Manchester City are top of the Women’s Super League after seeing off title rivals Arsenal at the City Academy Stadium on Easter Monday.
Grind it out
Arsenal visited to the Academy Stadium ready to fight for points, and a red card and penalty decision against the away side shows they were robust.
Strong in the tackle and flinging themselves in front of every shot, the game required the Blues to grind out a result rather than play the free-flowing game that Nick Cushing likes to see.
City had to wait to break down Arsenal, but that’s two wins from two in the league and both required steel and determination. A sign of champions?
City’s solid foundations
That grit is easier to find when your defence is so strong. Outside of Fara Williams’ strike off the crossbar and Asisat Osahola’s pace, the City backline looked assured once again.
Yet to concede a goal this season after three games in all competitions, the centre back duo of Steph Houghton and Abbie McManus have marshalled their defence superbly.
Flanked by Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes, the two full-backs bomb forward and support the attacks but have proved capable going back too.
After struggling to break down their opponents for most of the game, City’s attacking quartet of Toni Duggan, Nikita Parris, Jane Ross and Kosovare Allsani clicked and changed their fortunes.
Ross played the role of a target striker well, and has handed City the long ball option in each game.
Parris, Duggan and Allsani have been given freedom to drift by Nick Cushing and the quintet seem to be working on the same wavelength.
Parris and Duggan threatened from the wings and forced Arsenal into mistakes and Ross’ aerial ability allowed her to score the opener from a cross.
Allsani has been quiet as she adapts to the WSL, but an incredible save from Arsenal’s Sari Veenendaal denied a first goal.
It’s not all perfect
City can quite rightly celebrate three wins from three in all competitions, but they certainly can’t afford to be complacent.
Early on, a cynical foul on Osahola could have seen red on a different day, and Williams struck the crossbar from the resulting freekick.
In each game this season, City have had a lapse that’s yet to be punished. Against Liverpool in the FA Women’s Cup, McManus was fortunate not to give away a penalty. The Blues then gave one away against Notts County which was missed.
It’s fine margins, but Nick Cushing won’t want to be ruing errors later in the season.