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Arsenal Women 21/22: Season Review

By Sumaiya Vawda

Over a month since the Arsenal Women ended their WSL campaign, the pain of the final day has subsided, contract uncertainty has cleared, and objectivity reigns. So let's (finally) get into a comprehensive review of the 2021/22 season.

The times are a-changin'

The arrival of Jonas Eidevall marked a new beginning in the team's storied history. While the Swede has maintained the importance of possession, tactically, he introduced greater emphasis on counter-pressing and more variety in attack than his predecessor. The statistics show that the side attempted fewer passes per 90 compared to the 20/21 season while improving their pressures per 90 and crosses per 90.

Head start

Notable incomings of Nikita Parris, Frida Maanum, Mana Iwabuchi and Tobin Heath stirred excitement for the new campaign. Arsenal played five Champions League qualifiers in August, which ensured they were fired up and ready to blaze Chelsea in the season's opener. A significantly improved record against the big sides in the division (including a 5-0 romp of Man City) helped the Gunners stay top of the pile for large swathes of the season.

The perfect storm

In January, injuries and the advent of the Women's Asia Cup led to a slightly altered XI facing Birmingham City. The home team scored early, and a panicked defensive showing handed Arsenal their only defeat of the season. The result was followed by more rattled performances in the Champions League as any defensive combination without Leah Williamson struggled.

The shock defeat to a now relegated Birmingham may be seen as the flashpoint of the season. Even a draw in that fixture would've re-routed the title to North London. An earlier draw in the North London derby, where Arsenal hit the post thrice, was also particularly disappointing and handed the impetus to Chelsea at the top of the table.

Quite good but not quite

Stina Blackstenius arrived at Meadow Park during the mid-season transfer window. This saw a marked change in play from Eidevall's side as Vivianne Miedema dropped into the number 10 role, and Blackstenius became the focal point up front. Miedema's technical quality, coupled with Blackstenius attacking the penalty area, proved a fruitful combination in the latter stages of the campaign.

Twenty-five minutes into the final fixture, belief began to simmer that the WSL title may don red and white ribbons after all. However, Chelsea prevailed over Man United and Arsenal were left second by one point- so close, but no cigar.

Cup performances were largely underwhelming, and Eidevall has admitted that further physicality and endurance are needed to really compete against the best in Europe.

The only way is up

At the end of the 20/21 season, Arsenal were nine points off the leaders; thus, the narrowing of the gap is evident progress. Player of the season, Beth Mead, registered 14 goals and 19 assists in all competitions in a season where she could do no wrong for club and country. Kim Little remains as elusive as ever, while January arrivals Blackstenius and Rafaelle Souza provided an exciting glimpse of what they could offer next season.

Jonas Eidevall's first season in charge did not yield a trophy but was seen worthy of a contract renewal. In a surprising twist, 25-year-old Miedema has committed herself to Arsenal for at least another season. That's a pretty resounding endorsement of the progress made and a coup for the club to retain her services. Key performers Caitlin Foord, Noelle Maritz and Steph Catley, have also been tied to new deals. A settled core along with quality additions will hold the squad in good stead for the future. Multiple games at the Emirates is a thrilling upcoming prospect for fans. Here's to the next!

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