeling that their experience should have counted a bit more.

Miedema

Overall, we can have some regrets over the two games because we had our moments, we had our chances but we rushed our decisions, especially in the home game, and we ended up paying the price. The best team qualified for the semi-finals, in the end, and the only thing left to do for us to learn from this tie, regroup and focus on what lies ahead: we have five games to overcome Chelsea in the race for the league and we have a big FA Cup semi-final coming up, at home, so there’s still plenty to play for.

Our hopes to bring a second European trophy to London might be over but the season isn’t and it would be unforgivable to down the tools at this moment, especially with all the promising improvements made by the team since last summer. We are way more competitive against the big teams, we are mentally stronger, we developed a very encouraging never-say-die mindset and found a very distinct style of play built on aggression, speed and being on the front-foot.

None of this disappeared simply because we couldn’t get pas a strong opponent like Wolfsburg, let’s keep that in mind.

Chin up, Gooners.

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