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