Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal Women side progress to the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup after their 3-0 win over Spurs at Meadow Park on Sunday, writes Adam Millington.
The two had last met in the competition three years ago, when Spurs were a third-tier side, and Arsenal picked up a comfortable 10-0 win. Much has changed in the women’s football world since then and Tottenham are now aiming to compete at the top end of the WSL and having recently signed USA striker Alex Morgan.
After Jill Roord picked up an injury at a recent Netherlands camp and was sent back to North London to recover, she sat in the stands for Sunday’s game and was replaced by Danielle van de Donk in midfield.
Arsenal show quality to put Spurs to the sword
The hosts ultimately showed their quality and made the most of defensive errors from Spurs to pick up two goals after the game was at a stalemate for over 70 minutes.
Arsenal will face either Manchester City or Leicester City away from home on Thursday evening, with the match available to watch live on BBC Two or the FA Player for international viewers.
Lotte Wubben-Moy made her second debut for the club when she was substituted on in the 81st minute, returning to Meadow Park after two years at College in America playing for UNC Chapel Hill. Ruby Mace, who only turned 17 earlier this month, came on when her side were 3-0 up and was awarded her debut.
After scoring two hat-tricks in her first two games this season, Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro confirmed that Jill Roord would be unavailable for the next couple of weeks:
"She got a knock to her knee in the game against Russia for the Netherlands. [She] hasn't recovered as well as we thought but we also took a little bit of a precaution.
"In 2-3 weeks we should have her back on the park but all the signs are positive that it's nothing too dramatic and we should have her back quickly."
The Gunners didn’t look their usual selves in Sunday’s game and despite creating a number of chances, they lacked the sharpness shown in their emphatic victories against Reading and West Ham prior to the international break.
Without Jill Roord as a playmaker in the middle of the pitch, Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs were the main creative outlet through the centre and Montemurro’s side struggled to pick out opportunities in front of goal.
Caitlin Foord’s performances in her previous two games earned her a spot in the starting eleven for the first time this season. The Australian came close to opening the scoring only five minutes in when her header inside of the box after latching onto a Leah Williamson cross was only denied by the crossbar.
Playing down the right wing in front of Katie McCabe, Foord was able to break through the Spurs defence and came close to creating some opportunities. Montemurro praised Foord and the entire side’s performance:
"Playing Caitlin Foord allows us to probably have a second number nine and allowed [Vivianne Miedema] to float a little bit more and obviously we felt that we could pull out the full-back on that side and overload with our full-back and the midfield in that area.
"It worked well and all credit to all players"
Nobbs breaks the deadlock, Evans earns a hat-trick
It took a moment of individual quality for Arsenal to break the deadlock, with Spurs the masters of their own downfall.
Ashley Neville misplaced her pass and it fell straight to the feet of Jordan Nobbs in midfield who curled a shot into the far post and past an onlooking Becky Spencer who had no chance of getting back after still being on the right-hand side of the box after playing the ball to Neville.
It did not take long for Arsenal to make it two. Another mistake from Neville saw Vivianne Miedema pick up the ball and she threaded a pass through the legs of Kerys Harrop and to Lisa Evans who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net.
The two goals in quick succession saw Spurs become complacent and Evans found herself in a goalscoring position once again in the 75th minute after a through ball from Van de Donk and her tucked her past Spencer.
With Roord injured, Evans stepped up to pick up this week’s Arsenal hat-trick. Mead picked up the ball in acres of space and played a ball across the box which dissected the defence and was comfortably tapped in from a handful of yards out.
Arsenal have had to rotate a number of players due to participation in International games last week, but Montemurro highlighted Jordan Nobbs’ performance on Sunday evening:
"Jordan's growing, we've given here different challenges this year. We've given her different roles to give us that fluidity and balance we need but that's typical Jordan.
"She's capable of doing those things and that's why she's the player that she is. We had to control the tempo, we had to be a little bit reserved to in terms of loads and management of loads because we had a lot of players away, the Swiss, Dutch and Austrian girls had quite tough games.
"It was good to rotate, it was good to find good balance and it was good that we could control the tempo. All credit to Tottenham, they pressed us and we found it hard in the first half through their organisation."
Beth Mead’s addition changes the game
Mead came on via the bench after the Gunners were already 2-0 up but showed just how much of a crucial element she is in her side.
Immediately, she provided another creative outlet for Arsenal and troubled the Spurs defence with her pace and ability on the ball.
For the fourth and final goal of the game, Mead received the ball on the right before displaying her class and playing a sublime pass to Evans to comfortably slot it into the back of the net.
It will be interesting to see whether or not she starts in Thursday’s tie ahead of their game at home to Bristol City next Sunday.
Tottenham performed very well throughout the game and set themselves up to capitalise on Arsenal’s main weaknesses.
In recent games, the Gunners have sometimes lacked composure when playing out from the back, although neither of their previous two opponents have been able to take advantage of this. From the off, Spurs adopted a high press to force Arsenal into an uncomfortable position.
Joe Montemurro’s side like to keep possession and build through the midfield but their opposition set up to counter this which led to Spurs earning a number of good chances of their own.
New signing Alanna Kennedy showed her class and should have taken the lead in the 55th minute when she was free in the Arsenal box, but her header flew over the goal.
Spurs will take some solace in their performance, but as many other sides have now seen, if you give Arsenal the opportunity then they will punish you.
Montemurro gracious in victory
Montemurro praised his opposition, who have grown an incredible amount since their 10-0 loss just three years ago:
“It's all there to be said. Both on and off the pitch, I think Spurs have done a great job. They've recruited a very good squad, we've seen already in their first couple of games in the WSL that they've stretched teams and they've done very, very well.
“Look, they'll keep growing and keep getting better and better. They've got a lot of new players so they've got to find their own rhythm and connection which is very important.”
Read women's football expert Adam Millington in the new issue of the Gooner Fanzine out nexrt week.