Arsenal Women 2021-22 Season Review: Part 2 WSL Match by Match highs and lows

by Andrew Crawshaw

In this article, I have used red to show the matches I consider to be season highlights and blue for the lows.

Our League Season started with a daunting series of games with home ties against Chelsea and Manchester City in the first three games.

Arsenal 3 v Chelsea 2 – 5 Sept at the Emirates

Whilst this was Chelsea’s first competitive game of the season, we were already in full swing after our initial Champions League games. 

Pre-match our coach Jonas Eidevall said he wanted to see intensity and aggression from the start (factors so often missing in our games against Chelsea in recent years when we have all too often been overwhelmed by Chelsea’s aggression). 

For once we didn’t disappoint and put in a great performance from the first whistle and it was Chelsea who were shell shocked by Arsenal who were roared on by a sizeable and very enthusiastic Emirates crowd.

Our opening goal was created by Katie McCabe with an exquisite through ball for Vivianne Miedema who lost her marker in the penalty area and beat Berger at the near post.  The crowd went wild. 

It should have been more before halftime, Frida Maanum had an effort well saved by Berger and Mana Iwabuchi firing over from close range when she really should have done better.  Chelsea made us pay for those misses just before halftime when Cuthbert equalised. 

The second half was really the Beth Mead show, she had been a thorn in Chelsea’s side throughout the first half but raised her game to another level after the break.  First, she latched onto a wonderful through ball from Miedema and scored a delightful curler into the top right corner from the edge of the area.  She then got a second (albeit with a hint of offside) when she received the ball on the right-hand side, rounded Berger, dummying past the last defender and passing the ball into the empty net.  Chelsea pulled one back through a header from Harder but our defence was then resolute and we saw out a magnificent 3 – 2 win.

Reading 0 v Arsenal 4 – 12 September

A header by Jen Beattie from a Katie McCabe corner, A left-foot shot from Beth Mead, a Miedema goal from a great team move involving Leah Williamson and Beth Mead saw us three-nil up at halftime and in full control with the scoring completed by Miedema with a rare header from a Beth Mead cross saw us with a perfect 2 from 2 start to the season.

Arsenal 5 v Man City 0 – 26 September

Man City looked a shadow of their usual selves in their previous match with a number of major players missing through injury.  We played with an unusual, for us, gameplay, of allowing City to have the majority of possession but playing a quick counter-attacking game with numbers which certainly worked on the day. 

The first goal came from a City defensive error with an underhit back pass being pounced on by Beth Mead who crossed for Vivianne Miedema who made no mistake with her finish.  Viv then turned provider with a lovely pass into the path of captain Kim Little who jinked past two defenders before scoring in the top corner.  We continued to add to our score through the second half, Katie McCabe got her first of the season after picking up a long ball, then Kim first won a penalty and scored from the spot for her second. 

Deep into injury time Leah Williamson scored a bullet header to make it three wins from three and putting us top of the table.

Aston Villa 0 v Arsenal 4 – 2 October

Villa defended deep and in numbers in the first half to frustrate Arsenal but the introduction of Mana Iwabuchi for the second half changed the complexion of the game.  Kim Little scored her 150th club goal after a pass by Lotte Wubben-Moy, only Jane Ludlow with 211 goals has more.  Mana Iwabuchi then got on the scoresheet herself for our second.  Katie McCabe then scored a wonder goal spotting the Villa keeper off her line she lobbed the ball into the net from all of 40 yards.  Kim Little got her second goal of the game deep into injury time with a deflected shot.

Arsenal 3 v Everton 0 – 10 October

Coming on the back of a 4 – 1 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League this was a chance to regain our momentum against a team made up of mere mortals.  Goals from McCabe, a Lotte Wubben-Moy header and a  great strike from Frida Maanum rounded off the afternoon

Arsenal 4 v West Ham 0 – 7 November

Another routine win with two goals from Kim Little to join the select group of players with 50 WSL goals. Our third came from Beth Mead and the fourth was an own goal when Fisk could only divert a Mead cross into her own net.

