by Andrew Crawshaw
First here is a brief summary of the 2020/21 season to give us a baseline against which to measure our 2021/22 season
The 2020-21 season finished with Arsenal in third place, one point better than Manchester United who were fourth and nine points behind Chelsea who were champions
So we squeaked into the third Champions League place.
In the Continental Tyres Cup we were disappointing and failed to qualify from the group stage where we lost against Chelsea, won on penalties against Tottenham and beat London City Lionesses. Chelsea won all three of their games and processed.
The 2019-20 FA Cup was completed behind closed doors with us being beaten in the semi-final by Manchester City.
The 2020/21 FA Cup was played up till the quarter-final stage, the remaining games were carried over to the 2021/22 season with us still in the competition.
In my opinion the main objectives for the 2021/22 season were:-
- Improve on the league position, particularly against the other likely title challengers, Chelsea, Man City and Man United
- Progress in the Champions League to at least the knockout quarter final stage
- Win at least one of the three domestic cup competitions being concluded in the season.
How did we do?
In the WSL we were far closer to Chelsea who won the title for a third straight season, finishing one point behind them.
So on this measure a definite improvement, we won two more matches, lost 3 fewer but had 4 draws as opposed to three. Most notable was the improvement in our results against the other three teams in the top four where this season we had three wins and three draws as opposed to a single win and draw in the previous year
|Chelsea||1 – 1||3 – 0||3 – 2||0 – 0|
|Manchester City||1 – 2||2 – 1||5 – 0||1 – 1|
|Manchester United||2 – 0||1 – 0||1 – 1||0 – 2|
The delayed 2021/22 FA Cup
We were comfortable against Tottenham in the quarter final winning 5 – 1 and beat Brighton in the semi-final 3 – 0 to reach the final in December against Chelsea. Alas that was as good as it got for us as we never really turned up losing 3 – 0. The game was played when Leah Williamson was not available through injury and was one of our worst performances of the season. Nevertheless we made it to the final rather than the semi-final.
Continental Tyres Cup (League Cup)
We entered in the knockout quarter final stage (as we were involved if the Champions League group matches). Unfortunately we lost to Manchester Untied by a single goal at Borehamwood to a late Alessia Russo header in the 84th minute. Another disappointing performance.
2021/22 FA Cup
We had expected wins against second tier teams London City Lionesses, Liverpool and Coventry to reach the semi-final when we came up against Chelsea looking for a degree of revenge for the defeat at Wembley.
This time we put in a better first half performance and were probably unlucky not to be ahead at the break, alas our finishing was not at the required clinical level and in the second half we were made to rue our missed chances as Chelsea were the better team and goals from Reiten and Ji So-Yun gave Chelsea another Chelsea cup final and Arsenal fans more heartache.
We started our involvement in this competition in the preliminary qualification rounds on 18 August against the Kazakhstani team FC Okzheptes in Moscow. We put in a dominant performance with early goals from Iwabuchi and a penalty from Kim Little leaving no doubt as to who the winners would be. Second half goals from Beth Mead and Nikita Paris put the gloss on our 4 – 0 win.
Our next game was against PSV four days later, still in Moscow. We were still in dominant mood and won 3 – 1 with goals from Miedema, and two from Iwabuchi. The PSV goal came on the break and against the run of play with Esme Brughts poking the ball past Zinsberger.
This took us to round 2 with a home and away tie against Slavia Prague. The home leg on 30 August was marked be a very brisk start and an Arsenal goal within the first two minutes with Nikita Parris heading home a Catley cross. Kim Little maintained her penalty record after Caitlin Foord was fouled in the box and Miedema added to her goal tally with her 96th for the club to finish a 3 – 0 win.
All these CL games took place before the WSL season opener against Chelsea and certainly helped our preparations for our League challenge.
The away leg on 9 September was even more emphatic. Miedema got her 100th club goal in a record breaking 110 games. The first half was quiet but we sprang into life after the interval. Mead laid the ball on a plate for Miedema, then Anna Patten provided the pass for her second and she then got her hat trick in the most impudent manner leaving two defenders and the goalkeeper on the ground before passing the ball into the net. !00 goals in 97 starts and none from the penalty spot – some record. Our penalty expert is, of course, captain Kim Little and she got another one after Nikits Parris was fouled in the area. 4 – 0 on the night and 7 – 0 in aggregate and onto the group stage.
The group stage saw us paired with competition favourites Barcelons, German side Hoffenheim and the minnows of the group Danish side Koge. Here is a table of the results (Arsenal scores in red).
|Barcelona||0 – 4||4 – 1|
|Hoffenheim||4 – 0||4 – 1|
|Koge||3 – 0||1 – 5|
In the end we squeaked through in second place behind group winner Barcelona. Our single goal in the away leg in Hoffenheim being enough. Barcelona won all of their games and minnows Koge lost all theirs. So we qualified for the quarter final.
Quarter final v Wolfsburg (who were in their 10th consecutive CL quarter final)
Home leg at the Emirates 1 – 1 We rode our luck at times in this match, we had the best of early chances but went behind to a header from Tabea Wassmuth. The visitors also hit the woodwork twice, we had the ball in the net but were denied by an offside flag. In the dying moments of the game a Tobin Heath free kick was controlled in the box by Lotte Wubben-Moy who showed the instinct of a striker in finding the net.
Away leg 2 – 0 to Wolfsburg
The start was delayed by five minutes or so whilst ground staff did the best to remove confetti that was used in the pre-match buildup. Unfortunately after the match started there was a further delay due to a head injury to Frida Maanum. We were sloppy in the opening exchanges as former Gunner Jill Roord fired in from close range when we failed to clear our lines. The second goal was an own goal by Leah Williamson when she deflected a cross from Jonsdottir. We came close, hitting the crossbar twice in one attack and were denied a penalty following what looked like a foul by the goalkeeper on Nikita Parris. In the end a disappointing end to our European campaign.
- We were better in the WSL, particularly against the other top teams
- Our FA Cup campaigns were ultimately failures with two defeats to Chelsea who still remain something of a nemesis for us.
- Our League Cup campaign was not what we hoped for with a quarter final defeat to Manchester United in the only game we played in the competition
- We reached the quarter final of the Champions League which was the minimum I think we would have settled for at the start of the campaign
- Ultimately though we won nothing and that must rate the season as very disappointing.
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