Football News

Miedema haunts Tottenham again but it’s not enough to save Arsenal’s perfect WSL start

By Harry Edwards

Published: 16:39, 13 November 2021

The final perfect start of the Women’s Super League season was brought to an end on Saturday afternoon as Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.

A North London Derby kicking off Women’s Football Weekend, Arsenal travelled to local rivals Tottenham looking to continue their perfect run in the WSL.

The Gunners had a tough start to the 2021/22 campaign on paper but had blown through their first six opponents under new boss Jonas Eidevall. Defending champions Chelsea were beaten 3-2 on the opening day and Manchester City were thrashed 5-0, along with wins over West Ham, Everton, Aston Villa and Reading – all without conceding.

But also enjoying an impressive start to the campaign were Tottenham, who won their opening four matches of the season including a victory over Man City. One defeat and two draws had followed but Tottenham remained in third with 13 points prior to the match, just seven fewer than they had accumulated in the entirety of 2020/21.

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As they were against West Ham last weekend, Arsenal suffered a frustrating first half, struggling to convert the chances they were creating. In the first half, Arsenal had nine shots, only three of which hit the target, with Beth Mead and Katie McCabe both hitting the crossbar. Meanwhile Tottenham failed to have a single attempt, set out on frustrating their opponents.

But as the second half went on, Tottenham’s confidence grew and they looked to hit Arsenal on the counter, no longer happy to just sit back and play prevention. And they eventually got the opening goal of the game, as Rachel Williams tapped home after Lotte Wubben-Moy and Manuela Zinsberger had failed to deal with Kit Graham’s shot.

Williams goal was just the third Arsenal had conceded in the WSL this season, ending a run of five clean sheets, but was also the first time the Gunners had been behind in the league under Eidevall. So the question was, did Eidevall’s Arsenal have enough to come from behind as they did when Williams scored early in the FA Cup fixture earlier this season?

The answer was yes (to an extent), but Arsenal left it extremely late to equalise through Vivianne Miedema. The Dutch phenomenon had had a fairly quiet game by her own very high standards, hitting the target with just two of their eight shots throughout the game. But the second and most important shot on target came in the second minute of injury time, a lovely header from Katie McCabe’s corner to preserve Arsenal’s unbeaten start and rob Tottenham of a famous victory.

McCabe’s assist brought her to four for the season, level with Beth Mead and Ella Toone and just one behind Fran Kirby in the early playmaker standings. But it also continued Miedema’s excellent record against Tottenham in the WSL.

The Dutch forward has now scored in all four of her WSL games against Tottenham since their promotion in 2019, netting six goals in the progress. It was against Tottenham that Miedema broke the all-time WSL goalscoring record, scoring her 50th goal in the league just over one year ago, overtaking current Arsenal teammate Nikita Parris while in a fierce battle with Ellen White.

White did overtake Miedema in February 2021, scoring 55 while the Arsenal forward was on 54 but she has since reclaimed her throne and now has a more comfortable lead, sitting seven clear of second-placed White with 65 goals. Those 65 goals for Miedema have come in just 74 games for Arsenal, a frankly ridiculous return from the best striker in the world.

But while some fans were left cursing the result that could allow Chelsea to move to within one point of Arsenal, Eidevall was slightly more positive in his outlook.

“I think the performance was stronger than the result. We should have scored more goals and that we have to be disappointed with,” he told BBC Sport.

“Even after we scored the equaliser we had one more opportunity to win the game and that I think shows real strength.

“There were not a lack of goalscoring opportunities. This performance reminds me of previous performances in the WSL with one difference – that we didn’t score on opportunities.”

Women’s Football Weekend continues on Sunday with five more WSL games including a Second City Derby midweek Aston Villa and Birmingham City, and Chelsea’s trip to the Academy Stadium to face struggling Man City.

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