Arsenal Women kept their 100% start to the FAWSL season in tact with a 4-3 victory over West Ham Women but it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Arsenal had to claw themselves back into the game twice before taking and stretching their tally to four goals with a hat trick from Danielle Van de Donk and a long-range effort from Kim Little.
Taking the lead twice, West Ham were deserving of this with the pressure applied on Arsenal in the first half.
West Ham Women’s Pressure
Although their opener came from a nice passing move, their second was more representative of how they set out.
Not giving Joe Montemurro’s side too much respect, they were constantly in the faces of the league leaders forcing errors and turnovers.
Here’s an example of the intensity of which they pressed Arsenal on the ball:
Set up to press like this, they were positioned well to pounce on a mistake from Arsenal goalkeeper, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, and put the ball in the back of the net through Kate Longhurst who scored a brace.
This style of play worked well for West Ham in the first half, however, they did seem to tire. If this is how they intend on going out in every game, it’ll be interesting how that sees them fare.
But if this is a tactic for when they face bigger teams in the league, it could become very effective over the course of the season.
Set Pieces, Arsenal Women’s Weapon Of Choice
Despite being put under such pressure, Arsenal were able to keep themselves in the game. As it was tough to create many chances from open play, their best chances came from set pieces.
Making the most of these set pieces, was Van de Donk with all three of her goals coming from corners.
Her goals were a clear result of work done on the training pitch with players knowing exactly what their roles were at corners.
Each time the ball would be aimed deep into the box for someone to knock back into the danger zone. With Van de Donk looking to be the player tasked with marking the goalkeeper, she was able to profit from this a stick the ball into from close range three times.
This should be encouraging going forward knowing how overlooked set pieces can be. Finishing just a point off the Champions League places last year, a bigger focus on them could make the difference this year.
Kim Little Making The Difference
However, to get those corners, Arsenal needed to impose themselves in the West Ham half, and the main force behind that happening was Kim Little.
With the team set up in a 4-3-3 for most of the game, Little began to venture forward a bit more in the second half. This is when she was able to lose markers and drift into spaces to effect the game as seen below:
This was a theme throughout the game and Little’s intelligence off the ball and ability on it ended up being the difference between the two sides as seen by her eventual winner:
— The FA Women's Super League (@FAWSL) September 23, 2018
It wasn’t the best game of football from an Arsenal perspective but it was a very important one. Montemurro’s side showed that they can stick it out when times are tough and come back to take all three points which is a big positive going forward.
Also on show were aspects of Arsenal’s game that can help them turn more games around like this in the future.
Finally, it was great to keep up that early form and make it three wins from three, staying top of the FAWSL with a goal difference ten greater than Birmingham City Women who are also on nine points.