Vivianne Miedema’s first half goal sees Arsenal go through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup
Arsenal entered the fourth round of the FA Cup to take on Championship side London City Lionesses. London City are title contenders this season, challenging for promotion into the Women’s Super League, currently laying second in the Championship on 25 points behind Liverpool and with a game in hand.
On the other hand, Arsenal remain as league leaders of the WSL, now on 29 points after beating Brighton and Hove 2-1 on Thursday.
Arsenal lined up a fairly familiar starting eleven with recovery from injuries and illness denying Jonas Eidevall a large amount of rotation. Arsenal were without Leah Williamson, Rafaelle, Jen Beattie, Lia Walti and Tobin Heath, as well as Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Lydia Williams who are competing in the Asia Cup.
London City arrived at Meadow Park well stocked, having captain Harley Bennett, Brooke Nunn and goalkeeper Shae Yanez amongst their starting eleven and a number of substitutions availabe on the bench.
For the most part of the first half Arsenal were very much in the driving seat. The Gunners maintained a great deal of possession, created plenty of chances and won a large number of set pieces. By the 11th minute London City goalkeeper Yanez had made two impressive saves to keep out Nikita Parris and Katie McCabe respectively.
London City found an opening of their own after turning over possession at the 17-minute mark, making use of Arsenal’s high press by quickly sending the ball into space behind Noelle Maritz. The subsequent delivery into the box was high and did not find the intended target, however it in terms of transition, it showed intent from the visitors that opportunities to counter will be taken should they arise.
At 21 minutes, after a quick one-two with Jordan Nobbs, Beth Mead found herself space on the edge of the area to whip in a powerful left footed shot. Yanez managed to shift her bodyweight to match that of the ball trajectory and tipped Mead’s effort over the bar in what was an outstanding piece of goalkeeping.
The first and only goal of the game came at 43 minutes and was scored by Vivianne Miedema. London City had played themselves into trouble on a couple of occasions during the first half, passing out from the back without enough pace on the ball to dismantle an approaching Arsenal, thus penning them close to their own area.
Kim Little intercepted a London City play ‘from the back’ just outside of the box and cut the ball across to Miedema. The striker took a couple of small touches before releasing the ball out to the right and into the back of the net.
Arsenal started the second half very brightly with both Miedema and Frida Maanum testing Yanez within three minutes of the restart. Yet the second half progressed similarly to the first. Arsenal seeing plenty of the ball and creating several opportunities, yet none executed well enough to increase the scoreline.
There are possibly a couple of reasons for this. The first is down to London City’s defensive wit. The Pride maintained visible lines of defence that proved difficult to break, especially through central lanes. In particular, midfielder Amy Rodgers strongly contested the movements of Little and Maanum on several occasions.
This pushed Arsenal to stretch play and use the wings. Noticeably the Gunners used the right-hand side during the second half to press. The link-up play between Laura Wienroither, Mead and Maanum repeatedly exposed space behind Alli Palisch, who had a tough job keeping tabs on the interchangeable positioning of Wienroither and Mead.
During these occasions London City retreated to flooding bodies into the area making clean shots more difficult to come by. Due to the sheer volume of bodies in the box, there were instances in which Arsenal took too many touches in attempt to find space, only to end up playing themselves into a dead end.
Knowing London City would, for the most part, sit and block, Arsenal used a number of plays in a bid to catch the Pride short. Notably Lotte Wubben-Moy became the provider of long bypass balls that eliminated the packed-out middle third. The Gunners also won several set-pieces and used this to attempt a range of plays including a mixture of long and short corners, goal targeted free-kicks and ‘in-swingingers’ directed to teammates. Of course, Arsenal did not score from any of their set-pieces today, this is something Eidevall will no doubt be working on.
Both sides executed their game plans well, Arsenal in using different approaches to press and penetrate a compact defence and London City in implementing and retaining a clear structure that left little wiggle room for the Gunners to play with.
Although they were not able to add any more to their tally, Arsenal go through to the FA Cup Fifth Round. Draw to be made at 7:30pm on Monday 31st January.
Arsenal: Zinsberger (GK), Maritz, Wubben-Moy, Boye, McCabe, Maanum, Nobbs, Little, Parris, Miedema (55’), Mead
Substitutes: Cull, Wienroither (55’), O’Brien, Jupp, Head, Gillard
Goals: Miedema (43’)
London City Lionesses: Yanez (GK), Girasoli (64’), Palisch, Rodgers, Napier (64’), Rouse, Bennett (C), Fitzgerald, Primus, Rossiter (45’), Nunn
Substitutes: Fleming, Mehmet, Nolan (64’), Jarrett (45’), Gray, Thompson, Muya (64’), Froc