The Arsenal Women’s season is all but over.
The away defeat at Chelsea and the Manchester derby going to the Red Devils meant that we will finish the season in third – unless something unprecedented happens on the final day.
It would take a very heavy defeat at home to Aston Villa and a big win by Manchester City for the table to change, as we hold onto a three-points, +11 goal difference advantage over Gareth Stewart’s side, so you’ll forgive me if I dare to say that the third place is sealed.
Going into the game at Kingsmeadow on Sunday, sealing the final qualification place for next season’s Champions League was the bare minimum I hoped for: I thought that we could still find for the second place in the final game, and avoid the preliminary rounds, or maybe have an extremely unlikely shot at the title. I guess I’ll take this third place, given how complicated it looked at some point, not long ago, and all the injuries we had this season, but I still feel a bit deflated because of the way we are finishing this season.
I don’t have much to reproach to the players, the coach or anyone else, because everyone would have struggled to cope with the absence of their two most prolific strikers, their captain and their defensive lynchpin – not to mention Laura Wienroither, Lina Hurtig, Caitlin Foord and now Lia Wälti, of course – and I believe that winning the Conti Cup, getting seconds away from a potential Champions League final and being at the top of the league for so many weeks make this a very positive season.
I feel deflated because this group deserved more, the players deserved better for all their efforts and togetherness.
Chelsea were the better team for at least one half of Sunday’s game at Kingsmeadow and deserved to win, but once again we were made to pay for every single mistake, with many of the important moments of the game went Chelsea’s way, not ours. If we look at the opener, for example, we see how Perisset slipped when switching play from right to left: was her aiming for Guro Reiten or was she looking for Sam Kerr in the middle of the box, instead? Same when Caitlin Foord hit the bar, in the second half: the slight touch from the Chelsea defender moved the ball a couple of inches too high, making it impossible for our forwarder to hit the ball cleanly. Foord struck it as well as she could but hit the crossbar, while Reiten, who herself connected with the ball off balance, in a very unnatural position, found the bottom corner for the opening goal.
It’s those little details, the famous “fine margins”.
We didn’t’ do ourselves any favours by missing a penalty or losing sight of Magdalena Eriksson on their second goal, however I cannot help feeling that the gods of football somehow turned their backs to us, as a club.
I hope that the coach and the players will find the resources to finish strong, at home to Aston Villa, and sign-off in style after such a terrific campaign: we brought a trophy home, the first since 2019, and gave everyone a run for their money, in England and in Europe.
We did fell short in the end, sometimes in the cruelest way, but this season is still one to remember: we set a new attendance record in the Women’s Super League (47,367 against Tottenham) and in a Champions League game featuring an English side (60’063 against Wolfsburg); we thrashed Olympique Lyonnais on their own pitch in what has been their worst European defeat at home in the club’s history (1-5) and won our sixth League Cup, another record.
There is much more to come from this coach and these players, if they manage to keep building and stay healthy. I feel this team is a couple of good players away from being scarily good and I am sure that the club is looking at those players. This summer will be very important to reduce the gap with Chelsea, especially now that they are losing some key players, and be able to make the final step that will take us to the very top.
We will talk again on Monday, for the final episode of the Arsenal Women Journal and then it will be time to rest and recharge – after a nice season review, of course.
Speak to you soon!
Italian living in Switzerland, Gooner since mid-nineties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. I started my own blog and podcast (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Covering Arsenal Women with the occasional rant about the boys.
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