Arsenal Ladies game by game review Part 1

Game attended *

1. Birmingham A UEFA WCL 0-1*
A step into the unknown for the Arsenal Ladies as Shelley Kerr rightly decided to phase out the old guards at Arsenal during the winter window. Players in the 20-28 years old age bracket decided to leave for many reasons and were replaced by foreign players mainly. As a result, there was clear view that the team had not gelled yet and it was a deserved 1-0 defeat. All to play for in the 2nd leg though as the Remi Allen goal was the only thing separating the two sides.

2. Birmingham H UEFA WCL 0-2*

The game was an improvement from the away game but it was not enough sadly. Birmingham knew they would be in good position, if they scored a goal as Arsenal would then need to score 3 goals. Arsenal started well, had a few chances but got caught when Kirsty Linnett ran round Yukari Kinga and scored. It became a moutain too high to clim and when Remi Allen scored a second goal it was game over. A really bad season start for the Arsenal and an indication of the future struggles in the first part of the season.

3. Gillingham H FA Women’s Cup 2-0

First win for 2014 in the FA Cup with a Kelly Smith brace against a 3rd division side.

4. Notts County A FA WSL 1-1

A good result away to Notts who moved away their franchise from Lincoln during the winter. Football quality improved from the previous games and it was a well deserved point in a tough away games against the League best defense. First point in the League. No one knew it at the time but it would be the only point scored by Shelley Kerr in the 2014 FA WSL season. Alex Scott the goalscorer.

5. Watford Ladies H Conti Cup 3-0

Another good result this time against an FA WSL2 side. Goals by Alex Scott, Shinobu Ohno and Freda Ayisi.

6. Birmingham A FA Women’s Cup 2-1*

Revenge in the FA Cup for the Arsenal girls. Remi Allen gave the lead to Birmingham before a very controversial call by the refree gave the Gunners a penaly and a lifeline. Kelly Smith scored the penalty and Freda Ayisi added a second from a superb Danielle Carter pass to send the girls through to the next round.

7. Chelsea N FA Women’s Cup  5-3 aet*

Kelly Smith came to the rescue twice to save the day and take the team to extra time. She also missed a first half penalty. Chelsea took the lead twice and were pegged back by Smith who managed to equalise quickly for after both goals. Extra time goal by Carter, Ohno and Stoney won the game for the Gunners. A brilliant and entertaining game.

8. Reading A Conti Cup 0-2*

To me, this game is the symbol of the 2014 failure half season under Shelley Kerr. It was the beginning of the end with the first of the 4 consecutive defeats that led to her resignation. Arsenal Ladies had never lost against a lower division team in a big cup game ( FA Cup, Premier League Cup or Conti Cup). The scene was all set up for a big upset. A Kerr v Ludlow battle. About a year earlier Ludlow was removed from the club by Kerr and she ended up moving to manage Reading and bring a certain number of Arsenal players with her.   The Arsenal coaching knew about the Reading tactics as they had just played Chelsea and drew 1-1 with a game plan as followed 4-5-1 with Kirby getting on the break to catch the defenders as she is lighting quick.

The pitch was not very good on the day and did not help a ball possession game, still it was tactical suicide on the day :  a pairing at center back with Hoogendjik Stoney and Kinga in front of them. Those 3 players against Kirby while Williamson was shuffled to full back. Put it this way. Would you put 2 Mertesacker type player defeding on a Thierry Henry type center forward ? no you have a Koscielny who is quick enough to deal with pace and complement Mertesacker. As we had seen against Birmingham in the Champions League Kinga struggles against pace on the turn and it happened again with Kirby running round her and none of the center back quick enough to catch her. Williamson was deployed in the central area in the 2nd half but it was too late the damage was done.

9. Man City H FA WSL 0-1*

Manchester City were on a bad run when they visited Borehamwood, bottom of the table and in the relegation place with 0 point in 2. For the 2nd League game of the campaign, the team went down to a Duggan goal and did not manage to find an equaliser despite trying very hard. 2 League games and 1 point to show for was a bad start.

10. Birmingham H FA WSL 0-2*

The game was originally planned earlier in the season but was postponed due to the Champions League tie against … Birmingham. Arsenal Ladiesstarted the game at the bottom of the table and they duly kept that position after the game while Birmingham went top of the League. Former Gunner Kirsty Linnett scored a brace and condemn the Ladies to a third goalless defeat in a row.  1 point in 3 League the games, the pressure on the manager was slowly building and unrest in the stand with unhappy fans became louder and louder.

11. Bristol H FA WSL 0-2

Another game and another goalless defeat for Shelley Kerr. Goals from Sophie Ingle and Natalia Sanchon made the start of the season turn from bad to worse. Bottom of the table, 1 point in 4 games. Relegation looming large at the half-way break ( 4 games out of 14 lol) . Something was broken and the engine was clearly malfunctionning. Shelley Kerr therefore resigned after the game. A decent and honest decision from the manager.

12. Everton N FA Women’s Cup final 2-0*

Shelley Kerr last game in game saw the Gunners destroy Everton 2-0.  It was a one way traffic for the Gunners against a young Everton team. Goals from Kelly Smith and Yukari Kinga  gave the manager an 100% record in finals with 2 FA Cup and 1 Conti Cup won. Great attacking and passing football played.  You did wonder why this did not happen in the previous 4 games where the players played with a handbrake.

 

The team reached the half-way point in the season with a mixed bag of results. Dissapointment in the Champions League, League and Conti Cup while there was success in the FA Cup.  The winter transfer window was badly managed with too many important players being shipped or gone away and not replaced appropriately. No team should play a full season without a genuine right winger. Although genuine quality in Kinga, Ohno and Hoogendjik was brought in, they were not given the right environnement to settle in and show their worth. Hoogendjik subsequently returned to Ajax without a proper chance to display her qualities.

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