Spurs 1 v Arsenal 1 – 13 November

A frustrating game where we failed to convert numerous good chances, fell behind to a Williams goal against the run of play and looked to be heading for a one goal loss against Spurs (which would have been the first loss against them in all competitions).  At the death though Miedema rose highest in the box and headed home a McCabe corner to give us a share of the points and maintain our unbeaten start to the season.  Leah Williamson also picked up a serious hamstring injury.

Manchester United 0 v Arsenal 2 – 21 November

A number of records during this match, Kim Little in her 100th league appearance, Viv becoming the first player to score against every team she has faced in the WSL.  The first half was frustrating for Arsenal ending goalless and saw Kin Little replaced by Jordan Nobbs following an injury.  In the second half Vivianne Miedema took things into her own hands with a powerful run and shot that left Mary Earps in the United goal  no chance.  Late on Katie McCabe was fouled in the box and, in the absence of Kim Little, took the penalty herself scoring our second of the afternoon. Not a convincing performance though.

Arsenal 4 v Leicester City 0 – 12 December

We came into this match following defeats to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final and to Barcelons in the Champions League so were looking to regain a sense of normality and it didn’t take too long with Jordan Nobbs scoring in the 22nd minute from a Miedema assist.  Shortly after Nikita Parris turned provider for Viv and it was two nil.  Worse was to come for Leicester with Purfield being shown a straight red card for denying Parris a goalscoring opportunity with a shirt pull.  In the second half Frida Maanum made sure of all three points with two goals after coming on a substitute.  An average performance against a very poor team.

Birmingham City 2 v Arsenal 0 – 9 January

Undoubtedly the nadir of the season.  We went into the game top of the league and unbeaten and Birmingham were bottom with only a solitary point.  We had a weakened team with our three Australian players and Mana Iwabuchi away at the Asian Cup.  Strangely Chelsea managed to get their games postponed whilst their players were away – funny that.  Leah Williamson who normally controls our defence was also still unavailable following her injury against Spurs.  This was a game when we never got into any sort of rhythm and were deservedly beaten on the day.  If anything Birmingham looked like league leaders and we looked bottom of the pile.  Our defence was woeful, we couldn’t string two passes together and our attack was non-existent.

Manchester City 1 v Arsenal 1

This was a game we should have won and it took a moment of madness from the referee to provide the pass of the season in the buildup to City’s goal as she deflected the ball away from an Arsenal defender into the path of a City player who passed for Shaw to score.  Everyone watching knew the rule that if the ball hits a referee they are to stop play and restart with a dropped ball to the team who played the ball into the referee.  The only person who didn’t was the referee who should have been immediately removed from the roster and given further training.  A late equaliser by Tobin Heath at least prevented a second defeat in succession.

Arsenal 2 v Brighton 1 – 27 January

January signings Rafaelle Souza (CB) and Laura Wienrother (FB) made their full debuts.  We suffered further at the hands of match officials with the award of an iffy handball that led directly to Brighton’s goal and we failed to clear the resulting free-kick.  This deflated us for the remainder of the first half.  We picked up things in the second half with two goals in five minutes, Mead with an assist for Miedema and then scoring direct from a free-kick herself.

Arsenal 1 – Manchester United 1

Poor defending from a corner and Katie McCabe being sent off the lowlights in what seemed set for a second defeat of the season before the best pass of the season from Vivianne Miedema deep inside our half found Stina Blackstenius racing at full speed past two United defenders to beat Earps in the United goal for her first goal since arriving in the January window.  We had had a number of chances to score earlier in the game and had two efforts come back off the crossbar but this felt like a point won rather than two dropped.

Chelsea 0 v Arsenal 0 – 11 February

This game marked Leah Williamson’s first start since the Spurs game as she partnered Rafaelle Souza in defence.  We produced our best performance for some time and rarely allowed Chelsea a meaningful chance of a goal.  At the other end we had probably the best chances of the first half in particular as Miedema hit the post and Blacksenius should have done better.  In the second half Chelsea were more dominant and both Kerr and Kirby wasted good chances.  With 10 minutes to go a goalmouth scramble saw goalbound headers from Blackstenius and Williamson cleared off the Chelsea goal line.  In a final twist, we got a bit of luck with a refereeing decision as the ball struck Williamson’s hand as she went to block a cross in our box but the referee didn’t award a penalty.  As the saying goes you’ve seen them given and I would have been jumping up and down if it had been at the other end of the pitch.  In the end a point at Kingsmeadow is always a result to relish.

