Substitute Emma Mitchell secured the win after replacing the departing Dominique Bloodworth late on. This ended Joe Montemurro’s first full season in charge of Arsenal. He has won two trophies and taken Arsenal to three cup finals since his appointment in November 2017.
In this clash between the two top FAWSL sides, both teams looked to attack which made for a good showing. Especially in the first half when the free-flowing nature of the game led to numerous chances.
Arsenal Women’s high press
Although Manchester City started the stronger side, Arsenal grew into the game quickly. One way they did this was with their work off the ball.
As has become a theme this season, Arsenal aimed to dominate their opponents both in and out of possession. They did this by pressing the ball high up the pitch which put City under immense pressure.
Leading this was Kim Little. Despite mostly being known as a more creative midfielder, the Arsenal captain played an important combative role on Saturday.
Her work, which was backed up by her teammates, helped Arsenal gain control of the first half and led to big chances being created.
The most impressive thing about this is that this pressing was constant throughout the first half. Even though the league had already been won and it was the final day of the season, it was clear how much beating City meant to the players.
After the game, manager Joe Montemurro spoke on that strategy.
“We play a high-intensity game and winning the ball high upfield is part of our style,” he said.
“City are a very good team and they’ll cut you open if it’s not done right. We were pretty successful with that in the first half and we should’ve scored a few but in the second half they got on top.”
Manchester City Women’s counter attacks
Despite the creation of those chances, Ellie Roebuck stood firm, making four great saves before the break.
Even though Arsenal were on the front foot, Nick Cushing’s Manchester City were still very positive when they were on the ball.
This along with Roebuck’s heroics keeping them in the game and ultimately gave them chances to open the scoring.
Like Arsenal, Manchester City put their attacks together incredibly quickly and most of their best attacks came on the counter.
Here’s how quickly they could break:
These breaks proved futile, however, as on her final game for Arsenal, Sari van Veenendaal was alert enough to keep City at bay.
She was quick off her line and made some good reactionary saves to keep the game interesting just like her counterpart, Roebuck.
Second half stalemate
Probably unhappy with the amount of chances Arsenal had in the first half, Cushing made a triple substitution at half time.
On came Georgia Stanway, Pauline Bremer and Megan Campbell. With Stanway slotting into a deeper midfield role and Campbell helping defensively on the left, this made City more solid.
Becoming more solid led to way less chances for both sides in the second half, however.
With more numbers in midfield, Arsenal found it difficult to play through the lines as they also did in the first half. This forced Arsenal to go wide to sustain attacks.
Arsenal Women find a way through
In the opening exchanges, it was a set piece that got Arsenal into the game and it was the play after a set piece which won them the game.
With the little space centrally, Arsenal began to attack the wide areas with Beth Mead and Katie McCabe. City dealt with this well but it this took Arsenal’s corner tally up to 10 and with a great chance to reach the City goal, this happened:
TAKE A BOW, @EMSMITCH3! 🚀
What’s better? The goal or the reaction? 🤣 pic.twitter.com/b58uMb6QB7
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) May 11, 2019
Arsenal’s win over City was the perfect way to end the season. They’ve been Arsenal’s closest challengers and were the first team to beat the Gunners this year and beat them in the Continental Cup final. Along with that, they had the chance to end the FAWSL unbeaten but Arsenal were able to pull through.
With the FAWSL season now over, Joe Montemurro and his Arsenal side can be immensely proud of their achievement, driving to their first league title in seven years with an unwavering style of play and many adversities injury-wise on the way. How they respond to this with Champions League football next season will be a great watch.
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