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FAWSL 2018/19 Arsenal Women Bristol City Women tactical analysis

How Arsenal Women’s attacking license helped them thrash Bristol City Women

Arsenal Women kept up with FAWSL leaders Manchester City Women with a 4-0 win over Bristol City Women on Thursday. Vivianne Miedema was on hand with a hat-trick with Katie McCabe adding the other goal. With her hat-trick, Miedema reclaimed her position as WSL top scorer. She’s now on 19 league goals and 27 in all competitions.

The win means Arsenal stay just two points behind City with two games in hand. Although they went on to score four, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Montemurro’s side. This tactical analysis will look at the patterns of the game and how Arsenal got the upper hand.

Bristol’s off-the-ball approach

In the reverse fixture, Arsenal controlled proceedings with 70% possession. Going into this game, it was clear that Bristol wanted to have more of the ball. Trying to achieve this early on, they opted to press Arsenal high every so often. In the early stages of the game, this worked and they were able to cause turnovers in the Arsenal half.

Arsenal Women Bristol City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Here we see the way Bristol are positioned makes Arsenal think twice about heading forward. Most of the spaces and players are covered. This forces McCabe to pass back but Bristol’s forward anticipates well and intercepts.
Arsenal Women Bristol City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
She knocks the ball off before running into the highlighted space for the return ball. Bristol are in.
Arsenal Women Bristol City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Bristol work the ball back across well but the shot at goal is tame. Peyraud-Magnin is able to catch it without much trouble.

This was a plan that Bristol employed at the start of both halves. Even though it was a good plan, it didn’t last. When Arsenal adapted to this, Bristol decided to drop back into a block. This allowed them to restrict areas for Arsenal’s creative midfielders, Kim Little and Danielle Van de Donk, to exploit.

Kim Little breaks Bristol down

But those spaces eventually opened up. As the half went on, Arsenal moved the ball around well and Little was at the centre of everything. Joe Montemurro continued to implement his 4-3-3 formation which sees Little and Van de Donk perform as the two number eights and it paid dividends.

Moving the Bristol defence around in the process, she was able to pick up dangerous pockets of space. Towards the end of the half, this led to her creating multiple chances. A big reason for this was the wingers’ and midfielders’ licence to get forward. This can be seen below.

Arsenal Women Bristol City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Here Bloodworth does well to win a 50/50 in midfield and put Arsenal on the attack. With this being a broken part of play, Bristol aren’t in their shape and Arsenal can capitalise.
Arsenal Women Bristol City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Little and Van de Donk storm forward from midfield. With that licence, the Bristol defence now has to deal well their threat as well as Miedema. This sees them hesitate in engaging Little, and allows her to dictate the move.
Arsenal Women Bristol City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
She is able to weigh her pass perfectly for Van de Donk to run onto.
Arsenal Women Bristol City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Van de Donk gets a shot off at goal but it is stopped on the line.

Little created numerous chances like this in the first half but none were capitalised on. Having not played together in a few weeks, that’s understandable. With the business end of the season fast approaching, the patterns that were seen week-in, week-out at the start of the campaign will be on show again soon.

Even with those chances not being taken, Little dominating took its toll. Arsenal went on to better their possession numbers from the reverse fixture with 71%.

Dominique Bloodworth takes advantage of flat-footed defence

Also like in the reverse fixture, most of Arsenal’s goals came in the second-half. They had to weather yet another strong Bristol storm to create those chances, however. The visitors made a great start after the break both off and on the ball. Winning the ball high upfield, they created two big chances but couldn’t convert.

After this pacey start, however, Bristol started to retreat when off the ball to save energy. In doing this, they became quite flatfooted in defence which worked in Arsenal’s favour. Noticing this from the base of the Arsenal midfield, Dominique Bloodworth took advantage.

She was able to pick up runners and push them beyond the Bristol defence and in on goal. This led to her picking up two assists, the most eye-catching landing at the feet of McCabe:

Earlier in the season, this role was played expertly by Lia Walti. However, with the Swiss joining the injury list a few weeks back, Bloodworth has performed well in that role. On the ball, she’s been calm and collected and off it, she’s been very alert when protecting the back line.

Arsenal’s returning cast

Thankfully for Arsenal, that injury list is getting shorter. For the first time in 10 months, Danielle Carter featured in the matchday squad and she almost blew the roof off the place with this effort late on.

Along with her, midfielder Viktoria Schnaderbeck was on the bench for the first time this season. Signed from Bayern Munich in the summer, she suffered a knee injury in pre-season which has sidelined her since.

But with her and Carter making more than welcome returns to the team, Joe Montemurro will be encouraged going into the final weeks of the season.


Overall, it was a very encouraging return to FAWSL action for Arsenal Women. They were tested despite what the scoreline suggests and were still able to come out as comfortable winners.

Montemurro’s 4-3-3 system is continuing to shine, and with players returning to the squad, it’s looking to be a great race for the title. In fact, Arsenal could go top of the league if they win their next match against Liverpool Women on the 24 March.

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