by Andrew Crawshaw
After our agonising third place finish last season, one point behind Manchester City, hopes were high at the start of this season that second place and Champions League qualification would be an achievable objective this time round.
We had recruited well in summer with Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Tabea Kemme, Lia Walti, Viktoria Schnaderbeck joining the club. Pauline as an experienced goalkeeper to provive backup/competition to our established No1 Sari van Veenendaal, the others being seasoned internationals.
Our starting squad was:-
Goalkeepers – Sari van Veenendaal (Netherlands), Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (France)
Defenders – Emma Mitchell (Scotland), Leah Williamson (England), Louise Quinn (Republic of Ireland), Tabea Kemme (Germany), Jessica Samuelsson (Sweeden)
Midfielders – Danielle Van de Donk (Netherlsnds), Jordan Nobbs (England), Kim Little (Scotland), Lia Walti (Switzerland), Dominique Bloodworth (Netherlands), Viktoria Schnaderbeck (Austria), Ava Kuyken (England)
Forwards – Danielle Carter (England), Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands), Katie McCabe (Republic of Ireland), Lisa Evans (Scotland), Beth Mead (England)
A small squad, 18 senior players plus Ava Kuyken who was 17 and still at school but had outgrown U21 football.
Right from the start of the season we had the shadow of injuries hanging over us, Dani Carter had torn her ACL in the last game of last season and would play little part at all this season. In a pre season friendly she was joined by Viktoria Schnaderbeck also with a serious knee injury and Tabea Kemme was still recovering from a knee injury from before she signed. Effectively we started with 15 senior players.
Our League season was:
|9/9/18||Arsenal v Liverpool||5 – 0||3||6||Miedema hat-trick|
|19/9/18||Yeovil v Arsenal||0 – 7||3||9|
|23/9/18||Arsenal v West Ham||4 – 3||3||12||Van de Donk hat-trick|
|14/10/18||Chelsea v Arsenal||0 – 5||3||15||1|
|21/10/18||Arsenal v Reading||6 – 0||3||18||Miedema hat-trick|
|28/10/18||Bristol v Arsenal||0 – 4||3||21|
|4/11/18||Arsenal v Birmingham||3 – 1||3||24|
|18/11/18||Everton v Arsenal||0 – 4||3||27||2|
|25/11/18||Arsenal v Brighton||4 – 1||3||30||3|
|2/12/18||Man City v Arsenal||2 – 0||0||30||4|
|6/1/19||West Ham v Arsenal||2 – 4||3||33||5|
|13/1/19||Arsenal v Chelsea||1 – 2||0||33||6|
|27/1/19||Reading v Arsenal||0 – 3||3||36||7|
|20/2/19||Arsenal v Yeovil||3 – 0||3||39|
|14/3/19||Arsenal v Bristol||4 – 0||3||42||8 – Miedema hat-trick|
|24/3/19||Liverpool v Arsenal||1 – 5||3||45||9|
|31/3/19||Birmingham v Arsenal||0 – 1||3||48||10|
|21/4/19||Arsenal v Everton||2 – 1||3||51|
|28/4/19||Brighton v Arsenal||0 – 4||3||54||11|
|11/5/19||Arsenal v Man City||1 – 0||3||57||12|
This match was notable for several reasons – it was the first time Chelsea had lost at home in over two years, they were unbeaten in 2017/18 in winning the WSL and these were the first goals they had conceded in 2018/19. It was also notable for another reason as in Min62 Drew Spence made a terrible scissor challenge on Kim Little, it was late, from behind and broke Kim’s leg. The only surprise was from Mr Purkiss the referee who only brandished a yellow card a terrible decision.
Jordan Nobbs suffered an ACL Rupture late in this game and missed both the rest of the season and also the chance of representing England in the Summer 2019 World Cup in France. Assuming she is out for the full nine months she will probably miss the start of the 2019/20 season as well.
Our injury crisis was such that we had 10 fit senior outfield players and our subs bench contained goalie Pauline Peyraud-Magnin and three of our 17 year old youngsters Ava Kuyken, Ruby Grant and Paige Bailey-Gayle who all got a run out. Tabea Kemme (knee), Jessica Samuelsson (broken foot), Nobbs (ACL), Little (broken leg), Carter (ACL) and Schnaderbeck (knee) all being unavailable
For this match Emma Mitchell was not fit to start (but was named on the bench) and her place in the lineup was taken by Paige Bailey-Gayle. Ava Kuyken, Ruby Grant and Amelia Hazard (another 17 year old) were the other outfield players on the bench. Our severely understrength team couldn’t overturn City’s two goal advantage despite us being camped in the City half for most of the second half.
This game marked the first start for Jani Arnth a Danish defender brought in during the transfer window to provide much needed reinforcements. Both Bloodworth and Mitchell had undergone minor surgery over Christmas – Bloodworthh played the entirety of this match whilst Mitchell was not ready.
Our second defeat of the season and our second winter signing Katarine Veje, also Danish and a left winger/left, back made her debut of the subs bench late on in the game. We had just Four players on our subs bench, Sari van Veenendaal, Emma Mitchell (on for an injured Beth Mead in the second half) Ava Kuyken and Veje (on for Arnth in min 77)
Kim Little returned from her leg break, Beth Mead had recovered from her injury against Chelsea and Ava Kuyken got her first start for the club. We still only had two senior outfield players on the bench though.
Danielle Carter made her return from her ACL injury coming on as a substitute in the 85th minute and all but broke the crossbar with a thunderous shot from distance. Joe Montemurro jokingly said “ Thank God, we wouldn’t have heard the end of it”. Viktoria Schnaderbeck also featured on the bench for the first time in the season.
Jess Samuelsson had recovered sufficiently from her second broken foot of the year (both on International duty) to make the subs bench, she came on in the 74th minute. This was to be her last appearance for Arsenal as she had signed a contract with Sweedish side FC Rosengård. In truth her stay with Arsenal was something of a dissapointment, injuries preventing her from being at her best very often.
Tabea Kemme made a 90th minute appearance as a substitute (her only time on the pitch this season, she aggravated her knee injury and has since had surgery.
Another professional performance to win the league with one game to spare.
An 88th minute rocket of a goal by Emma Mitchell of all people cued the victory celebrations and ended Manchester City’s unbeaten domestic season.
Here is the final League table
* Yeovil went into administration late in the season and were docked 10 points as a result
In the two cup competitions we reached the final of the Continental Tyres Cup only to lose to Man City on penalties and lost 3 – 0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup, despite having the majority of possession we failed to take our chances whilst Chelsea played on the break and took theirs. Ultimately though these defeats weren’t to spoil our season as we rightly finished champions.
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