In Arsenal’s first game of the season, I looked at how Stina Blackstenius’ movement had aided the transition to Jonas Eidevall’s vision for his team. This weekend, he selected Caitlin Foord upfront. When I asked him about this choice post-match, he told me it was purely about rotation.
While Blackstenius offers a lot of value by stretching teams and running in behind, Foord likes to come short and offer combinations, allowing the wide forwards to be aggressive and run in behind her. Foord also prefers the left channel whereas Blackstenius likes the right. I took a look at how Caitlin Foord facilitated a lot of what was good about Arsenal on Saturday.
Caitlin is industrious in the press, as she showed several times during the game. Here she waits for Spencer to commit to the pass before she presses Bartrip, lulling Spencer into playing the pass and then springing the second contact is made.
Foord doesn’t win the ball but she does force Bartrip to go back to her goalkeeper.
Foord is straight onto Spencer. On this occasion, the press doesn’t come to anything but later on it will do.
Whereas Stina likes to run in behind and stretch teams, Foord likes to come short and combine and Arsenal used that outlet many times on Saturday. We are used to seeing this pass from Williamson to Mead with right-back on the touchline. Here, Mead and Wienroither swap and Foord comes short.
Foord comes short here and plays a lovely touch around the corner for Wienroither. Blackstenius talked about improving her first touch in tight spaces last week and this is a good illustration of what a deft touch with your back to goal can do. Look at the space left by Bartrip pushing up and following Foord.
In the build-up to the first goal, we see this move again. Williamson makes that slide-rule pass in the right half-space and Foord comes and shows for the ball, taking a defender with her as she does.
With the centre-half now having vacated her station, look at McCabe, who has drifted over to the right on this occasion. Her eyes have lit up because she can see the space Foord’s movement has created and the Australian’s touch back to Kim Little is crisp.
Now, in fairness, Kim Little has plenty to do here but there simply isn’t a player in women’s football you’d back more to get out of a situation like this.
Ciao. From here, Arsenal score with Mead popping up on the left. Foord coming away from the frontline set the table but then you need your wide forwards to be aggressive to fill the area.
Mead does exactly that and as she shoots, it’s Katie McCabe who is darting to get out of the way of the shot. Foord lowering into space and combining and the wide forwards being aggressive and running in behind was part of Arsenal’s game plan.
In our Brighton analysis, we looked at how Blackstenius is very effective at attacking the right channel. Foord is used to playing on the left-wing so when she plays upfront, she has a preference for the left channel and Arsenal found superiority on that side again and again. Look here as Catley gets the ball at the back.
Catley curls the ball into that left channel because Foord has peeled into that area. The move ends in a shot from McCabe which narrowly goes over, again emphasising the point about Mead and McCabe being aggressive with their support runs.
We see the same move again minutes later and when you see an attacking move more than once in a game you know it has been rehearsed. This time it’s Rafaelle who wraps her left-foot around the ball and arcs a long pass into that channel.
The pass releases Foord into space on the left touchline. This is an area that Caitlin is very comfortable in as a left-winger.
Not least because she loves to drive at right-backs! On this occasion, her cutback is cleared for a corner.
Here we see another good example of Foord coming short for the ball and bumping it off to a teammate, this time from a Steph Catley dead ball. Foord’s movement takes Spurs by surprise.
Again, Foord bumps off a first-time around the corner pass for Mead to run onto in a dangerous position inside the area.
Foord comes short again here to receive a pass from Lia Wälti, taking a centre-half with her. Again, this type of short combination play only really works when there are aggressive runs in behind from the wide players.
As Foord spins and plays the ball wide to Catley, look at where Katie McCabe is. She has taken up the centre-forward position so that Foord coming short doesn’t leave them bereft at the business end of the pitch.
Foord works the line again here and we can see that left-sided triangle that Spurs struggled with so often. McCabe is nice and wide, attracting Zadorsky away from her position, Foord spins into that left channel again, taking Bartrip with her.
Foord spins beautifully and crosses the ball into the six yard area but, this time, it’s a little too quick for McCabe to be able to get into the area to fill the centre-forward role.
Foord again peels into that left channel to offer herself for Steph Catley’s throw-in. While not the same as the long passes we saw from Catley and Rafaelle earlier, the principle is the same here. Foord’s run into that channel is a means of getting from A to B as quickly as possible.
She uses her strength and spins Molly Bartrip very nicely here. In the end, her shot is blocked but it’s another example of how Foord is able to allow Arsenal to be direct on occasion.
Just look at the almighty pickle Bartrip is in here when Foord turns her.
Once again Foord comes short here for McCabe and Mead is immediately interested in the run behind.
Caitlin delivers the pass in-behind but, alas, Mead has just strayed offside on this occasion but, again, you see the intent. Foord drops short, which she does so well and one of the wide-forwards sees this as a trigger to go and fill the space she has left- especially as a centre-half always comes with Foord and leaves their post.
But from tiny acorns…from the resulting free-kick, Spencer plays the ball short to Bartip and Foord is immediately on the hunt.
In the first images we looked at of Caitlin’s pressing, she wasn’t rewarded. But attacking is a game of repetition, making the small movement again and again and again. Summanen’s touch is loose and Foord closes down. Because Arsenal press in a 442 with Miedema advancing forward, Viv is in the perfect position to capitalise.
When Miedema is put into this position, I don’t need to tell you the end result. But it’s Foord’s industry that creates the chance.
Just like that first image we looked at of Foord closing down, she dupes Spencer and doesn’t make her move until Spencer plays the pass. She wants Spencer to play the ball and baits her into it by appearing uninterested until the second she connects with the pass.
Straight after that goal, we see a familiar move. Catley shapes to bend another pass into that left channel and guess who she has seen making a run…Look at the bottom of the screen, Skinner has spotted it too and is waving for her players to get back into that space.
Foord is working the left channel again which means McCabe inverts into the centre-forward role.
She still has a lot of work to do from the pass but she gets another cross into a dangerous area and Arsenal have, again, been able to go from the edge of their own area to inside Tottenham’s in one pass because of Foord’s ability to show for the ball but then to drive at defenders.
Tottenham worked harder to close the space in that channel in the second half and the second goal changed the tone of the game in any case. Foord was replaced after 63 minutes but she packed a lot into that shift. Spurs could not cope with her movement in the first half especially.