Arsenal face Aston Villa in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League this weekend in a fixture that has now been rescheduled multiple times.
The once-dominant Gunners now sit fourth in the table, nine points behind third-placed Manchester United, albeit with games in hand. They have already lost four matches of their 13 played in the league so far this season, and have only one win in their last five. They haven’t beaten any of the top three this season, in any competition.
Boss Joe Montemurro bemoaned a lacklustre display against Reading in January, saying: “I wish I had the magic wand or the magic scenario, but the reality is that we’ve got to keep learning and keep being prepared as best we can. We’ve lost a bit of fluidity and zip and we’ve just got to position ourselves better. We’re just not doing it well enough at the moment.
“It’s tough when there are a lot of distractions, whether it’s important ones like protocols for the players. But we just want to get playing football again and back into a good rhythm.”
It’s all a far cry from their exceptional run to the WSL title in 2018/19, when they won 18 of their 20 league games, finishing with a goal difference of +57, thanks partly to Vivianne Miedema’s haul of 22 goals and Beth Mead’s incredible creativity.
So what is going wrong?
Arsenal have been massively unfortunate with injuries over the past two seasons – so much so that Joe Montemurro instigated a review to look at whether it was something that players were doing in training that was making them more susceptible. At one point in the autumn, captain Kim Little, vice-captain Jordan Nobbs, Steph Catley, Lisa Evans and Jen Beattie were all out with muscular problems.
It turned out that the rapidly changing schedules with rearranged fixtures had an impact, and the staff worked to create a more consistent training and testing pattern.