While not done mathematically, Man United are expected to make up three points on the final day and a whopping 26 goal difference.
Arsenal losing at home to threatened relegation Aston Villa is unlikely and, even if it has happened, you would expect a maximum loss of five goals. United would then have to beat Everton by 22 goals to finish in third place. Let’s be honest, if this kind of miracle happens, the FA will have to form an investigation because no one has ever scored more than 15 goals in an FA WSL League game.
Sunday’s Everton game was very interesting as Joe Montemurro once again stirred his field by making full use of his players’ flexibility. Vivianne Miedema played in midfield, Caitlin Foord was up front and Jordan Nobbs was on the left wing.
The starting 11 was Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Wälti, McCabe; Little, van de Donk, Miedema; Mead, Foord, Nobbs. The available submarines were Williams, Patten, Wubben-Moy, Maier, Catley, Goldie, Gut, Roord.
Tactically, it was a game of two halves.
Everton played the first part of the game 5-3-2 sitting deep and absorbing the pressure from the Gunners. In response, Joe Montemurro set up the squad in a structure he has recently started using with reverse full-backs at Maritz and McCabe. These two players bombarding forward in the half squares created opportunities for the other players.
Combined with Miedema very often playing deeper than van de Donk, this opened up a space for other players to enter.
Indeed, Arsenal’s first goal came from one of those full-backs in the middle. Wälti sending a long ball to Foord who hit it towards McCabe who escaped Everton’s defense before beating MacIver superbly to carry him 1-0 to Arsenal.
While Arsenal dominated the proceedings for most of the first half, Willie Kirk made a tactical change at half-time. He replaced one of his midfielders, Graham, and put forward the transition from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 in attacking play and 4-4-2 in defensive form. Sorensen, arrived at half-time, changes positions in defensive and offensive situation on the right wing.
The change resulted in a cat-and-mouse game, which might have looked lackluster on TV. Everton played higher on the pitch managed to quash most of Arsenal’s threats with the change and the game got more difficult. He also escaped the referees’ control with multiple fouls.
Everton equalized thanks to Finnigan as a short throw-in was taken by an unmarked Christiansen and Everton defender directed it past Zinsberger. The Arsenal defense was caught sleeping as Finnigan managed to steer the ball easily and next to her in acres of space was an unmarked Emslie who could have made a volley of the ball if Finnigan had missed it.
Arsenal put the pressure on in the final 15 minutes, chasing a win but there wasn’t enough to destabilize a strong Everton defense until the last minute of added time.
Van de donk and Wälti Christiansen urged in the middle of the field. Little intercepted the stray ball and touched it to Roord who sent it to Miedema, who brought it back on goal and spun to pass it to the edge of the penalty area to McCabe. Finnigan, who was coming in to defend, was late and hit McCabe pretty hard. The referee pointed to the spot and booked Finnigan.
Kim Little didn’t disappoint and put the ball in the upper left corner to score the winner with the referee blowing full time before Everton could even resume the game. Arsenal literally won it with the last kick of the game.
Arsenal winning 2-1 means that next season they will play in the revamped Champions League competition with more money for clubs and a new group stage with 16 teams. Unless, of course, something bizarre happened on the last day, but it’s an unlikely scenario that would raise a lot of suspicion.
So it’s a job done for Joe Montemurro and his team, who managed to turn things around when they looked really dark in January.
All the credit of the manager, his staff and all the players for the qualification of the biggest competition of clubs.