Wembley Heartbreak for Arsenal – AWFC Journal
How painful was it? The three-nil defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final was hurtful like very few other defeats before that have been.
We were dominated, humbled, punished by a Chelsea team that was simply too much to handle for our players and our head-coach.
Before digging into the technical and tactical aspects of our performance, it is important to give credit to Emma Hayes for her tactical plan and to the players for implementing it so brilliantly: their pressing was outstanding, Kerr and Kirby were always alert to pounce on any loose ball and their wing-backs were close to our wingers, protecting the back-three from any ball in-behind.
They deserved to win the game and probably deserved to win it by a bigger margin, to be honest. For me, it is a case of them being far superior to us than us conceding too much, although some of the choices made by Jonas Eidevall could have been better.
I find it particularly difficult to understand why our coach was so reticent in making changes at the break, given how lucky we were to still be in the game at that point, and I suspect that he perhaps felt he fixed our problems when he swapped Katie McCabe and Beth Mead: after that move, we looked a bit better e more balanced but Chelsea were still all over us, especially in midfield where Fleming was leading the well-drilled, well-coordinated pressing.
As much as their collective movement was coordinated, ours was ineffective and disjointed, especially in wide areas where Noëlle Maritz and Steph Catley left Lotte Wubben-Moy and Jen Beattie isolated against Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby, something you can’t get away with so easily.
We struggled in midfield, too, where Frida Maanum seemed a bit lost at times and Lia Wälti failed to control the tempo of the game like she usually does, leaving Kim Little alone in her attempts to link midfield and attack. In that regard, Jonas Eidevall’s choice not to bring in Jordan Nobbs saw many eyebrows raised suddenly because I felt like the team could have used some security, leadership and experience.
We were struggling to such an extent that, at some point, we decided to skip midfield altogether and go over the top, hoping to find Miedema centrally or either one of our wingers – something very unusual for our team. Needless to say, it didn’t work at all and we continued to find it hard to test Chelsea’s defensive line. The most damning stat of the game surely is the ZERO shots on target recorded in the game, another very unusual thing for this team.
It’s been a very bad day at the office, overall, with one notable exception: Manuela Zinsberger. The Austrian goalkeeper kept us in the game throughout the first half, saving anything she could possibly save, and continued in the second half, with Chelsea players shooting from left, right and center, so we owe her a big thank you for avoiding a very, very heavy defeat at Wembley.
We have no choice but to move on from this very poor display and disappointing result, which will surely leave some scars and have dented our overall confidence. I hope our girls will be ready to bounce back, although the upcoming game against Barcelona probably is the worst fixture one can hope for.
There’s still much to play for, lots of important games ahead. It’s not time for self-commiseration.