Jayne Ludlow turned into Jose Mourinho again and parked the double decker bus against Shelley Kerr’s Arsenal as she did against Emma Hayes’ Chelsea in the previous game.
Arsenal found no solution to breach Reading ‘s compact 9-1 defense with the pacy Fran Kirby the lone forward creating danger on every occasion.
Arsenal played the usual 4-3-3 scheme with a squad rotation in preparation for the City League game.
Byrne was back in goal and the 2 Scottish girls Weir and Murray started in midfield for Chamberlain, Smith and Ayisi. Alex Scott was captaining the Gunners. The line-up was Byrne, Scott Hoogendjik Stoney Williamson, Kinga Murray Weir, Carter Ohno Mitchell. In hindsight moving Williamson from center back to left back was not the best move. This was rectified in the second half when Ayisi came on for Weir. She went to the left wing, Mitchell slotted at left back and Williamson moved centrally to her natural midfield position where she excelled driving the team forward and patrolling around Kirby. Arsenal also sent on Yankey for Hoogendjik and finished the game in 4-2-4 putting Reading under siege to no avail. Kelly Smith who turned the game against Chelsea was an unused sub and Carla Humprey or Bianca Bragg the young reserves playmakers were not named on the bench.
Reading as mentioned played in a 9-1 formation or to be factual in a 4-4-1-1 system played very deep and inviting pressure from Arsenal, soaking it and launching quick counters for Fran Kirby to chase and trouble defenders.
The starting 11 was Davies, Wiggins Keown Bartrip Cox, James Roche McGee Bruton, Williams, Kirby.Georgina Giddings replaced Lois Roche with 5 minutes to go and Leigh Nicol replaced Cheryl Williams in added time.
Reading played their defensive block in a low position and just waited to hit Arsenal on the break. It was not always good to watch but if you like attack v defense with the defending team very much capable of transiting from being a hedgehog to quick counter attack, it was there for all to see last night.
Actually the first goal was a beauty from Kirby she did what we call in France the “grand pont” to Kinga and then proceeded to speed past the center backs and score from 13 yards.
Look at the video for an explanation of the “grand pont”, we also use the “petit pont” which is called a nutmeg here.
The second goal was also a counter attack lead by Kirby who managed to wait for the 2 wingers (who played 20 to 40 yards behind her and not the usual 5 to 10 for regular wingers ), she made the cutback to Rebecca Jane whose shot was saved by Byrne and bounced around the penalty area and finished by former Gunner Lauren Bruton.
Overall Arsenal tried very hard to break down Reading’s resolute defending, had many shots on goal, but did not find the creavity needed to find space behind the defenders or intervals between them. To be fair this is extremely difficult when there are around 18 players in a Reading’s final third of the pitch. The Arsenal players never managed to solve that equation and credit to Reading for defending and making a minimum of mistakes for 90 minutes.