Arsenal Women are through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time in ten years after beating Bayern Munich 2-0 on Wednesday night, and 2-1 on aggregate. Frida Maanum and Stina Blackstenius’ first half goals were enough to see Arsenal overcome Bayern, who lost for the first time since the autumn. Here are three thoughts.
Arsenal pressure too much for Bayern
Arsenal’s goal came after periods of real intensive pressure. Before Maanum’s brilliant strike, Arsenal had been knocking on the door, with Bayern scrambling to clear the ball from the penalty box, and unable to get their attackers, especially Lea Schüller into the match. The second goal came after a series of three or four crosses—again, Bayern were unable to clear their lines, or get set defensively. Arsenal had more chances to add to their first half haul, as Bayern were left unsettled by Arsenal’s pressure. Georgia Stanway tried drifting to the left to allow Bayern’s full backs to push on, but to little avail.
Arsenal’s growth under Eidevall
There has been much conversation about who Arsenal have been missing this season, understandably so. Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead are world class players, and Arsenal did struggle after losing both. But Arsenal have been excellent since winning the Conti Cup, but were also excellent earlier in the season. This is a team that beat Lyon 5-1 at home, and played Bayern Munich off the park in the first leg. Last season, Arsenal looked overawed by the Champions League; more than that, though, was that Arsenal couldn’t handle the pressing that Barcelona and Wolfsburg utilized against them. This season, Arsenal have grown, and their structure has improved, meaning that the Gunners have, after some retooling, been able to withstand losing Mead, Miedema, and Kim Little in the first half today.
Scandis show the way
Arsenal’s progression, though, wouldn’t be possible without Frida Maanum and Stina Blackstenius. Maanum has been excellent all season, but after a dip in form, Blackstenius has come back to life in recent weeks. She was excellent tonight: not only did she score, but she played a role in Maanum’s opener, and ran Bayern’s two centre halves ragged in the first half, holding the ball up, and running the channels. It was much the same on Saturday against Tottenham, and this has perhaps been Blackstenius’ strongest performances since last season.
Maanum, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength. She is the perfect #10 for Eidevall’s system because of her play off the ball and power on it. When Vivianne Miedema returns, it’ll be intriguing to see if Miedema returns to the #10 position, or if she’s used more as a #9.
Arsenal (4231): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Rafaelle Souza, McCabe (Hurtig 89’); Little (Wubben-Moy 12’), Wälti; Pelova (Wienroither 77’), Maanum, Foord; Blackstenius (Beattie 89’)
Substitutes not used: Marckese, D’Angelo, Goldie, Kühl, Agyemang, Reid
Goals: Maanum 19’, Blackstenius 26’