Beth Mead is one of the longest-serving players in the current Arsenal squad, joining the squad before the 2016/17 season when the team was known as Arsenal Ladies, and a 19-year-old Chloe Kelly was playing her last season in an Arsenal shirt, it now seems like Beth Mead was a direct replacement.
Joining the Gunners after six years at Sunderland, Beth Mead was converted from a striker to a winger, owing to the arrival of Vivianne Miedema. Speaking on the event in 2019, she said, “I’d played No 9 all my career until I came to Arsenal. I was a bit annoyed that I wasn’t playing No 9, because I thought that was my best position. But now I really enjoy playing on the wing. I can get involved, run at people, bring other people into play.”
The 26-year-old hasn’t been very prolific in recent seasons, with the exception being 2018/19, where she collected 19 goal contributions in 19 matches. She has never scored double digits in a season at Arsenal and hit double-digit assists in the aforementioned season.
Beth Mead has started the WSL season with 3 goals and 2 assists in 2 games, which is quite unusual for her. Almost matching her 19/20 numbers in just 172 minutes, (14 games, 3 goals, 3 games) you really have to wonder, why has Beth Mead become so good recently?
Beth Mead was a born and bred goalscorer at Sunderland but has changed her tact at Arsenal. With her most comparable player being former Arsenal winger Chloe Kelly, which is why she was mentioned in the introduction, Beth Mead plays over 5 progressive dribbles per 90, which puts her in the top 20% of the league. A poor player in the air, Beth only wins 0.13 of her aerial duels. With her xA (Expected Assists) being 10 assists higher than her actual assist tally.
PROVING THE DOUBTERS WRONG?
An extremely likely theory is that Beth Mead wants to prove the doubters wrong. After she received some flack and demands to leave the club over the summer (due to reasons outside football), she believed that she deserved to be representing GB at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and with Katie McCabe and Caitlin Foord both collecting more goal contributions in fewer games, she had a lot to prove going into the season. And she sure has. Scoring 2 goals and recording 3 assists in her opening 2 WSL games, and even at the time of writing, she’s scoring at St Mary’s Stadium for England in the World Cup Qualifiers. She even said it herself in an interview, the 26-year-old admitted that “I play better when I am angry”.
The most plausible theory is that Beth is stepping up due to being worried about the new signings. With new signings, Tobin Heath, Nikita Parris, and Mana Iwabuchi all able to function on both flanks, Beth Mead may have started to realise that her starting berth in the team isn’t as safe as it once was. With Arsenal ruthlessly loaning out former competitor Lisa Evans (who is a good player in her own right), this season could’ve been Beth Mead’s last in an Arsenal shirt.
This is an interesting one to discuss. Is Beth Mead’s recent form just that, form? I don’t think so. Jonas Eidevall is playing some great football, and it seems like Beth is enjoying it. When asked to speak on Mead, he said, “We have a great squad but when you look at this period, she has had an extremely good start. I hope she can keep this form for England and show what a great player she is.” In my opinion, the new and improved Beth Mead is going nowhere.
CAN BETH KEEP IT UP?
If there’s anything that we know about Beth Mead, it’s that her passion for football is unmatched (well, apart from when Jonas Eidevall heard the full-time whistle against Chelsea). Her desire to be the best, pressure from fans due to off-the-field controversy, and her Olympics setback will push her forward and make sure that her complacency doesn’t reappear and she continues to play the Beth Mead way.