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The AWFC Journal: That’s All, Folks! Arsenal Women win the battle but lose the war… [WHU 0-2 ARS]

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That’s all, folks! The 2021/22 Women’s Super League campaign is over.
We all wished we had a different ending, but it was never truly likely to happen.

Yes, Manchester United took the lead twice at Kingsmeadow but it never really felt like we were going to win the league: our dream lasted 21 minutes, the time between Ella Toone’s goal and Sam Kerry’s amazing volley to make it 2-2 at Chelsea’s.It’s not all doom and gloom, though. It should not be.

We end this campaign with a 7-points positive difference compared to last season and we gained one position, compared to the previous campaign. We scored one goal more and conceded five less, we only lost once versus FOUR times last campaign and did all of that with a new head coach, a new staff, lots of new players and without and proper pre-season because of the Olympics and the UWCL qualification route.

I know it feels bad, right now, but in due time we will all realize that this has been a very good season.

If we go back to the end of the previous campaign, experts and pundits were putting us well behind Chelsea and Manchester City and yet we gave the Blues a good fight and left Manchester City trailing from the very beginning. This is also progress, because we finish unbeaten against our direct rivals and took 4 points against each of Chelsea and Manchester City, after spending two full seasons without a win against them.

In the hands of the football gods

Credit: Getty Images

It’s easy and natural now to look back at those results that didn’t go our way and rue on the unexpected (although fully deserved) loss at Birmingham City or the home draw against a Manchester United side that scored from their only chance but the fact that we are here picking from basically three poor results over 22 games tells the story of a positive campaign.

Back to the game, it took a while for the players to shake off the pressure and get focused on their game, rather than Chelsea’s, then Vivianne Miedema had the first chance but was blocked. Things started to get better from there, especially in midfield, but this one time the connection between Caitlin Foord and Vivianne Miedema didn’t really happen, and the Australian struggled to get into good positions. Beside Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead was the most lively and dangerous player on the pitch, finishing on a high after what has been a sensational season for a player who, back in the summer, was expected to be dislodged from starting XI by Nikita Parris and Tobin Heath.

It took the introduction of Stina Blackstenius to break the deadlock and give us some confidence: the Swede, who scored her sixth league goal in eleven appearances, was again excellent in working the channels and beat the offside trap, before driving the ball to the far corner. Steph Catley, who signed a new contract last week, added a second with a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty box and from there, it was all about a miracle happening in South London.

Celebration

No such thing happened and here we are, “feeling empty” to quote Jonas Eidevall.

We will go again next season with lots of confidence, because we have many players who truly progressed over the course of 12 months: Beth Mead is the leading assist-provider (8), tied with Vivianne Miedema and Ella Toone, and has created the most chances in the league (63, Zelem from Manchester United is second with 43); Steph Catley came back from the Asia Cup and made the left-back position her own, recording a very high shot-creating actions tally from there; Manuela Zinsberger has improved a lot in her distribution, reflexes and is still somehow unbeaten from the penalty spot, over five penalties faced; Leah Williamson committed for another season and is developing into a marvelous player and leader and, to cap it off, we are yet to see the best from Rafaelle, Mana Iwabuchi, Stina Blackstenius and Nikita Parris.

We don’t know if Vivianne Miedema will stay, we don’t know (yet) who is going to go and who is coming in but we can expect a very busy summer and a few surprises, this summer. Jonas Eidevall has signed a contract extension and has some very interesting ideas about how to make us more competitive in England and in Europe. Keep the faith and put a smile on your face.

It’s just the beginning, after all.

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