Arsenal 4 v Reading 0 2 March

Normal service was resumed in this match with us having a comfortable and emphatic victory against mid-table opposition.  Goals from Miedema, McCabe and a Leah Williamson header meant that the game was done and dusted and Eidevall made a number of changes at the hour mark.  There was still time for Miedema and Blackstenius to combine again with Viv breaking free down the left-wing and squaring the ball for an easy tap into an empty net.  Viv growing into her slightly more withdrawn No10 role with either Blackstenius or Foord playing as a No9.

Arsenal 4 v Birmingham City 2 – 6 March

A game that required revenge for our only league defeat of the season and one where we for the most part extracted it.  Centre back Rafaellt Souza headed her first Arsenal goal before Vivianne Miedema set another WSL record with her 100th goal involvement scoring her 70th goal to go with her 30 assists, all in just 83 appearances.  In the second half Beth Mead added a third for her 50th WSL goal.  Three nil up and cruising before collectively we pressed the panic button and forgot how to play for 5 minutes during which time Birmingham scored 2 goals.  Of the 9 goals we have conceded to this point bottom of the table Birmingham had scored 4.  We regained our composure and Caitlin Foord was found by a wonderful pass from Lia Walti and scored the fourth goal to restore a sheen (but not a full gloss) on the scoreline.  Jordan Nobbs made a late substitute appearance to bring up her 250th for the club.

Brighton 0 v Arsenal 3 – 13 March

We continued to apply pressure on Chelsea, in second place but with games in hand, with a routine win.  At first, it looked as though Walsh in the Brighton goal was going to have one of those Player of the Game moments as she made a string of great saves but our pressure eventually told and two goals from Blackstenius and one from Mead gave us the win.

Leicester 0 v Arsenal 5 – 3 April

This game followed our defeat and exit from the Champions League but we quickly recovered from that disappointment to deliver a comprehensive defeat to relegation strugglers Leicester.  It took us just 2 minutes with Beth Mead volleying home from a Caitlin Foord cross.  Whilst dominant through the first half it took until midway through the second half before we added to the total through a brace from Vivianne Miedema.  The fourth came from an own goal and Tobin Heath finished things off from an assist by Nikita Parris.

Everton 0 v Arsenal 3 – 24 April

 Blackstenius looked to have opened the scoring in the first half only for the goal to be ruled out for offside (wrongly as replays showed she was clearly onside when the pass was made).  The opener eventually came from Caitlin Foord before both Jordan Nobbs and Beth Mead scored their 50th WSL goals in this game and Beth also became the leading assister with No 36 with her pass for Jordan. 

Arsenal 3 v Spurs 0 – 4 May

Our final home game and the first North London Derby to be held at the Emirates.  Any win against Spurs has to be counted as a highlight even is the rivalry in the Women’s game is largely a figment of the media’s imagination at the moment.  Chelsea had, of course, won their games in hand and were, by now, one point ahead of us in the table so three points were vital to keep the outcome of the league alive going into the final games. 

We duly delivered, Beth Mead being found by yet another trademark Williamson long ball to open the scoring.  We survived something of a scare soon after with a goalmouth scramble but always seemed to have things somewhat under control despite commentators’ hysteria.  We played in a calm and mature manner being alert in defence and not overextending in attack and were rewarded with two second-half goals both from Caitlin Foord.  Deep into injury time there was some drama with Spurs being given a present of a penalty where there really seemed to be minimal (if any) contact on Addison.  Justice was done as her penalty lacked conviction and struck the post.

West Ham 0 v Arsenal 2 – 8 May

The final games of the season saw us still one point behind Chelsea and so we had to win our game and hope that Chelsea somehow dropped points against Manchester United (not a very likely proposition).  Half time saw us comfortable but goalless whilst at Kingsmeadow Chelsea were two one down.  In the second half we did our bit with  goals from Blackstenius and Steph Catley to record another win.  Unfortunately, Chelsea won their second half by three-nil thereby securing the title by one point.