Since the devastating losses of Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead to ACL injuries, Arsenal Women have been in shaky form. The Gunners have dropped 7 points in their last 3 WSL matches, resulting in them going from being neck and neck with Chelsea in second, all the way down to outside the Champions League spots in fourth. So, is this all because of injury issues? Or are there bigger issues at Meadow Park?
A CHANCE TO FIX THE PROBLEM: JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW
Out of the pair, Miedema was injured more recently, with the news coming out on December 16th, following a 1-0 defeat against Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League group stage. This meant that despite the injuries, Arsenal had the option to replace them, either with short-term loan deals or with long-term options. Keep in mind this is a side who were in a title race and hadn’t won a trophy of any kind since 18/19, the longest spell in the club’s history (disregarding their status as an amateur cup side from 1987-1991).
Regardless, this should’ve been an opportunity for Arsenal to strengthen against a dominant Chelsea side that had been consistently outperforming them for years. Instead, they only replaced outgoing players, such as bringing in Victoria Pelova for Jordan Nobbs and also recruiting Kathrine Møller Kühl to replace Mana Iwabuchi, who left on loan to Spurs.
The Arsenal board did try to get another attacking-minded player through the door after doing their earlier business, with reports emerging that the Gunners had offered around £500,000 for Manchester United and Lionesses star Alessia Russo, which was eventually rejected. They also attempted to sign Signe Bruun from Lyon, but the French side weren’t keen on letting her go. This was all finishing on transfer deadline day, which gave the impression of the Arsenal backroom staff being naive, and assuming at least one of those deals wouldn’t have fell through. So that meant that in the three weeks after Kathrine’s move to Meadow Park, all they had to show for their efforts was Sabrina D’Angelo, who played in Arsenal’s most comfortable position in terms of squad depth, which was between the sticks.
Talking to Sky Sports after a 2-1 defeat against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City, Jonas Eidevall said, “It is 100% my responsibility that we [didn’t win] today. So, that I am taking, and of course, that’s why I need to look at the game, and [we tried] to implement changes during the game as well; but you’re right, it’s 100% my responsibility.”
Now, that could just be the classic technique of a manager trying to boost morale by taking the blame off his players, but this was a poor showing by Arsenal, a team who had just beaten the same Man City side 3 days before this game with a 1-0 victory to get to the Continental Cup final.
In fact, Islington Gazette writer and women’s football enthusiast Josh Bunting took to Twitter to say it was “Arsenal’s worst performance of the season, maybe the worst under Jonas Eidevall as a collective. Tactically before the game when I looked at the team I doubted it. It’s been horrendous from the Gunners, [the] back three has not worked whatsoever. Shambolic, could have been 5 down.”
This may show a bigger problem at Arsenal, a reliance on individual brilliance from the likes of Miedema and Mead, as well as Blackstenius, Williamson, and Zinsberger. There may not be that same team collectiveness that a side like Chelsea have shown over the last few years. Arsenal may not have that same relentlessness and hunger that Emma Hayes demands from those Chelsea players, and that may be why the blue side of London has been more successful domestically, and on the continent.
However, I still believe that Jonas Eidevall is the right manager to take Arsenal forward. He has shown his managerial skills with incredible performances against some of the world’s best clubs such as Chelsea, Lyon, and Manchester City, but he needs to start incorporating that team spirit that has been lost at Arsenal. So, despite some fans calling for him to go, I think that despite him not being the best manager in the world, there aren’t many better people to take this football club forward.
He also needs backing financially from the board. Miedema is free to leave in the summer, and her signing a contract for a single year last summer showed Arsenal fans that she wasn’t willing to commit to her long-term future. However, her girlfriend, Beth Mead, has just extended her Arsenal contract, so she may potentially stay. Regardless, Arsenal needs to start increasing the quality those two are surrounded with. These world stars they were previously linked with such as Alessia Russo, Magdalena Eriksson, Lena Oberdorf, Klara Bühl, and Ellie Carpenter need to start being seriously considered (and also convinced to join), but more importantly, Arsenal needs to start putting money on the table of those European giants.