The start of the new season 2016 has seen the biggest ever anticipation in british womens football history. And probably 2 of the most exciting sides have met here at the very start of the season. Arsenal with some noteworthy additions to the roster like Taylor, VandeDonk, Oshoala or Henning want at least to regain their starting place in the UEFA womens champions league and Man City certainly would like to go a step further than last seasons second place finish.
Headline : Great match
Compared to the Bundesliga match between 5th ranked SC Freiburg against leaders Bayern Munich on saturday and Frenchs 3rd ranked HSC Montpellier against 4th Juvisy on sunday this was a much more entertaining and enthusiastic piece of football. Ok., with the season having only a few matches left in Germany and France it was kind of understanding that they are actually not playing with the same excitement than at the very beginning but it seemed to be more than that.
You could argue that it was rather a little bit too ambitious how both teams attacked right from the off. A little bit more safety first and keeping the ball to settle into the game might have been desirable. But that is the kind of overexcitement you really like to see and the spectators certainly should have had no regrets having attended this match and will certainly come back next time for more womens football. And that great advertising has been the most important message of all.
Especially City started very bright. Rolling heavily into the Arsenal half leaving no time to catch a breath. But it was Arsenal on the counter who came the closest in these end to end opening minutes. Houghton brought down Oshoala just outside the box and Williams nailed the free kick against the woodwork. What a great shot. But soon after this there was the key moment of the game coming at the other end. Rose had been a little bit too overexcited and misjudged a long ball. New signing and scottish international Ross was there again to show how accurate these little mistakes are punished now in womens football. Taking the ball with her with the upper thigh and just using her little advantage to cut in in front of Rose so that the move resulted in bringing her down on a clear cut scoring opportunity – the red card was shown.
Unfortunately this also meant end of the game for Carter who was replaced by Williamson to restore the number of players in the back line of Arsenal. And after that it was even more City who looked the more likely to open their scoring account. Several dangerous moments could have led to the leading goal but again it was Oshoala on a counter who should have converted the biggest chance. After the back line underestimated her speed once again she could break through but waited too long in front of keper Bardsley so McManus could clear with a superb sliding tackling.
But after that the opportunities for Arsenal went down and in the second half when Oshoala was subbed out you never got the impression that Arsenal would impose a threat to the City goal. Often games 10 against 11 turn out to be not that much single sided but here it was. City used the situation to their full advantage and Arsenal did not invest enough in moving bodies forward so the ball never remained long enough in their possession to easing up the constant pressure from City in the way they would have wanted. Thus you felt that after the 1:0 by a superb header from Ross after a superb cross from Duggan the game already was decided. You never know though in football and you have seen stranger things happen. But the 2:0 by a penalty from Duggan finally finished the dreams of a comeback for Arsenal. And rather to have the penalty prevented from the ref who might have opted for a foul outside the box it should be noted that it would have been prevented much easier if the defender had done better and not given away such a cheap foul either outside nor inside the box.
But after that it was only a waiting for the final whistle of a great match at the beginning of the season that lived up to the expectations and increased the excitement for what lies ahead of us this season.
Arsenal started with a back line of 4: Mitchell – Rose – Stoney – Scott. Then Nobbs – Williams – Losada in the center. And Carter – Oshoala – van de Donk in front but only Oshoala remaining up front when City had the ball. They started with Bronze – Houghton – McManus – Stokes. Corboz in a deeper midfield role. Parris on the right wing and Duggan more on the left. Scott and Asllani in the middle – and mostly Rose up front. On the City home page it was announced as 4-2-3-1. Ok, there have been only 13 minutes against eleven but there was not much to see from Scott playing a holding position already. And there have been a lot of rotation in the front especially between Asllani and Duggan.
Soon everything was changed and adapted to the fact that we had a 10 against 11 match. And you also could see another case of how not to react. In the first half keeping Oshoala up front Arsenal still had the biggest chance to take the lead despite being already 10. After half time Arsenal subbed her out who of all players in the world (ok maybe besides Marta) you would want to have for a 10 against 11 situation. And thus invited City to increase pressure by being sure the big threat on the Arsenal counter attacks has been gone.
In many ways this match showed the beautiful diversity of a football match. However one aspect was a little bit unhappy. Despite all the great fooball it have still been the faults that wrote the story of the game. First it was the fault of Gemma Rose leading to the red card. Then it was the fault of Williamson that allowed City to open the score sheet. And it was the unnecessary penalty giveaway by Jansen. You might even say the fault of Oshoala not to score from a 99.9 percent opportunity was just as decisive.
Resume and Prospect
Early days should not seduce us to read too much in it yet. Remember how often things can change and how long a season is. But so far the three red hot favorites looked good and we will see if there will be a gap growing between the front runners and the rest of the field like in Germany or France. As is the case there we have quite a different budget between the “rich” and the “poor” and the smaller clubs might struggle to compensate that by finding enough quality players to challenge the full professional squads. Like abroad the number of international players not heading to one of the big clubs is steadily decreasing. But to keep the league interesting it certainly would help to find as many clubs investing as much as possible and see the “smaller” clubs steadily good enough to ask the top clubs for good preformances to be beaten(unlike in France)
However from the front runners of course with this win City made the biggest impression so far. And there are several hints that this might be not only be valid for this only a short time. Maybe there will be only one front runner and two to compete for the second spot? Or a clear order 1 – 2 – 3? The first thing was how well the “lesser known” names like McManus, Corboz and to a degree also Ross adapted and played a very good game. This was a very high level performance of all players and you might argue that players like Houghton and Asllani have been amongst the weakest on the day without having a bad day. And despite already setting up some excellent combinations you could see that the players in the offense still have room to improve in understanding each other and finding even better ways to coordinate their play.
Player of the match: Ross
There were lots of good performances on display. Jill Scott was involved in a lot of dangerous attacks in the first half – but a little bit less in the second. Corboz was very very convincing. A pleasant surprise to see her propel from a mainly as substitution used player last season to what could really be a key player in the league this season.
Not often but there when needed.
Usual solid performance
Two Still looked like missing the regular match period
Another positive surprise
Most active but not a lucky day again
Strong fight but please improve agility
Scott, J.: 7.5
Even better in the first half
One scene in 90 mins was not enough
Got more quiet in the second half
Needed a little to adapt her style to better opposition than usual
Decisive in the first two decisive moments.
Van Veenendaal: 8
That save was superb.
Scott, A.: 7
ok in defense.
Some big last second tackles
Superb positional play. -0.5 for the goal
Too agressive once again
Very much engagement
Got a little bit more quiet in 2nd half.
If she only could learn to take more initiative
Dangerous but not with a bang
Difficult to be alone but good given that fact
Unlucky afternoon for her
Every comment is very much appreciated !