Ahead of Chelsea Women’s titanic clash against Arsenal on Sunday, I asked a few questions about the Women’s Super League leaders from Aidan Gibson of The Short Fuse.
Team allegiances aside for the next sentence and only the next sentence: Arsenal are a truly fun team to watch and whose 11 wins all include multiple stretches of beautiful combinations. Even more annoyingly, after drawing with Liverpool in the final match of 2019, Chelsea are now tasked with needing to beat this behemoth — again. In order to do that, we’ll have to keep league-leading scorer Vivianne Miedema off the scoresheet — again, just as in October’s 2-1 comeback win at Kingsmeadow.
Be sure to check out the reverse version of this, which will be up shortly as well on The Short Fuse.
WAGNH: Viv Miedema is simply ridiculous. What makes her so hard to defend and, aside from praying to multiple gods, how would you attempt to defend her?
The Short Fuse: I think the thing that makes Miedema special is she doesn’t actually seem all that bothered about scoring goals. This seems like a ridiculous thing to say about a striker, but when she scored 6 against Bristol City, she spoke about how happy she was with her assists. I think Miedema’s playmaking ability is quite underrated, and I think her understanding of space is what makes her so hard to defend; all of a sudden she’s out wide, and as a centre back, you’re less worried about her, and then she ghosts in behind you. Because she creates space for others it makes the entirety of Arsenal’s front line harder to defend, and with Arsenal’s game being about switching the play quickly to create overloads, she takes advantage. It really is a joy to watch, and the scary thing is that she’s only 23.
WAGNH: With Chelsea not losing a game, beating Arsenal and City, but stumbling to draws against Brighton and Liverpool, do Arsenal feel slightly lucky to be top of the table and in a position where all the pressure is on Chelsea to win? Or does it feel like your rightful place given your season last year (and performances this year versus everyone else)?
TSF: My cop-out answer is you’ve got to beat everyone. Arsenal haven’t dropped a point to any team not named Manchester City or Chelsea since May 2018. It’s why Arsenal won the league last year, despite losing more games than City and as many as Chelsea; it’s why Arsenal are top this year. That being said, it does seem slightly fortuitous to be top at the moment, and Chelsea drawing with Liverpool was a very nice surprise.
WAGNH: Miedema (deservedly) gets the headlines, but how important is Kim Little to Arsenal’s attack? Who are other unsung players who have been instrumental to your 11 wins?
TSF: Kim Little’s a special player, and her ability in tight spaces has been instrumental this year. Her understanding of space is crucial, and she rotates really well with Jordan Nobbs, and Arsenal’s other midfielders. This has been even more important as teams have sussed out that Leah Williamson and Lia Walti are crucial to Arsenal’s build-up play, with Williamson particularly adept at playing through the lines. I’d say those two are instrumental, especially Williamson. Another player who is really important is Lisa Evans. Whether playing right-wing, right wing back, or right back, Lisa gets up and down the line really well, and her crosses, usually on the ground, are really dangerous.
WAGNH: Are you expecting any incoming signings? There was some earlier chatter about Caitlin Foord possibly coming over, do you think it is a possibility? If so, how would she fit into the team?
TSF: I would expect Foord to get done before the window closes on January 23rd. I think Caitlin will fit in well at Arsenal. As a Thorns season-ticket holder, I’ve seen a lot of her over the last 18 months. No striker is going to want to come to just sit on the bench backing up Miedema, so it’s essential that she’s versatile, which Joe Montemurro wants from his players, and also fits a role that will need filling with Tabea Kemme calling time on her career. I think she was a decent #9 at Portland before the specificity of that role changed after the World Cup, and she links up well and holds the ball up well, which is something Viv does a lot.
WAGNH: And of course, your prediction?
TSF: Arsenal didn’t give a good account of themselves in the second half in the return fixture earlier this season. I think that’ll change, in part because Nobbs and Walti are far more match fit than they were in October. I’m going for a 1-1 draw, with neither Miedema nor Kerr scoring, to mess with the #narrative.