Double Hard Fought Sunday – The Arsenal Women Journal

It was a pleasant Sunday for us, Arsenal fans, but not an easy one.


Hard fought Sunday

For those who watched the men’s match at Leeds and then tuned-in to watch the Women’s take on Reading, it was double joy and double pain. Jonas Eidevall’s team edged the Royals not without difficulty, despite what the league table might have suggested beforehand.

If you take this win and compare it with last season’s loss at Birmingham, it is progress, but the worries remain: at Reading, exactly as it was against former Gunner Louise Quinn’s Birmingham City, the team was missing its two starters at centre-back but this time the outcome was different and the overall structure looked more solid, compared to last winter.

Leah Williamson

Williamson missed

With Rafaelle and Leah Williamson both out, Jonas Eidevall opted for Lotte Wubben-Moy at right centre-back and Steph Catley at left centre-back, with Katie McCabe moving to left-back and Caitlin Foord on the wing. We started very well and should have been ahead with less than a minute on the clock, but Stina Blackstenius squandered a really good chance; similarly, Laura Wienroither couldn’t ask for a better chance to score her first goal for the Arsenal but somehow missed the open goal from within two yards. It took thirty minutes to eventually break the deadlock, courtesy of a fantastic long-range shot by Stina Blackstenius, but after that we failed to capitalize on a very apparent dominance over the hosts.


Match winner

We had so many chances to kill the game, but we wasted them all, including a rare miss from the penalty spot by Kim Little, that eventually Reading had their own chances to score and bring the game to a tie. First Manu Zinsberger had to produce the most hockey-goalkeeper-style save to prevent a goal, then Frida Maanum, a second-half change from Jonas Eidevall, cleared the ball inches away from the goal line. The Arsenal pulled the ultimate “how to make easy things unnecessarily complicated” performance but it was enough to see off a valiant Reading and preserve their perfect start of the season. We might no longer be at the top but last night was Manuela Zinsberger’s ninth consecutive clean sheet in the league, a new record for the competition.


Record breaker

The Austrian, who has been on a stellar raise since last season, had to work hard to get this record but she surely deserved it, being one of the most consistent performers in the team. This record is particularly impressive because it came at a time when the team had to cope with multiple absences in the back four: first it was Leah Williamson, then Rafaelle, then both of them but that didn’t prevent the former Bayern Munich goalkeeper from writing her name in the history book.

May this immaculate run long continue in the league, Manu, because it is extremely unlikely that you won’t be forced to pick the ball from the bottom of the net, on Wednesday, against Olympique Lyon.

The Austrian and the rest of the team take on current UWCL champions and record holders Lyon, away from home, in what can be considered the ultimate test for our European ambitions. I am trying to manage the expectations for the game and I am still unsure about what a “good” outcome would be: picking up points would be close to pulling off a sporting miracle so I don’t even dare to think about it, although you cannot truly write that off, but more realistically I am very curious to see how the team will cope with the intensity and movement of their counterparts. The game at Lyon will be a great indicator of the team’s current ability and readiness to fight for the European crown – not necessarily this season, though.

Ability-wise, we are stacked with skills, speed, physicality, and technique but all of that must work like a clockwork against such a drilled, quality side and that’s where we might be found out, this time.

Anyway, enough talking about Wednesday before the ball is even kicked once, we’ll have plenty to chat after the game. We won at Reading, we kept another clean sheet, and we are still ahead of Chelsea, who played one game more. These are the positives for today, hoping that we will soon start to make our dominance count on the scoresheet.

Speak to you on Thursday!

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