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Arsenal Ladies – Reflections on the season

by Andrew Crawshaw

The 2016 Ladies season is really a tale of nearly but not quite.

In the three competitions we won one, came third in one and were knocked out in the semi final of the third.  For most Ladies Clubs this would have been regarded as a good season but not Arsenal – we also failed again to qualify for European competition next year.

The whole season had a stop-start feel to it, fixtures were very poorly spaced leading to teams having to play two games a week then go several weeks without a game at all.  The FA really seemed to mess this up.

Our Pre Season ended in February with a friendly against Byern Munich at the end of our time in Spain.  We won 3 – 1 with goals from Jordan Nobbs and a brace from Natalia who came on as a sub for Emma Mitchell.

The FA Cup was the first of the three competitions to start.  With this being a straight knock-out competition and Arsenal not entering until the Fifth Round (last 16) it meant that we only had a maximum of four games in this competition.  The total prize money for the competition was £240,000 with the eventual winners earning a princely sum of £25,000.  This compares with a total prize fund of £15.12m for the Men’s FA Cup with the eventual winners getting £1.8m for winning the final.  Nowhere near financial parity then.

Fifth Round – We started with an away game against Birmingham City on 20 March.  We expected a tough game and that was exactly what we got.  Former Gunner Freda Ayisi opened the scoring for Birmingham midway through the first half, Nobbs equalising with just 11 minutes remaining to send the game into extra time.  That failed to break the deadlock and the game went to penalties.  Fara Williams, Natalia, Kelly Smith, Danielle Carter and Jordan Nobbs all converted their spot kicks whilst Charlie Wellings hit the post for Birmingham giving Arsenal the victory.

Sixth Round – Arsenal v Notts County 3rd April.  A poor performance in the first half, steadily improved as the game progressed.  We started with a rare 4,4,2 setup which didn’t work too well.  They scored first against the run of play with a smart finish from Kelly Smith.  County scored from one of a number of set pieces that they had and really should have scored more.  They went into the interval 2-1 up following a tap in from a non cleared ball following a not given foul on keeper Van Veenendaal. 

Arsenal introduced both Carter and Losada at half time and we started to play much better.  The key decision of the match was a second yellow card for a foul by White.  In truth the referee was very inconsistent and many of his decisions were pretty random. 

In a further attacking move winger Katie McCabe was introduced as a wing back replacing Emma Mitchell.  It was she who provided the cross from which Natalia scored the equaliser.  For the second game in this competition extra time failed to break the deadlock and penalties were required.  Van Veenendaal rose to the occasion by saving three of the County spot kicks a tremendous feat of goalkeeping.

Semi Final – Arsenal v Sunderland 18 April

In contrast to the previous two rounds this was a much better performance from Arsenal. with manager Pedro Losa reverting to the usual 4, 3, 3 formation. 

Being Arsenal we managed to make life a little difficult for ourselves with Mitchell getting two early yellow cards for fouls on Mead.  Losada came off and Williamson came on at left back to replace Mitchell.  Arsenal scored the first goal before half time through Van de Donk following an assist by Janssen.  In the second half Arsenal were increasingly dominant and scored another goal before Sunderland were also reduced to ten players, Abbie Holmes dismissed for a last player foul.  Williams converted the resulting penalty and a deflated Sunderland then saw the flood gates open as Arsenal scored a further 4 goals to run out 7 – 0 winners.  Wembley and Chelsea awaited.

Final – Wembley 14 May 2016

Arsenal were certainly ‘up for this game’ and seeking revenge for the earlier defeat in the WSL.  They pressed Chelsea high up the pitch at all times and had speedy players on both wings in the shape of Oshoala on the right and Carter on the left. 

Carter scored the first  goal in the 18th minute with a fabulous shot into the top right hand corner from just inside the left hand side of the penalty area.  I was sitting in the stands immediately behind her and it was absolutely unstoppable.  It would have beaten the vast majority of PL goalkeepers let alone their female counterparts. 

Oshoala had a great chance to make it two but wrongly chose to cross the ball to no-one rather than shoot herself.  At the start of the second half we could easily have scored a further two or three goals but poor final choices and less than clinical finishing  meant that the final scoreline of one nil didn’t reflect our total dominance of the game.  Still a win is a win and we won the first trophy of the year.

The Womens Super League involved home and away games against the other 8 teams – here is the final table.

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

GD

Points

1

Manchester City

16

13

3

0

32

42

2

Chelsea

16

12

1

2

25

37

3

Arsenal

16

10

2

4

19

32

4

Birmingham City

16

7

6

3

5

27

5

Liverpool

16

7

4

5

4

25

6

Notts County

16

4

4

8

-10

16

7

Sunderland

16

2

4

10

-24

10

8

Reading

16

1

6

9

-11

9

9

Doncaster Rovers

16

1

0

15

-40

3

The first game was on March 23 and the last was on 6 November – seven and one half months for 16 games – not enough for players to retain match sharpness.

