Arsenal Women convincingly beat 10-player Brighton 4-0 on the opening day of the WSL season. Arsenal extended their unbeaten run in the WSL to 13, with 9 straight wins dating back to last season. It was a performance of a team that is in-tune with their manager’s tactical demands, as Kim Little, Stina Blackstenius, and Beth Mead all scored.
In contrast to Arsenal, who have a fairly settled squad—even if it is perhaps one or two players light—Brighton are rebuilding their side, having lost 9 players over the summer and brought in 5. It is perhaps no surprise then that Arsenal, playing at home, were dominant from the first whistle. Indeed, Arsenal’s dominance made a difference after 7 minutes. Brighton, looking to play higher up, were caught out by Katie McCabe’s long pass for Stina Blackstenius. Bearing down on goal, Blackstenius was tripped up by her compatriot Emma Kullberg, who was given a straight red card.
Brighton immediately shifted into a deep block to try and prevent Arsenal from scoring. On 21 minutes, Vivianne Miedema slipped in Caitlin Foord, who took a touch away from the covering defender, but dragged her shot just wide. Brighton then offered their own threat, with a swift counter-attack ending with Elisabeth Terland shooting across Manu Zinsberger in goal, but fortunately for Arsenal, wide. Soon after, though, Arsenal took the lead. Foord beat Chelsea loanee Jorja Fox on the left, drove into the box, and picked out Kim Little, who took a touch and then fired past Megan Walsh.
Arsenal should’ve gone two up before the break. Miedema played in Foord who shot wide of Walsh’s near post, and then Miedema played in Blackstenius from a counter-pressing situation, only for Blackstenius to hit the bar. Before the end of the first half, Walsh palmed away a stinging shot from Lia Wälti.
Brighton reminded Arsenal of the precarity of their lead early in the second half, with Katie Robinson forcing Zinsberger into a save. But, just as in the first half, Arsenal responded to Brighton’s threat by scoring. Mead, collecting the ball from Leah Williamson, slipped in Blackstenius, whose shot flew past Walsh to make it 2-0.
On 63 minutes, it was three. Arsenal regained possession again through counter-pressing, and Little and Blackstenius played a neat one-two to set Miedema away down the inside right channel. Driving towards the goal line, Miedema cut the ball back for Mead, who finished first time.
Jordan Nobbs, on as a substitute, hit the bar, but Arsenal would score their fourth. Lina Hurtig, making her debut, held the ball up before setting up Frida Maanum for a shot. Walsh saved, but the rebound came to Mead, who chopped the ball onto her right, faking out Walsh, before scoring into the empty net to round off a comprehensive victory.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; Wienroither, Williamson (Wubben-Moy 83’), Rafaelle Souza, McCabe; Little, Wälti (Maanum 77’); Mead, Miedema (Nobbs 77’), Foord (Catley 64’); Blackstenius (Hurtig 64’)
Substitutes not used: Marckese, Beattie, Maritz, Iwabuchi
Goals: Little 28’, Blackstenius 50’, Mead 63’, 83’