Continental Cup Final 2018/19 Arsenal Women Manchester City Women Tactical Analysis Statistics
Artwork by @chapulana

Manchester City Women won a tight Continental Cup final against Arsenal Women on Saturday. A tight game throughout, penalties were needed to separate the sides. City avenged their 1-0 Continental Cup Final defeat to Arsenal last season. As for Arsenal, their hopes of a domestic double were ended. This was after their treble hopes were dashed against Chelsea Women the previous weekend.

A big reason for Arsenal’s cup exits have been the injuries they have had mounting up. This has left Joe Montemurro with a much-depleted squad to pick from in recent weeks. This was the case again as star striker Vivianne Miedema, who has 25 goals this season, started the game on the bench. This tactical analysis will examine how the game unfolded and why it was such a tight affair.

Both sides close off spaces

Sitting first and second in the FAWSL, City and Arsenal have been top quality this season. As well as on the ball, they’ve shown quality off it and that was evident again on Saturday. Not wanting to give chances away cheaply, both sides began the game trying to lock any doors that could have been opened.

For Arsenal, they continued to execute this in a way they’ve done all season. In possession, they usually use a 4-3-3 but that usually changes to a 4-4-2 out of possession. Below we can see how that came about early in the game.

Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
As Man City cross the halfway line, this triggers the Arsenal press. Van de Donk joins Mead in the first line of defence.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
This forces City to move the ball away from the central area. Bloodworth also moves up to make it a midfield four.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
This cuts off Houghton’s most convenient passing lanes making her try to hit Parris from deep.

Arsenal also did well early on pressing higher upfield. It resulted in some turnovers but this is how they developed as the half went on. City had a similar plan which also worked to good effect.

Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
Arsenal looked to play short from goal kicks often. Knowing this, City targeted Arsenal’s full-backs at goal kicks like above.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
This allowed them to be on the front foot to cause turnovers.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
Nikita Parris chases the lost cause which stops Arsenal from building attacks.

Man City grow into the game

With space hard to come by, City adapted late in the first half. Looking to take advantage of field position, their attack became much more direct than usual. Although this approach got them closer to Arsenal’s goal, Montemurro’s side kept them at bay.

Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
Similar to earlier, City tried to get Parris in behind the defence, this time behind the full-back.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
However, still being a risky pass, Leah Williamson was able to handle the challenge well.

In the second-half, however, City were able to create better chances. In open play, Nikita Parris and Georgia Stanway were able to get closer together. This gave City an easier out ball and chance to counter Arsenal.

Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
As Arsenal press high, Stanway and Parris drop in to give an outlet. Close to each other, Stanway is able to move the ball onto Parris with one touch to keep the move going.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
Breaking at pace, Parris is then brought down by Bloodworth who was left with little support. Not only this but if Parris had made it through, there were spaces that could have been exposed.

When City had free kicks, Caroline Weir was also impressive with her delivery.

Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
The front two City players distract the front two Arsenal markers, while Parris slips in behind.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
She manages to get the ball past Van Veenendaal but hits the crossbar.

Arsenal’s struggles

Unfortunately for Arsenal, they spent most of the second half hanging on rather than setting the tone. The reason for this was because after soaking up pressure, they couldn’t break in numbers. Since they were a bit too deep, players couldn’t get close enough to each other upfield which saw attacks break down.

Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
Kim Little did well retaining possession for Arsenal throughout the game. Here, the ball comes into her and she spins off her marker with ease.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
Veje was a big threat for Arsenal down the left and gave Little that option constantly. But with McCabe moving inside, Veje didn’t have much support.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
This leads to the move coming to an end as Veje simply has no options and runs out of steam.

The was something that happened too often. Arsenal were able to get into these areas but without many supporting bodies, they couldn’t sustain meaningful possession which saw attacks break down.

As the game went on, this meant that Beth Mead began to drift wide to collect the ball often. With her starting as the central striker, that then left nobody in the middle for Arsenal.

Miedema enters

When Miedema came on, she added a link between Arsenal’s midfield and attack. Despite this, not many chances were created as the team seemed to have tired massively by the time she was on the pitch.

Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
When Miedema came on, she dropped away from the City defence. Here that gives Williamson a target to hit as Van de Donk makes the forward run. Miedema knocks the ball into her path.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
The City defenders couldn’t follow Miedema which left a gap for her to run into. Van de Donk plays the ball into the highlighted space for her to run onto.
Manchester City Women Arsenal Women Continental Cup Final Tactical Analysis Statistics
Still without much time, Miedema has to shoot first time. She comes close but her shot flies just wide.

If this combination had more time to grow, it may have been sharper and made a difference near the end of the game. Other than that, she also had to drift wide to keep possession throughout extra time also.

Summary

With all that said, Arsenal’s defence and Sari van Veenendaal in goal did extremely well to take the game to penalties. Keeping City goalless is no mean feat and kept Arsenal in the game right until the last kick.

Now, all focus turns to the FAWSL. Arsenal currently stand two points behind leaders City with two games in hand; a very good position to be in at this stage of the season. A few weeks before their next fixture vs Bristol City Women will also be incredibly welcome to give the side time to refresh.

That time will be filled by the She Believes Cup where England face Brazil, Japan and USA. Another encouraging sign for Arsenal is they’ll have just two players involved while City will have 10. Either way, it’ll be an exciting title race when everyone is back.


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