Manchester City broke into the top three for the first time this season with a mature display against a toothless Arsenal. Gareth Taylor was “very impressed” after goals from Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly capped a first half displayed that fizzed with energy and purpose. Rafaelle Souza pulled one back for the visitors, but it was a worrying display as City leapfrogged them in the table.

“We were on it from minute one,” said Taylor. “It’s a testament to the girls to take it to another level from the game the other day. We should have been four or five up at half time. The mistakes we forced; it was impressive.”


Lauren Hemp scores opener for Manchester City against Arsenal in the Barclays WSL


The two sides had met just three days previously when City travelled down to London for the Continental Cup semi-final. Arsenal just about came out on top on that occasion, with Jonas Eidevall having surprised everyone by going with three at the back. He adopted the same approach on Saturday with a few tweaks to personnel. Taylor, predicting Eidevall’s move, made changes of his own. In came the in-form Laura Coombs to midfield, while the experience of Ellie Roebuck and Steph Houghton were brought into the backline.

His side displayed their adaptability and hit the ground running in a blistering first half. Yui Hasegawa, the lynchpin in the middle, was dictating play while the speed of Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly down their respective flanks caught Arsenal’s new wingbacks off guard. It did help that they put themselves ahead within four minutes. Kelly fizzed in a low cross that by-passed the watching defence and landed at the feet of Hemp to turn home.



She’s been top class from the minute she’s got here. We’ve changed slightly the way she plays which took some convincing. We lost a good No.6 in Keira Walsh and Yui has come in and taken the team’s level of performance to another level. Her quality under pressure is very high. She’s a great girl to work with, has been massively accepted by the group, and is really popular.

Gareth Taylor on Yui Hasegawa


The Gunners were shell-shocked and, but for a bit of luck and the goalkeeping of Manuela Zinsberger, could have been facing a heavy deficit by the break. The back three kept drifting into a back four with players clearly unsure where they were meant to cover; multiple unforced errors came in under intense City pressure; and Noelle Maritz was continuously caught too high, leaving space for Hemp to exploit. Kelly hit the post; Laia Aleixandri fired over from eight yards out; and Zinsberger made a series of big saves to deny both Bunny Shaw and Filippa Angeldahl.

Eidevall’s tactics were falling apart and his inability to adapt in the first half when things were clearly going south was clear to see. The second goal was inevitable, and it arrived just before the break. Shaw pressed high to rob Lotte Wubben-Moy in possession and feed Kelly to fire home.

Changes eventually came from Arsenal at the break as they switched to a 4-3-3 formation. Katie McCabe and Lia Wälti came in and instantly provided more stability than previously seen. It had an impact. Stina Blackstenius broke through the line for the first time all game before agonisingly hitting the post with a low shot. They pulled a goal back minutes later when Rafaelle Souza leapt high to meet a corner, dipping a header in at the far post.


Katie McCabe + Alex Greenwood, Manchester City v Arsenal, Barclays WSL


Many would have expected Arsenal to push on at this point, but the hosts showed their maturity and nous to control the game. In fact, they had the better chances as it drew to a close. Hasegawa, influential throughout, cannoned a shot off the crossbar while Kelly and Hemp also had opportunities as they saw out the match.

Eidevall took full responsibility for the defeat. “This game here, it’s my responsibility,” he said. “They’re very aggressive with the front three and that limits the time and space for the players in the build-up. This is my responsibility to see when a team is pressing that aggressively. Can we find positions and options earlier?”

Arsenal will return home and regroup, aided by an international break, with a hugely important set of fixtures coming up on the horizon. Manchester City, on the other hand, are showing a side full of confidence and ambition. They are unbeaten in the league since September and have dragged themselves back into the title race and Champions League spots with their consistent performances. There is still a lot of football to be played with each of the top four still having to play one another. One thing’s for sure, the last three months of the season will be unpredictable.

You may also like