Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday marked a first win of 2021 for The Gunners, as they look to direct their season back on track and force themselves into the UEFA Women’s Champions League qualification places.
Four second half goals ultimately got the job done, but head coach Joe Montemurro says his side were not worried, despite entering the break still looking to find the back of the net.
“To have only played four games in two-and-a-half months is not easy,” he told FAWSL Full-Time following the match. “It’s just good that today was a really good rhythm game, and we started to find a little bit of our belief and our way of playing.
“I was very happy with that, even at half-time I felt that we just needed to tweak a couple of bits and pieces to get the result that we needed and that’s great from a coaching perspective, when you have only got to make little adjustments knowing that you’re in control.”
Villa’s resolute defensive display frustrated Arsenal throughout the first period. Playing with a compact back five, Marcus Bignot’s side made it difficult for a Gunners attack that had to be patient. This patience, in addition to a half-time tactical change made the difference, Montemurro explained.
“We knew that they play with a block of three in front of their [back] five and we had to pull out that middle three,” he said.
“But the reality is that while we worked on getting around that bank of three we could have gone vertically in there more because there was a lot of room.
“Once we did that in the second half we found a lot more joy in front of goal and created the opportunities.”
The fixture also marked a first start of the new year for Jordan Nobbs, who took the armband in Kim Little’s absence. The England International suffered a quad injury in training and has been eased back into action over recent weeks, but her full return was a welcome sight for Montemurro.
“We all know Jordan’s qualities and it’s been an up and down season with her injuries and other bits and pieces,” Montemurro explained, “It’s great to have her energy and her leadership back. It’s something we’ve missed in some of the bigger games.”
Nobbs has notched three goals and four assists from just five starts so far this season, the majority of those coming from the wing, rather than her favoured role in midfield. It is a decision Montemurro has made largely due to his preference for playing Jill Roord in the number 10 position, believing her unique qualities are suited to the way he desires Arsenal to play.
“I think she’s one that can attract two or three players and keep the ball a little bit better through her strength, and wait for players working underneath, which might dislodge a defence or dislodge a back four or three,’ said the Arsenal boss.
“Where DvD [Danielle van de Donk] and Jordan [Nobbs] are players who work more behind or over the lines, Jill is very good at working underneath the line. So I think if we have her and Viv [Miedema] working underneath and then players going over it’s very difficult to defend.”
Having dropped points against Manchester City, Chelsea and Reading since the turn of the year, the North London side now have little margin for error in the hunt for a top three position, but Montemurro is set on taking it day-by-day.
“Obviously this league is very tough, and you get punished for your errors. From our perspective it’s one game at a time, we know what we need to achieve and we’ve got targets that we can control,” he said.
“We have made a pact to say we want to get back to where we want to be and get a really good run going. It’s all in our hands now and we want to make sure we do it our way and keep our confidence and belief and keep smiling.
“We have the football, we have the players, and the belief to be the best that we can be and we’ve hopefully got the ball rolling now.”
Arsenal will look to make it two wins out of two in The Midlands when they travel to Birmingham City for their next fixture on Sunday.