Arsenal’s manager, Jonas Eidevall, conceded that the shock 2-0 defeat of the Women’s Super League leaders at Birmingham City, who began the day rooted to the bottom of the table, was “100% my responsibility”.
Libby Smith scored her first WSL goal in the third minute to give the hosts the lead and Veatriki Sarri added a second before the break to complete the win in which Arsenal always looked second best.
“There were a number of occasions during the game when we lost the ball at the wrong times and didn’t have a good structure around the ball which meant the counter attacks hurt us,” said the Swedish manager. “We didn’t play well enough under their pressure, and we didn’t break their low block down well enough, so very disappointed with our performance today.”
Arsenal had been unbeaten in the league while the Blues were without a win. sin embargo, with the former Birmingham player Darren Carter in place as interim manager following the dismissal of Scott Booth in November, Birmingham look a far more organised and potent force.
“We weren’t naive enough to think we were going to dominate the ball or territory in the game,” explained Carter. “We knew out of possession we’d have to be good in our structure and shape and the players executed that so so well. We’re asking them to put in a lot of hard work and we asked them to empty the tank. We knew we had finishers on the bench ready to come on but I didn’t make a sub until the 90th minute because they gave us everything.”
Lucy Quinn’s pass to release Smith early on caught out Arsenal’s defence and she slotted coolly past Manuela Zinsberger in goal. Sarri delivered the hammer blow to the Gunners’ hopes of getting back into the game three minutes before half-time, finishing a move she had begun and firing in after Jen Beattie failed to clear and Frida Maanum failed to track her run.
Having conceded 10 metas en 19 games in all competitions up to December, Arsenal have since conceded 13 in five and the team’s defensive woes and organisational incoherence look far from over.
With Chelsea’s home game against Tottenham – alongside West Ham’s match with Manchester United and Aston Villa’s with Everton – postponed due to Covid outbreaks, Arsenal maintain a four-point lead over Emma Hayes’ side but have played a game more. Birmingham, Entretanto, have a one-point lead over Leicester at the other end of the table following the Foxes’ 1-0 defeat by Reading.