How Arsenal can catch Chelsea and Manchester City in race to be WSL’s finest | OneFootball

How Arsenal can catch Chelsea and Manchester City in race to be WSL’s finest | OneFootball

Icon: Hayters TV

Hayters TV

·21 April 2024

How Arsenal can catch Chelsea and Manchester City in race to be WSL’s finest

Article image:How Arsenal can catch Chelsea and Manchester City in race to be WSL’s finest

Arsenal managed to keep chase with Manchester City, but that was it and currently, that is all they can do as the WSL season nears a climax as exciting as the men’s Premier League this season.

City ran out 5-0 against West Ham at the weekend and do not seem to show any signs of slowing down. They sit top of the WSL, three points ahead of Chelsea albeit playing a game extra, and six ahead of the Gunners.

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Arsenal have lost only twice in the WSL since the turn of the year and they have guaranteed their place in the Champions League next season with the 3-0 win over Leicester City at the Emirates.

But Jonas Eidevall’s team still have not found the formula to break Chelsea’s dominance and now City’s charge in this campaign. With Chelsea still fighting in the Champions League, and Arsenal having to travel to the Academy Stadium in Manchester for the penultimate match of the season, the Gunners have a slim chance although it gets slimmer with each passing game.

Speaking after the victory over Leicester, Eidevall said: “When we look in the mirror we see a European club that should be pushing in Europe. It should be the requirement to qualify for Europe but that doesn’t give me a lot of attention at the moment.

“It doesn’t give me less incentive here and now going forward, we should be getting as many points as possible so it can see where it takes us in the league.”

In Arsenal’s fifth game at the Emirates this season, they showed why they have been competing in past years but, also displayed signs that imply they could manage to go one step further next campaign.

For large periods of the season, Eidevall has not been able to call upon his superstars, with ACL injuries being a horribly familiar foe.

Beth Mead, Leah Williamson and Vivianne Miedema have all been victims to the long-term injury and upon the return of the two England internationals, Arsenal have showcased a higher class.

Mead’s return was against Aston Villa, and she came off the bench to set up Alessia Russo’s 94th-minute winner that day, and against the Foxes, she scored a brace.

For her first, she started the move, before laying it off and then latching onto Caitlin Foord’s pass to loft a finish over Lize Kop.

It was her seventh league goal of the season and she added to her league tally 12 minutes from time, poking Russo’s deflected shot goalwards to seal the victory.

Mead didn’t take long to make an impact after recovering from the injury, and her captain has had a similar effect.

Williamson was forced to miss England’s World Cup campaign and the first half of Arsenal’s season but she returned to Arsenal’s backline in February and has already lifted the Conti Cup in March.

The central defender helps bring Eidevall’s fluid philosophy to life, and her freedom to move forward against the Foxes caused problems, midway through the first half she even found herself in a right-midfield position, nutmegging her opponent and hitting a dangerous cross in.

Miedema has had the toughest time recovering from her ACL, with the Dutchwoman missing the last six games due to a reoccurring problem from the injury that saw her miss 11 months of football.

Arsenal’s record top goal scorer made a brief return against Leicester and having sampled the impact of Mead and Williamson’s form since recovering, Eidevall will have a far more lethal team at his disposal next year. if Meidema battles off her injury worries.

For the Swedish coach, the return of those important players will be crucial and allow him to prioritise fluidity, something he is very keen to do as a coach.

Arsenal’s squad is littered with players who feel comfortable in a range of positions, with Steph Catley proving her ability to play either side of the Gunner’s defence provides exciting options for Eidevall.

He added: “There were pros and cons of Catley going on the right or left side, we just needed to be aware of them, but as you saw us playing today, we had fluidity and we were not set in only doing one thing.

“A lot of it is down to the decision-making of the players but one thing we need to consider is we need to attack with balance.

“We have to make sure we see how other players move and from there on react. I think we did that really well today.”

Russo was one of the players who has found herself playing in different positions this season, and throughout her 82-minute cameo against Leicester she played off Stina Blackstenius and then moved up front later on.

It was when she was in her more advanced position that she added Arsenal’s second, benefitting from great work from Catley to drill a shot past Kop.

Despite netting, she only worked in spells whilst playing as a 10 with the most notable moment being a backheel that set up a shooting chance for Victoria Pelova.

The English forward instantly added more threat up front, and moments before Mead’s second goal, Russo’s header was instinctively saved by Kop.

But as much as Eidevall can gain the fine margin to close the gap on the pitch, off the pitch Arsenal have one of the most unique advantages in the WSL.

The North London club have proved that they have one of the healthiest fanbase in the league, and despite the Emirates being relatively empty compared to previous games (42,820 against Leicester comaopred to 60,160 against United in February) the fans still have a hold on the way their team performs.

The only noise made from the crowd in the opening eight minutes was from the sole blow of a horn, but as soon as Manuela Zinsberger claimed a corner and sparked a counter-attack the crwod started to erupt.

No team can compete with Arsenal’s numbers when it comes to attracting crowds, and it has its effects on the players.

Eidevall said: “You can see the reception all our players get when they come on, it is great. We are so well supported, and it is such a great feeling and occasion.

“The players know that and they feel the love from the fans, and it is very nice to see.”

But as much as the players have been cheered on by the crowd, as Eidevall soon heads into his fourth season, it might be time to repay them with a closer WSL title fight.

The signs are looking good though.

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