Arsenal defeated Chelsea in a five goal thriller at the Emirates to kick off the new Women’s Super League campaign. The Gunners had not beaten Chelsea in the league since October 2018, but a first half goal from Vivianne Miedema and a second half brace from Beth Mead saw Arsenal edge Chelsea by one goal.
Jonas Eidevall made two changes to the side that beat Slavia Praha on Tuesday, with Beth Mead coming in for Nikita Parris, and Lia Wälti starting in midfield, with Steph Catley dropping to the bench. This saw Katie McCabe drop to left back, but McCabe ran Chelsea ragged, especially in the first half. Last season, Emma Hayes consistently used a back four, but with long-standing issues at full back, Hayes switched to a 343. While that gave Chelsea an outlet to escape Arsenal’s pressing, it also presented Arsenal lots of space in the wide areas—to which they took full advantage.
McCabe led Arsenal in assists last season, and she set up the first goal, playing a perfectly weighted pass down the side of Chelsea’s defence into the path of Miedema. Miedema looked to be too far wide, but she cut back in, beat Jess Carter, and then fired into the near post, beating Ann-Katrin Berger to give Arsenal the lead.
After half an hour, Arsenal should’ve had a second. Manuela Zinsberger’s goal kick was nodded on by McCabe, who then crossed deep for Beth Mead. Mead’s cutback found an open Mana Iwabuchi, but the Japanese international blazed over from 10 yards. As Chelsea began to dictate play it felt as if Arsenal might regret not scoring the second—and they did, on the stroke of half time. Pernille Harder’s shot was deflected from a corner, and from the ensuing corner, Arsenal couldn’t clear. Chelsea worked the ball to an open Erin Cuthbert, who slotted past Zinsberger to level the scores.
Yet Arsenal responded, almost immediately. Miedema dropped deep and played Mead through, and her cross came back to Miedema, who mishit the shot with her left foot. Miedema’s playmaking and Mead’s runs, though, was a foreshadow of things to come.
On 49 minutes Miedema played Mead through again, this time down the middle. Mead, forced a little wide by Eriksson, lashed her left footed shot across Berger into the far side of the goal to put Arsenal ahead. 11 minutes later, Mead made it 3-1. Miedema was again involved, combining with Mana Iwabuchi down the right, with Iwabuchi then playing across to Mead. Mead, who looked offside, went around Berger and then passed into the empty net from a tight angle.
Chelsea, though, would respond. Arsenal had defensive difficulty dealing with the Chelsea wingbacks, and Cuthbert, playing at right wingback after attacking substitutions made by Hayes, crossed for Harder, who got across Wälti to head past Zinsberger to make it 3-2 on 64 minutes.
This set up a painful final half an hour for Arsenal, who lost Jennifer Beattie to injury, and had to rejig their back line. Leah Williamson went into midfield, and made some crucial blocks, though a loose ball fell to Fran Kirby in the area, who shot over the crossbar. Arsenal would hold Chelsea’s attack though, and when the final whistle went, Eidevall went to the ground in celebration.
Arsenal (4231): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Beattie (Boye 77’), McCabe (Catley 61’); Wälti (Wubben-Moy 84’), Little; Mead (Patten 83’), Maanum, Iwabuchi (Parris 61’); Miedema
Substitutes not used: Williams (GK), Cull (GK), Goldie
Goals: Miedema 14’, Mead 49’, 60’; Cuthbert 44’, Harder 64’
Yellow cards: McCabe