Here are our results on a game by game basis

Game

Date

Match

Result

Key Incidents

1

23/3/16

Arsenal v Reading

3 – 1

Goals from Janssen, Oshoala and Carter sealed a comfortable victory for Arsenal getting the season off to a good start

2

28/3/16

Manchester City v Arsenal

2 – 0

Jemma Rose was sent off for a trip in the first half despite City’s Houghton not being punished earlier for a similar offence.  City eventually made their numerical advantage tell with a goal from Ross and a late penalty which again was a soft decision

3

21/4/16

Arsenal v Chelsea

0 – 2

This was a disappointing performance with Arsenal second best in all areas.  Chelsea were the hungrier team and bullied Arsenal.

4

27/4/16

Reading Ladies v Arsenal

0 – 2

A welcome return to winning form with goals from Nobbs and Janssen.  Goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal made some great saves in the second half

5

01/05/16

Arsenal v Birmingham City

0 – 0

The first of two goalless draws against Birmingham who played an extremely physical game which knocked Arsenal out of their stride.  Birmingham perhaps lucky that the referee was in a lenient mood as I thought they could have had a couple of players sent off for persistent fouling.

6

25/6/16

Arsenal v Sunderland

5 – 1

One of the better performances of the season.  Unusual in that the first two goals were both Own Goals by the Sunderland Captain Bannon who was under tremendous pressure from a rampant Arsenal attack.  Natalia also got a first half brace and Janssen added a fifth late on.  Sunderland scored a consolation goal right  at the end of the game.

7

29/6/16

Birmingham City v Arsenal

0 – 0

Arsenal were the better of the two teams but failed to convert any of their chances in the second goalless draw against Birmingham.  That was a recurring theme throughout the season.  Many chances but not enough goals

8

10/7/16

Arsenal v Notts County

2 – 0

Goals from Van de Donk after 10 minutes and Nobbs, 10 minutes into the second half were enough to secure all three points.

9

17/7/16

Chelsea v Arsenal

1 – 2

Arsenal players scored all of the goals in this encounter, Scott with an own goal on 10 minutes before late strikes from Losada in th first half and Van de Donk in the second half earned the victory and revenge over the early season defeat

10

24/7/16

Sunderland v Arsenal

0 – 4

Two goals in each half crowned a dominant performance by Arsenal.  Losada and Nobbs in the first half and Carter and Williams in the second half.  Two penalties to Arsenal, the first was saved only for Losada to make no mistake with the rebound.  The second time around Williams made no mistake.

11

31/7/16

Arsenal v Liverpool

1 – 2

Another disappointing Arsenal performance at home.  More chances created and squandered and a tenacious Liverpool seizing victory 13 minutes from time.

12

28/8/16

Notts County v Arsenal

0 – 2

Another win against Notts County, the fourth in all competitions.  Few opportunities for either side in the first half but the came came to life in the second half.  Oshoala scoring two minutes from the restart.  Arsenal were then reduced to 10 players when goalkeeper Byrne fouled White outside her area with a half hour still to play.  After 10 minutes playing with 10 Arsenal’s Van de Donk scored directly from a corner to doubleArsenal’s advantage and we then closed out the game with little problem.

13

11/9/16

Arsenal v Man City

0 – 1

This was a tight match, little of note in the first half then a deflected free kick by City’s Houghton decided the match in the second half.  Arsenal dominated possession but failed to clearly threaten the City goal.

14

06/10/16

Doncaster Rovers v Arsenal

0 – 5

Too little too late against the bottom team in the league.  Carter opened the scoring early in the first half and then Rovers played much better than their league position suggested before a late flurry of goals in the second half (Natalia with a brace Carter with her second and Smith in the final minute) added a gloss to the Arsenal goal tally

15

30/10/16

Arsenal v Doncaster Rovers

2 – 0

The final home game of the season and an evenly matched contest in the first half. Arsenal clearly the better team but Doncaster being well organised and disciplined had little difficulty in repelling the Arsenal attacks.  England International Jody Taylor was introduced for her club debut in the 59th minute along with Oshaola and they immediately provided a far more threatening presence than McCabe and Kelly who they replaced.  Taylor scored both goals poaching in the six yard box following shots from other attackers which weren’t cleared.

16

06/11/16

Liverpool v Arsenal

3 – 5

Liverpool took the lead when a cross/shot evaded Van Veenendaal, a quick fire brace from Danny Carter in minutes 24 and 26 ensured a half time lead for the Gunners. Arsenal established a two goal lead through Nobbs before Sanden pulled it back to one goal  with half an hour to play.  Kelly added a fourth for Arsenal fifteen minutes later before a frenetic five minutes of added on time which saw a further goal for each team.  Oshoala for Arsenal and Weir for Liverpool

After a positive start back to back defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea left us in the position of not being able to afford to drop further points as we tried to catch up the two leaders.  With only 16 games to play there was no room for error. 

Unfortunately two goalless draws against Birmingham and a home losses to Liverpool and City (again) meant that a top two finish was out of reach.  Manchester City were unbeaten and deservedly champions and Chelsea ended second despite us sharing the WSL points with them.  A combination of poor finishing and players being sent off in critical games cost us dearly.

