Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis

Despite Birmingham City Women proving to be a tough test, Arsenal Women continued their 100% start to the FAWSL season with a 3-1 win.

Coming into the game in 3rd place, Birmingham were confident which showed from the off.

In this tactical analysis, I’ll show how Birmingham have been Arsenal’s biggest test this season. I’ll also show how Arsenal overcame this after going in 0-0 at half-time.

Firstly, however, here is how Birmingham imposed themselves on the game:

Birmingham’s Confidence

The teams began the game at very different paces with Birmingham on the front foot for most of the first-half.

This could be seen through the visitors’ confidence and ability to play how they wanted to play under pressure. This saw them be quite patient in possession and look for spaces to open up further down the pitch.

Here’s a passage of play that shows just how confident they were going into the game:

Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Arsenal look to be in a good position to begin a press as Miedema does. This sees Berger play the ball out wide where McCabe tries to close her into the corner.
Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Jordan Nobbs also goes to press, but Birmingham have (and did for large parts of the game) had a player free to escape the press. Danielle van de Donk then engages the player on the ball.
Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
However, van de Donk leaves space in midfield for Birmingham to advance into.

With Birmingham being the more pro-active of the sides in the first-half which saw them take control. What this also showed was that Birmingham were ready to play at a great intensity whereas Arsenal quite reactionary in the first-half.

Birmingham Forcing Arsenal Out Of Central Areas

The Blues also deserve credit for how they played out of possession in the first-half.

So far this season, Arsenal have been able to cut through teams at will. This has mostly come with them bursting through central areas, but Marc Skinner’s side did well to limit them to the wide areas.

Here’s how they did that:

Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
As van de Donk receives the ball it seems she has time to turn and play forward.
Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
However, as Birmingham close off the central areas of the pitch quickly, she is forced to go wide.
Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Arsenal advance down the right but when the ball is played back inside, Birmingham are able to outnumber them again.

This structure saw Arsenal struggle to attack at pace throughout the first-half. Instead, Arsenal second-guessed themselves quite often before going forward which played into Birmingham’s hands.

Controlling the game on both sides of the ball, Birmingham deserved to go into the break with their clean sheet.

However, a very different Arsenal emerged in the second-half.

A More Intense Second-Half

From the start of the second-half, Arsenal’s attacking intent was clear for everyone to see. They were much more urgent and the player who looked brightest going forward was Nobbs. Her run off the ball minutes after kick-off showed that she was in the hunt for goal:

Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis

What also helped Arsenal when going forward was Vivianne Miedema becoming more involved in the build-up play. In the second-half, she dropped deeper to get onto the ball more often and as the focal point, this helped those around her massively.

Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
As Miedema drops in, she attracts the attention of the Birmingham midfielders. They then become lopsided, leaving Arsenal’s midfielders in great space.
Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Nobbs is able to advance with relative ease and play the ball to Beth Mead on the left. With Arsenal now attacking at pace, the Birmingham defence are forced to retreat.
Arsenal Women 3-1 Birmingham City Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
With the Birmingham defence so deep, Nobbs is left in acres of space inside the box. Unfortunately her shot goes straight at Berger.

Thankfully for Joe Montemurro’s side, the intensity in which they started the second-half led to their goals.

Their pressing was sharper in the second-half as seen in Nobbs’ opener which allowed Arsenal to settle in the game:

Summary

Overall, Arsenal Women didn’t have it all their way during the game. Birmingham City Women played well and were unlucky to see their hard work slip away but Arsenal answered yet another question in as they stay top of the FAWSL.

What is probably most encouraging about the result was the way in which, Arsenal were able to stay in the game even when they weren’t on top. They were then able to identify where they were going wrong and fix it.

Making it seven wins from seven, the international break may be coming at the wrong time for Arsenal. But sitting three points clear with a game in hand, it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down any time soon.