Arsenal Women maintained their surge towards the FAWSL title with a 2-1 win over Everton Ladies on Sunday. The win means they now sit four points clear at the top of the league with two games remaining.

Joe Montemurro’s side took an early lead through Louise Quinn before Vivianne Miedema struck her 30th goal in all competitions this season. Arsenal made life harder for themselves in the second-half, however, which allowed Everton a route back into the game. This tactical analysis will look at what allowed Arsenal to flourish as well as where they could have improved.

Arsenal’s freedom down the left

This season, one of the biggest aspects of Arsenal’s attacking play has been fluidity and that continued on Sunday. Throughout the year, they have been comfortable using varying systems and against Everton they used a 4-2-3-1. This gave them a front four of Katie McCabe, Danielle van de Donk, Beth Mead and Miedema.

Of these players, all are able to play multiple positions across the frontline which helps the fluidity Arsenal’s attacks. Rotating constantly, Everton couldn’t pin down just one of them. This interchangeability created endless avenues on the left wing for Arsenal which resulted in both of their first-half goals.

Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Here, as soon as Quinn plays the ball out to Veje at left back, Van de Donk darts forward. The first thing to notice is how surprised the Everton midfield are.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Next, notice the position of Mead on the wing. This occupies Everton’s right-back which creates the space for Van de Donk to exploit, creating a seamless exit strategy which worked like clockwork.

That led to this corner:

This worked even when the combination of players changed. Later in the half, we see Van de Donk take the role of the orchestrator as Veje becomes the outlet.

Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Van de Donk is now Arsenal’s deepest midfielder. She turns out to the left where Veje and Mead are waiting.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Mead sparks the move into life by occupying the right-back. Rather than hold her width, this time, she jogs inside. This attracts the right-back and creates space on the outside for Veje.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Van de Donk waits for this to unfold before sliding a ball through for Veje.

These patterns were used constantly in the first half and caused havoc. Time and again, Arsenal were able to put through Everton down the left, a tactic that looks to have been perfected on the training ground.

Also key to Arsenal’s FAWSL title challenge has been their work off the ball. With the heat beating down on Sunday, they didn’t press with their usual intensity but when they did, it worked out.

Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Here, Kim Little and Beth Mead outnumber Everton to regain possession high upfield.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Little comes away with the ball and plays it into Miedema. Dropping into space, she spins the defender before freeing Mead down the left again.

Mead then played the return ball before Miedema did this to score her 21st FAWSL goal of the season:

Everton remain confident

Despite going two down early on, Everton weren’t ready to accept defeat. With Arsenal having 61% of possession, Everton’s approach became more direct. Looking to turn Arsenal’s backline, they aimed to get back into the game through set pieces. In Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah and Hannah Cain, they had willing runners to achieve this.

Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Here we see Everton have a bigger presence in midfield. This leaves Angharad James free on the centre circle. If you look at the top left, you can also see the height and width Cain is keeping.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
This means that she’s also an option for the ball in behind. This was one of Everton’s main strategies to get back into the game and led to seven corners.

Even though Siri Worm swung in several dangerous crosses, Arsenal were able to deal with that pressure. It was through Arsenal’s sloppiness how they got back into the game, however.

Leah Williamson knocked the ball back to Sari Van Veenendaal in the Arsenal goal who had a lapse in concentration and picked up the ball. With an indirect free-kick six yards out, Everton grabbed a goal that their effort deserved.

A tense finish

Everton’s goal led to an incredibly tense end to the game. They were more confident and looking to spoil the party as Arsenal hoped to see out the win. Not wanting to invite pressure onto themselves, Arsenal looked to play more of the game in Everton’s half.

To do this, rather than keeping the double pivot of Kim Little and Dominique Bloodworth, Little positioned herself further forward. Although she was successful in moving the game upfield for the most part, it was still a tough ask.

With something to play for, Everton tried to pack the midfield. This was so they could not only stop Arsenal attacks, but build their own. That plan worked in some areas but fell short in others and played into Little’s hands over time.

Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Again, Everton made their presence known, intercepting in midfield.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
They initially looked to break as their play created nice spaces but they decided to keep hold of the ball and build a patient attack.

This allowed Everton to have a good spell on the ball in midfield.

Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
They were then able to put together a perfect combination to progress down the right.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
But Cain wasn’t able to get her cross to a teammate and Arsenal cleared. With this happening, Little dropped away from the play, taking a more advanced position.
Arsenal Women Everton Ladies FAWSL Tactical Analysis
This saw her pick up the ball in acres of space. She was able to sprint forward before spraying the ball to Mead in the Everton half.

This helped Arsenal greatly as Everton looked like they could very possibly rescue a point. Under immense pressure in the closing stages, Arsenal’s defence did well to shut Everton out to secure the win, which may not have happened last season.

Conclusion

After last season, it seemed that Chelsea Women and Manchester City Women would be in a shoot-out for the title this year. However, Joe Montemurro and Arsenal Women have put together an incredible run to take pole position. Taking into consideration their squad size, the injuries they’ve picked up and the style of football they’ve brought to the league, it really has been an amazing season.

All that hard work could be made worth it this weekend when they face Brighton & Hove Albion Women at the AMEX on Sunday. Should they win, it’ll be their first FAWSL title since 2012 and Montemurro’s second trophy in as many years at Arsenal.


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