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What a start to the FAWSL season it’s been for Arsenal Women. Five games played, five games won, 27 goals scored and top of the league.

That impressive start continued on Sunday when Joe Montemurro’s side breezed past Reading Women in a 6-0 victory. However, in this tactical analysis, I’ll take you through the trends of the game that ensured Arsenal kept their 100% record intact.

4-4-2 Off The Ball

Reading were the team to kick the game off that this made something clear immediately. When out of possession, Arsenal were going to press them in a 4-4-2 shape.

With the primary formation a 4-3-3, the 4-4-2 was formed by wingers Katie McCabe and Beth Mead dropping off and Jordan Nobbs joining Vivianne Miedema as the first line of defence.

This style was used throughout the match but had a clear impact in the first-half which was played mostly in the Reading half as a result. Here’s an example of how turning to a 4-4-2 worked well for Arsenal on Sunday.

Arsenal Women Reading Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
As the ball is played to the goalkeeper, Miedema presses. This shuts the passing lane to the centre back closest to the ‘keeper who now has to second guess herself. The centre-back that played the pass drops to make an angle.
Arsenal Women Reading Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Miedema forces the ball to go back where it came from. However, this is the trigger for Nobbs to join her up top and press the centre-back receiving the ball.
Arsenal Women Reading Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Without much time on the ball, the centre-back has to play the ball long with less chance of keeping the ball. Mead then advances to put pressure on the ball and manages to see it out for an Arsenal throw in.

Why this was such an important aspect of Sunday’s game was that it kept Arsenal on the front foot throughout. Reading were able to fashion the odd attack but for the most part, the game was played with Arsenal in control.

With such good field position over the course of the game, Arsenal could put Reading under real pressure both on and off the ball.

Lia Walti

As aforementioned, when in possession, Arsenal usually set up in a 4-3-3. The most important part of this formation is the midfield three. Usually consisting of two more advanced midfielders and one holding.

That holding midfielder is Lia Walti whose role can help Arsenal immensely. At the base of midfield, she can dictate the way the game goes, especially if the opposition are chasing. This is exactly what we saw on Sunday as she continued to impress since arriving this summer.

Arsenal Women Reading Women FAWSL Tactical Analysis
Here, she’s receiving the ball under great pressure. But despite three players closing in on her, she has the awareness to spin out of the traffic and take them all out of the game.
Arsenal Women Reading Women Lia Walti FAWSL Tactical Analysis
This caused the midfielders behind the initial three to engage Walti who played the ball across to McCabe who had acres of space to run into.
Arsenal Women Reading Women Lia Walti FAWSL Tactical Analysis
The Reading defence hesitated in decision whether to engage her or drop off. This created space for Miedema to attack. McCabe plays her in for a shot and Danielle van de Donk put away the rebound. Unfortunately, Van de Donk was adjudged offside.

Here, we see how valuable Walti can be for Montemurro’s side. Taking the pressure off herself and putting it on the opposition almost instantly.

Since Montemurro came in as Arsenal Women’s manager almost a year ago, they have dominated games. It’s likely that’ll be the case for the foreseeable future too. With Walti in midfield, against frustrated teams, she could be a great player to pick them apart as they become more disorganised.


Another key aspect of Arsenal’s play this season has been their fluidity in attack. Players are able and more importantly, comfortable with rotating positions on the pitch when going forward. This allows them to be as unpredictable as possible and adapt to whatever the game needs in the moment.

Also key to Montemurro’s style of play is playing out from the back. We saw this in a goal which started from the defence and flowed all the way into the back of the net:

Arsenal Women Reading Women Lia Walti FAWSL Tactical Analysis
The move starts with Leah Williamson on the ball. She’s confident to step into midfield with the ball and pick a great pass into Nobbs, who was free further up the pitch.
Arsenal Women Reading Women Lia Walti FAWSL Tactical Analysis
A quick touch to set herself and Nobbs sprays the ball out wide to keep the move flowing well. The ball is to Beth Mead who began the game on the right wing and has begun to roam to overload the left wing.
Arsenal Women Reading Women Lia Walti FAWSL Tactical Analysis
The confidence Arsenal Women have at this moment is typified by Mead’s backheel to the overlapping McCabe.
Arsenal Women Reading Women Lia Walti FAWSL Tactical Analysis
To complete the move, McCabe plays an inch-perfect cross which is finished by Miedema on the volley.

Total football at its finest, the free-flowing football being played by Arsenal Women at this time is simply great to watch. From back to front, every player seems to be playing with unrivalled confidence.

That confidence will only bode well for Montemurro, who signed a contract extension last week, and everyone involved with the club going forward.

That fluidity in attack also resulted in yet another Miedema hat-trick, taking her into double figures in all competitions this season.


Arsenal Women have won five games by a minimum of a five-goal margin this season. This tells us is that these results are anything but flukes. Joe Montemurro has brought a clear identity to the way Arsenal Women play and they’re reaping the rewards weekly.

From the discipline and intensity off the ball to the flexibility in attack, everything is looking up. There are various aspects to Arsenal’s play that makes it clear that the work being done at the training ground is of top quality.

Standing top of the league with a game in hand after five games is massively encouraging, but as everyone always says, let’s hope we see this at the business end of the season.