The Continental Cup

The third competition of the season was the Continental Cup which this year had a changed format moving from a group stage up to the last 8 to a straight knockout.  This competition has been something of an Arsenal Benefit as we had appeared in every final before the start of this year and had won it four years out of five so hopes were high as we entered at the last 16 stage.

Round of 16 – Arsenal v Reading.  We began our defence of the cup with an away tie against WSL2 team Reading on 2 July 2016.  The game was played as the second of a ‘double header’ following the Brentford v Chelsea game at the Hive.  Arsenal were dominant throughout the first half but were unable to make that count, Earps in the Reading goal making a number of fine saves.  At the start of the second half Losada made no mistake with a good finish from close range.  Four minutes later it was two as Williams made no mistake from the penalty spot after Van de Donk was tripped.  Fifteen minutes later it was three as Williams chipped the keeper having been found in space by Van de Donk.  Follis pulled one back for Reading but Arsenal held on to keep a hand on the trophy.

Quarter Final – Arsenal v Notts County 5 August 2016.  This game was also played at the Hive despite it being a home tie for Arsenal (I presume that our normal ground at Borehamwood was unavailable).  A good start from Arsenal with Casey Stoney heading home a Williams corner in the 9th minute.  Hobbs and Van de Donk both came close to extending our lead but it was County who equalised with a header from a free kick.  We went behind seven minutes into the second half when Clarke escaped her markers.  In search of the equaliser Arsenal attacked ferociously with both Williams and Nobbs hitting the bar.  Finally with seven minutes to go substitute Kelly Smith scored to set up a tense finish.  Laura Basset for County mistimed a challenge in the last minute and Williams made no mistake from the penalty spot.  A squeaky win at the death for Arsenal.

Semi Final – Man City v Arsenal 04 Sept 2016.  City had more possession in the first half but Arsenal the better chances, Oshoala and Danielle Van de done having good opportunities.  Van de Donk picked up a nasty head injury and was substituted at the end of a goalless first half.  This pattern continued through the second half with further opportunities for Stoney, Carter and Smith but the elusive goal failed to come.  Beatty tapped in from close range after a free kick had dropped in the penalty area, a sucker punch for Arsenal who really had done everything but score.  Our defence of our cup had come to an end.  City went on to complete a domestic double by beating Birmingham in the final.

In conclusion

  1. A season that promised much eventually delivered less than we would have hoped for.  We won the FA Cup which was the highlight of the season but failed to finish in the top two of the WSL which must have been a major target at the start of the season and were knocked out of the Continental cup at the semi-final stage.
  2. We had chances to win many of the games we drew or lost and have to rue our lack of clinical finishing.
  3. We have already seen the start of major squad rebuilding with our three Spanish players, Vicky Losada,Natalia and Marta Corredera  being released.  It has just been announced that Casey Stoney has also left the club following a four year stint.  England International Jody Taylor joined in summer but was only fit to play at the end of the season.  It is likely that further changes will happen before the spring series starts in the new year.  We also have a number of excellent prospects in our development squad who will be hoping for promotion to the first team.

COYLG

Tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Stadium reforms: away fan positioning to change and safe standing proposed

Referees – First quarter Report. This isn’t healthy.

10 reasons why England fail and will always fail in international football

Commons Committee questioning of Greg Clarke, Chairman, The Football Association,

Open letter to FIFA on Remembrance Day

Violence and corruption in Greek football, humanity and respect at Rochdale

Who spends the most, and who gets the most from player sales?

Reasons to be cheerful are slipping away like snow in spring

Referee Appointments and Results Matchweek #09 complete with video evidence

 

4 comments to Arsenal Ladies – Reflections on the season

  • Gord

    Thanks Andrew.

    It is too bad the Ladies didn’t do better than they did this season. But there is always “tomorrow”.

    I am surprised at how much churning of the roster the Ladies teams go through. Perhaps this is an indication of how little money i going into the Ladies game.

  • Norman14

    Andrew: Is Kelly Smith going to continue as a player?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Norman,

    That is a very good question and I have no definitive answer. My feeling is that if they stay with us next season then our starting forward line is likely to be Oshoala, Taylor and Carter. Kelly is unlikely to get many starts. She does have fantastic experience and is still capable of changing the course of a game but now is more likely to be used as an impact sub. Whether that role will be sufficient for her is the main question and she may opt for a move where her game time will be greater.

    If she decides to move into coaching then I would hope that Arsenal can find a suitable role for her.

    Most clubs are finding players who are fitter and faster than has been the case in past years and I have noticed a few of our senior players who have struggled for pace at times this last year, probably contributing to some of our red cards. I suspect that a number of them may be reaching the end of their Arsenal playing careers and I’m sure that we haven’t seen the end of players leaving.

  • Gord

    OT: More on young Joshua McCormack

    http://untold-arsenal.com/archives/57484#comment-895997

    Pretty soon, he will have more trophies than Owen and Lineker. 🙂

    Hoping a miracle visits him.

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