Arsenal breezed their way past Aston Villa, scoring seven unanswered goals at Borehamwood to stay shoulder to shoulder with league leaders Chelsea.
Emma Hayes’ team are ahead by a single point, and the onus remains on Arsenal to continue winning their games in the hopes that their rivals might drop points.
Arsenal’s clearest tactic was to ensure Beth Mead, who had scored in each of her last four games, remained in Mayumi Pacheco’s line of sight on the right-wing.
While the visitors’ back four were busying themselves with Mead Vivianne Miedema sprung up to cause defensive chaos from the left.
The Dutchwoman evaded Sarah Mayling’s erratic marking from the start, making darting runs in the box, and at other times, delivering defence-dissecting passes. It was this particular pattern of play that led to Arsenal’s – and Miedema’s – first.
With an audacious run through the Villa midfield, the forward blasted the ball past Sian Rogers as early as the ninth minute of the game. Por supuesto, one would not be enough, especially with the WSL Golden Boot race hotting up.
Arsenal searched for a second through Miedema, this time troubling the Villa central defensive pairing. Anita Asante and Rachel Corsie struggled to remain in touch with one another. It wasn’t long before Arsenal exploited their failings and struck a second time in the 13th minute, with Miedema perfectly recreating her first goal.
It became increasingly apparent with both goals that Villa were missing Jill Scott’s tenacity and press. The 34-year-old’s injury left a gaping hole in defensive midfield, and Arsenal glided through it on almost every occasion, unchecked. It was only down to another outstanding performance from Rogers in goal, similar to her player of the match display against Manchester United, that kept the scoreline at 2-0.
That would all change after half-time. Though Rogers had already made several saves in the first half, she could do little to divert a header from her own defender, Corsie, that gifted Arsenal a third goal in the 52nd minute.
There had been some confusion on the scorer; Miedema’s shot clattered off the crossbar to meet Corsie’s head, Mead too seemed to be hovering around the goal, but it was the Villa defender that was deemed to have the final touch.
Carla Ward had seen enough from her side, and indeed Alisha Lehmann, swapping her for Shania Hayles. But the forward joined nine other players camped deep in their own half, and soon there would be a fourth goal from Beth Mead, a fifth from Lotte Wubben-Moy, and a sixth from Stina Blackstenius in the 82nd minute, as Arsenal relentlessly ploughed through their opposition.
At the cusp of full-time, Nikita Parris scored the seventh goal of the game from the penalty spot, and with the final whistle, both teams had gained their own reprieve and insight. Aston Villa will likely avoid relegation despite the battering, Arsenal know that they must continue to win their games and hope that Chelsea stutter against Birmingham City later on Sunday.
All focus now turns to a big north London derby next weekend at the Emirates Stadium.