Arsenal Women made it 3 wins in a week, as the Gunners beat Reading 4-0. A Kim Little penalty got the Gunners started, before Frida Maanum scored to close out the first half. An own goal put Arsenal 3-0 up shortly in the second half, and then Leah Williamson scored to make it 4-0. The result leaves Arsenal in 4th, three points behind Manchester City in third and Manchester United in second, with a game in hand on both. Here are three talking points.
On the men’s side, Arsenal have been known for their fast starts this season. This has been less true with the women, but was so here today. Katie McCabe won a penalty with Arsenal’s first real attack of the game. In the second half, any Reading recovery was seen to by the own goal, caused by Frida Maanum.
Fast starts beget confidence; they also make it hard for a side like Reading, who lost to Chelsea and Manchester United by one goal, to settle. Arsenal have had a good record against Reading in part because they usually stop Reading from being able to get into a deep block of two banks of four.
Frida Maanum started as Arsenal’s #9 on Sunday, with Stina Blackstenius rested. Caitlin Foord, another possibility at the centre forward position, played out wide on the right, with Katie McCabe at left wing and Leah Williamson in central midfield. Among the attacking players, though, there was a lot of rotation. In winning the penalty, McCabe was driving from an inside-right position. Leah Williamson at times played further forward than Kim Little, Arsenal’s nominal #10, and with Maanum not a fixed #9, there was plenty of rotation. The upshot was an Arsenal side that could employ rotations in the wide spaces before looking for the quick cutback—the move that saw Arsenal score their second. Having struggled for attacking fluency for much of the last three months, adding another bow to the attack will serve the Gunners well in the crucial next few weeks, with a Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, and league matches against Tottenham and Manchester City.
What a difference a week makes. A little over a week ago, Arsenal were staring down the barrel of a trophyless season, with the Gunners very much the underdogs against Chelsea in the Conti Cup final. A week later, and not only have Arsenal won the first domestic trophy of the season, but Arsenal have gotten some of their verve back. It may be too late to win the league, with Chelsea five points ahead and the two teams only meeting one more time this season, but it puts Arsenal in good stead to salvage the rest of their campaign, a campaign that was derailed after losing Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead to injury. In part, what Arsenal needed were some confidence boosting wins, all of which culminated in Sunday’s win against Reading. A week ago, there were serious questions being asked of Arsenal’s attack; a week later, and 9 goals later, Arsenal look as if they have found some of the solutions posed, but also, look a far more confident attacking force, with energy and movement.