FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women tactical analysis
Artwork by @chapulana

Arsenal Women returned to the top of the FAWSL this weekend with a 5-1 victory over Liverpool Women. The win takes them a point above Manchester City Women with a game in hand.

As has been the case often for Arsenal Women this season, the supporting cast of Vivianne Miedema played a huge part in the victory. Miedema grabbed her 20th goal of the season as Kim Little, Beth Mead (two) and Dominique Bloodworth added the others.

This tactical analysis will look at how Arsenal Women were able to control proceedings against Liverpool Women and the trends that have made them such strong contenders for the FAWSL title.

Making inroads

As said earlier, despite Miedema leading the league’s scoring charts with 20 goals, Arsenal are much more than just her. Mostly using a 4-3-3 formation, they are able to design patterns of play to overwhelm defences. This was seen yet again on Sunday.

Liverpool started well and were able to restrict Arsenal’s flow but a familiar pattern involving Kim Little set Arsenal free. This came when she made inroads behind the Liverpool defence. Here’s how it worked.

FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
The first thing to make note of is the position taken by Arsenal’s striker Miedema (circled). That leaves Liverpool’s central defenders with no-one to mark. Beth Mead then comes in off the right wing for the cross. Little works her way around to the space between Liverpool’s right-back and centre-back.
FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
The run of Danielle van de Donk creates a massive space for Little to run into. Mead is found without a marker, making it easy for her to lay the ball in to the onrushing Little.
FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
Here we see a better view of the space Little had. Unfortunately for Arsenal, on this occasion, her shot goes just wide.

This pattern was performed again just before the 20 minute-mark and led to the opener.

In these sequences, it’s important to appreciate the role taken by Miedema. Although she isn’t the goalscorer, she has selflessly created the space for Little to exploit.

Being such a prolific goalscorer it could be easy to overlook other aspects of her game, but here she is showing that she is much more than just a goalscorer. That has helped Arsenal massively this season.

Dictating the tempo

Another key to Arsenal’s win was their ability to control the pace of the game. Finishing the game with 74% possession it’s clear to see that they were on top for most of the game.

However, it seemed too easy for them to keep the ball away from Liverpool on the day. Centre-backs Leah Williamson and Louise Quinn were hardly pressed for time or space which made their lives that much easier and always left Arsenal with an exit option.

This can be seen below.

FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
Liverpool initially put good pressure on the ball which forces Arsenal back. They are able to move the ball quickly away from danger to Quinn at centre-back.
FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
Quinn then plays the ball to Peyraud-Magnin in goal. But Liverpool have stopped chasing the ball, leaving just their striker to try and plug holes. That doesn’t work and Peyraud-Magnin easily finds Williamson.
FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
With the Liverpool midfield sitting deep, Williamson has the time and space to spread the ball out to Katerine Veje. Arsenal’s left-back is also in great space, allowing her time to set up an attack comfortably.

At times Liverpool tried to apply more pressure but just couldn’t get close enough to Arsenal to make a difference.

Staying on the front foot

This allowed Arsenal to stay on the front foot throughout the game. One way this worked out well was that it opened up spaces for Williamson to roam into from centre-back.

Calm in possession, Williamson has proven to be a great ball playing centre-back. Having already played over 100 games for Arsenal Women at 21 years of age, that confidence and experience comes across when she steps forward.

This was the case even more in the second-half when Liverpool continued to drop back. Spaces then opened up and she was able to take advantage. Similar to the opening goal, her stepping forward was a pattern that ended up paying dividends. We’ll see how below.

FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
Here we can see Liverpool’s defence retreat from the ball. This allows Williamson to advance forward without trouble. Being so narrow also gives Lisa Evans freedom on the right wing.
FAWSL 2018/19 Liverpool Women Arsenal Women Tactical Analysis
Williamson sees this but waits until Liverpool’s widest player bites to play the pass in behind. Great timing and vision sees her play the ball straight into Evans’ path.

In this scenario, a goal wasn’t the end product. However, a few moments later, a similar passage of play occurred which resulted in a goal.

This time Beth Mead was on the receiving end of the pass. She has been in great form recently and despite this being her first season playing out wide, she’s top of the FAWSL assists chart with 10. She’s shown that she still has an eye for goal, however.

Summary

These themes of play are very much why Joe Montemurro was brought in as Arsenal Women head coach. The style of play has been clear throughout this season and hasn’t wavered one bit. This along with the significant amount of injuries the side have mounted up makes their current title challenge an incredible one.

Now they are in the driver’s seat, it’s sure to be an enticing race right to the final day of the season when they play Manchester City Women at home.


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