The Arsenal Women Journal – Rinse and Repeat: Chelsea proving to be Gunner’s nemesis

Another game against Chelsea, another hurtful result.
Once again, we are left ruing the missed chances, the lack of composure in front of goal. Chelsea took their chances while we didn’t and that, combined with some poor defending, cut our FA Cup journey very short.

Jonas Eidevall reverted to a back four, with Liä Walti and the massive bandage on her thigh sitting in front of the defensive line and both Kim Little and Frida Maanum free to roam forward to support the attack, where Caitlin Foord and Katie McCabe often switched sides around Stina Blackstenius.
We started well, we could have gone one up very early, we conceded against the run of play and then got punished again while manufacturing the best chances of the second half. Same old, same old, I guess. There isn’t much to analyze about the game, unfortunately, as we did a few things well but couldn’t really finish our chances, but there are a few points I would like to bring forward, still.

Frida Maanum is everywhere. The Norwegian midfielder is, at the moment, the brightest spark in this team and one of the very few players capable of making things happen. She is a powerful carrier, she anticipates very well where the ball will end up, she times her runs in the box almost perfectly and she can definitely hit from distance but, being only 22 years old, we cannot expect them to carry the team on her shoulder. If some of her teammates could pick up her bravery and energy, we might be in a better shape.

Unbalanced structure. Anything good we produced at Kingsmeadow came down the left-hand side, while virtually nothing came off the opposite flank of the pitch. Perhaps it was intentional, perhaps it was something that Jonas Eidevall prepared but it looked like we couldn’t create anything in that area and it was independent from who was playing there, between Caitlin Foord and Katie McCabe. Surely, the fact that Lauren James wasn’t very involved defensively allowed Steph Catley to attack relentlessly down the left side, but Laura Wienroither was unusually quiet on the right and didn’t use the space as much as could have.

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Steph Catley runs past Lauren James (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Miedema too much to replace. Maybe, maybe, we should all get accustomed to the fact that we are not as competitive as we would be, had Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema not picked up their injuries. I know it sounds obvious but perhaps it is time to make peace with the fact that their absences simply cannot be absorbed by this squad. Not strengthening our attacking unit will probably make the difference between a successful season and a disappointing one, simply because neither one of Caitlin Foord, Katie McCabe or Stina Blackstenius can step up their game enough to palliate for the lack of goals. This is not to say that they are not good players but the task is just too big for them, individually or collectively.

Same Kerr reminded everyone (again!) what it means to have a top-tier striker in the team, someone able to keep the composure and coolness to finish those chances, and I am sure that Vivianne Miedema or Beth Mead would have scored when through on one-v-one with Chelsea’s goalkeeper, while Stina Blackstenius skied it. Winning or losing, at this level, is often a matter of small margins and we don’t look well-equipped enough to consistently make the right choices when it matters, to consistently pick the right options, offensively and defensively. Most importantly, we don’t have someone upfront who is able to bail us out when we need it, like Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema used to do. C’est la vie, I guess.


Sam Kerr dinks the ball over Manuela Zinsberger to send Chelsea through (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Next up is the Continental Tyres League Cup final at Selhurst Park, against Chelsea, on Sunday. While I expect the game to be as tight as any previous encounters with Emma Hayes’ side, the outcome could be very different if we suddenly find our scoring boots.

Until then, keep the faith Gooners!

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