Arsenal are back on top of the Women’s Super League after beating Bristol City 3-1, but they were made to work for the three points by the league’s bottom side. Ella Mastrantonio caught Leah Williamson in possession, and the ball fell to Abi Harrison. She took an early shot from 30 yards, and caught out Manuela Zinsberger for a shock goal.
Arsenal took a long time to get going: Leah Williamson, playing in midfield in front of the back 3, saw a lot of the ball, but the players further forward couldn’t make a telling contribution until Caitlin Foord’s cross on 42 minutes found Jordan Nobbs at the edge of the box, and the midfielder’s guided shot found the back of the net. The two reversed positions five minutes after half time, with Nobbs’ cross finding Foord’s outstretched leg. Vivianne Miedema sealed the points on 86 minutes, taking Beth Mead’s long ball into her path and then finishing with a little toe poke.
- Joe Montemurro only made two changes to his starting XI: Jen Beattie came in for Noëlle Maritz, and Lia Wälti replaced the injured Kim Little. But, nine of the eleven players remained from Thursday’s FA Cup defeat, and that contributed in part to Arsenal’s pedestrian start. When the Gunners tried to up the tempo, they couldn’t, in the final third, where Bristol flooded the penalty box, and surrounded Vivianne Miedema, and anyone else in the final third.
- Montemurro played a back three with Viki Schnaderbeck, a centre back, at right back. In last season’s win against Bristol, Schnaderbeck played as a left back, and allowed Leah Williamson to get high up the pitch. Here, Katie McCabe was at left back, and it looked like the plan was to build through the right, switch to the left, and then isolate Beth Mead wide on the right. With Arsenal trailing for most of the first half, that didn’t happen, and they, and Mead, missed the overlaps of Noëlle Maritz.
Beth Mead just told the bench 'it's like I'm invisible'. Not happy with the lack of service out to this right wing...— Jonny Singer (@Jonny_Singer) October 4, 2020
- Jordan Nobbs has scored in three straight games, picking up Jill Roord’s mantle. Nobbs took advantage of space created by Miedema, which opened up the top of the penalty box, and Caitlin Foord’s ball was very good. Nobbs is now starting to get back to the form that she was displaying before she ruptured her ACL in November 2018, which is promising for Arsenal.
- Arsenal’s play around the final third was inconsistent, though. In trying to break Bristol down, none of the short passes really worked, and they could never pull off quick combination play. All three goals came from more direct play: Foord crossing to Nobbs, Nobbs crossing to Foord, and Mead lifting the ball over the top. It’s that directness that Arsenal lacked against Manchester City, so on one hand it was good to see Arsenal go that route more quickly. On the other hand, the form of some in the midfield could be cause for concern.
- Arsenal were definitely suffering for a third game in a week. They play Chelsea in the Continental Cup on Wednesday, and while Chelsea only beat Birmingham 1-0, they had Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder on the bench. Arsenal, meanwhile, have seen Foord, Van de Donk, and Katie McCabe have played 270 minutes over the last week, and the latter two were both had games during the last international break. Some changes will be necessary against Chelsea, but there aren’t many that can be made further forward.
Arsenal (3-2-4-1): Zinsberger; Schnaderbeck, Beattie (Gut 75’), McCabe; Williamson (Maritz 75’), Wälti; Mead, Van de Donk, Nobbs (Wubben-Moy 88’), Foord; Miedema
Substitutes not used: Stenson, Maier, Gut
Goals: Nobbs 42’, Foord 50’, Miedema 86’; Harrison 6’