Jonas Eidevall spoke of the inevitability of Vivianne Miedema’s goalscoring after the striker broke yet another record, becoming the first player in the Women’s Super League to score against every team they have faced, as Arsenal got back to winning ways with a comfortable 2-0 defeat of Manchester United.
“I don’t worry about Viv not scoring against any opponent,” the manager said. “When she hasn’t scored against any opponent, it’s just a matter of time before she will.”
The 25-year-old was everywhere in Arsenal’s dominant performance against United, who have just three wins from eight league games under Marc Skinner, and Eidevall highlighted the importance of the clean sheet and his forwards’ role in it after the Gunners shrugged off the disappointment of a 1-1 draw with Tottenham last Saturday.
“You see how dedicated a player like Vivianne Miedema is today in performing our match plan, from a defensive perspective,” he said. “Sometimes the contradictory thing in football [is] our defence starts with our forward players.”
Manchester United had lost two of their three league games against Arsenal prior to today’s bitterly cold matchup at Leigh. Their sole win, though, came at United’s home stadium, with an 83rd-minute strike from Ella Toone – who has signed a new contract to stay at her childhood club until 2025 – the difference.
Arsenal’s first dropped points, against Spurs, had implications for both teams. The Gunners’ narrow lead at the top of the WSL table was cut to one point while Spurs leapfrogged United into fourth. With an opportunity to put pressure on Tottenham before their trip to West Ham later in the day, United began brightly but quickly relinquished the midfield battle, allowing the dynamic Kim Little to pull the strings for the visitors.
For Arsenal, with Chelsea hot on their heels, keeping a grasp on top spot was the prize for victory.
Given Little’s all-action performance it was worrying for Arsenal fans to see the midfielder replaced by Jordan Nobbs at half-time, though Eidevall said it was a precautionary move.
The nerves were quickly salved, though, as three minutes after the restart Arsenal took a deserved lead. Collecting the ball from 30 yards out, the Netherlands’ record goalscorer Miedema edged forward and fired low into the net with Mary Earps out of position.
“She’s really good at finding spaces,” the United manager Skinner lamented. “She’s adapted throughout her time here, when she stands against the backline, maybe sometimes defenders will try and bump her, and try and dismantle that, but she comes in and they have a really aggressive front rotation.”
Having been booked for a late challenge on United’s Kirsty Hanson, Katie McCabe was then clattered to the ground herself by the centre-back Aoife Mannion, a loud thump echoing around the ground as they collided inside the area. After a short spell of treatment, it was the Republic of Ireland international who stepped up to take the resulting penalty in the absence of Little. McCabe coolly lifted the ball over a diving Earps.
Arsenal go into the international break back on track with Miedema fighting fit. United, meanwhile, have one win in their past six games and, with Spurs and Brighton flying, the pressure is on.
“I remember when Chelsea didn’t have [Sam] Kerr and [Pernille] Harder. When Arsenal didn’t have Miedema and [Tobin] Heath. We want to keep investing,” Skinner said. “I’m not concerned [by the gap], I just understand where we are at. We have to be realistic. We have to add depth so by game three in a week we still have energy. We will keep investing so we can keep challenging.”