Stop me if you’ve read this before: Arsenal Women lost a big game in the WSL. Arsenal’s abysmal run of form against the WSL’s top sides continued, with a 3-0 loss against Chelsea at Kingsmeadow. After a reasonably even first half, Chelsea upped the pressure and the quality in the second half, with a Pernille Harder brace, before Fran Kirby scored a counter-attacking third in the 90th minute.
Chelsea started the game at full throttle, winning a corner in the opening 15 seconds, and keeping the pressure on Arsenal. Arsenal tried to play through the Chelsea press but kept losing the ball in their own defensive third, with Emma Hayes repeatedly telling her team to “keep her in.” Yet, it was Arsenal who had the first good chance of the game: Van de Donk won possession in midfield, and Vivianne Miedema drove into the box, with Ann-Katrin Berger’s left foot blocking Miedema’s shot. At the other end, Fran Kirby forced an excellent save out of Lydia Williams, but after a ropey beginning, Arsenal were able to play higher up the pitch and keep Chelsea under pressure.
Chelsea, though, started the second half like they started the first, and this time they found the breakthrough. Again, Arsenal lost possession when they should’ve really tried to go long, and Harder picked up possession from about 25 yards and arrowed her shot into the corner of the goal. Moments later, Sam Kerr could’ve made it two, but hit the crossbar. Harder, though, would make it two, firing home past Williams after being left unmarked in Arsenal’s penalty box. Kirby would wrap it up on a swift counter attack in the 90th minute, but in truth, the game had long been over as a contest.
For Arsenal, their only hope of Champions League qualification is, realistically, reeling in Manchester United. If Manchester United lose to Manchester City on Friday, Arsenal, who played Manchester United next month, would be 6 points back of United with two games in hand. No matter what happens on Friday, Arsenal will have to win every one of their last 9 games of the season to finish in the top 3. Having won just two of their last eight, it seems a tall order—and should they fail to qualify for the Champions League, it can only be described as a huge underperformance, from the players, but increasingly from a coaching staff that seems unable to produce new ideas in the face of old problems.