The Arsenal Women Journal : Turned a corner? The hunt for the WSL title enters Phase Two… [ARS 2-0 LIV]

We didn’t have much time to celebrate the magnificent League Cup win over Chelsea, did we? The team was back in business 48 hours after the Selhurst Park triumph, welcoming a struggling Liverpool side to Meadow Park.

The bad news of a cold night in North London was the absence of Steph Catley, who was spotted wearing a protective boot and walking with crutches before the kick-off. We don’t know the extent of her injury but we know it was not a contact injury, so maybe an ankle sprain or something similar. Let’s hope she won’t be sidelined for too long as she has been one of the most consistent performers, this season.

Back to the game against Liverpool, Jonas Eidevall used Katie McCabe as left-back and added Victoria Pelova to the front line, together with Stina Blackstenius and Caitlin Foord. The only other change of the night was Laura Wienroither for Noëlle Maritz at right-back.

For what could be seen through the blurry lenses of the cameras present at Meadow Park, the team controlled the game from the very beginning and limited the visitors to one shot on target, easily controlled by Manuela Zinsberger, while having 22 (!) attempts on goal. Especially in the first half, the home team manufactured a string of clear-cut chances that unfortunately went wasted, a recurring theme in the last few weeks. This time, at least, we were not made to pay for our mistakes and bad luck in front of goal as Stina Blackstenius and Caitlin Foord scored the goals that allowed us to end a three-games streak without a win in the league.

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Stina Blackstenius celebrates after scoring the opening goal (photo from BBC / Getty Images)

I won’t go into much details about the game itself, mostly because I could not see much despite the live-streaming on the club’s official website, but I feel it’s important to mark this game as a restart of our season, of sort, as I feel that the win against Chelsea in the Conti Cup will be a catalyst for more hunger, more drive and, most importantly, more calmness from the team.

I cannot help thinking that much of the struggles experienced by the team in recent weeks have a lot to do with not being able to rebuff Chelsea’s pressure, especially after the dramatic 1-1 home draw against the Blues in the league. They chased us, they caught us, they leapfrogged us and they rocketed away from us, all while we lost Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema through injury and crashed out of the FA Cup.

The relief of finally beating our nemesis, paired up with the natural improvement of the chemistry in the newly-built front three, could ignite a much-needed spark and gave the players the belief that they can catch Chelsea and Manchester United or, at least, give them a run for their money. Emma Hayes’ team will play both Manchester teams in consecutive weeks before the international break, during which we will face Reading (9th) and Tottenham (10th), so the league table could look much different between now and the end of the month.

We must be ruthless and take every little chance to shorten the gap with the top teams, because we won’t have many of those before the end of the season.

With 27 points available in the league, potentially we can finish the season with 56 points – the exact same amounts of points that won Chelsea the title, last season. The margin of error is so thin it’s almost scary but with the right mindset, a strong belief and a fair share of luck we could pull off the most beautiful remontada of recent times.

Phase 2 has officially begun. Do you believe?

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