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Arsenal 6-1 Reading

You've had an extended break since last year's football, pre-season squad building went well, then you come up against Arsenal. Reading were outclassed in almost every aspect. The narrow diamond allowed space out wide that was ruthlessly exploited by Arsenal, and their sloppiness on the ball hampered their attacking output.

Leah Williamson in too much space to cross, Leine misses her chance to clear by not getting off the ground

Both came together for the opening goal, as Kristine Leine's poor pass was intercepted. Jess Fishlock, the new OL Reign loanee, didn't close down quickly enough and Leah Williamson capitalised on the space by chipping the ball perfectly into Kim Little's path. Leine missed her head, and chance to amend, and Little's volley was exquisitely put past Grace Maloney.

Arsenal attackers looked to exploit Reading full-backs high starting positions and managed that perfectly for their second goal.

And that was really the story of the match - Reading a step off the pace, and Arsenal clinical. The second goal is Natasha Harding allowing Jordan Nobbs to run behind, and squaring it to a Vivienne Miedema. You don't need to follow women's football to know she's going to score in that position. It was unclear whether centre-back Deanna Cooper or left-back Emma Mitchell should have been watching the striker. Cooper seemed unaware of the striker's presence until the ball across, and Mitchell was caught too high up. It must be said - Miedema's movement is a real asset.

James comes across to help wide, one of James or Williams needed to cut off the ball into the centre.

Disorganisation again for goal three, and that LCM the main culprit. Fishlock pushed up, Williams dropped in. Angharad James, the defensive midfielder, came across to cover - where Williams should have been - leaving Jill Roord free in the middle.

Good movement from Arsenal once again, with Little running across the defence. Reading may have benefitted by having an extra central defender.

More movement undid the backline, Beth Mead's ball into Roord was cushioned into the path of Little. Fishlock failed to track the run, and it was too easy to slide the ball back to Roord to tap in. Made easier by Cooper committing the cardinal sin of appealing for offside while making no real effort to stop the goal. Goal five - short corner routine. Instead of tracking Miedema, Harding had to double up on substitute Caitlin Foord. She shifted the ball to the Dutchwoman, who fired above Maloney.

To round it out Reading started assisting themselves. Lauren Bruton's misplaced pass picked up by Miedema. A shimmy and a turn before laying it off to Foord, who slid across to a completely unmarked Roord to score the sixth.

There were some common themes running through those goals. Being exposed on the flanks, defensive midfielder being too slow to react to danger, lack of pace defensively. The switch from a 4-4-2 diamond in the first half, to a 4-3-3 in the second was a subtle change, but one that lessened the protection in front of the back four. Having an extra central defender feels like an obvious fix for a lot of these goals - helping to deal with Little's movement, and making it harder for Miedema to find space wide of the centre backs.

There were some positives. James in front of the defence picked some nice progressive passes to move the team up the field, and it was slightly strange that Fishlock took that role in the second half. Reading's high press worked well but took until the eighty-ninth minute to pay off. Danielle Carter, who looked lively all match, literally tackling Arsenal's goalkeeper to score Reading's only goal.

6-1 is Reading's worse defeat since Arsenal beat them 6-0 in 2018, but they represent Reading's two worst WSL defeats. Next weekend's match, against last season's Women's Championship winners, Aston Villa, should be a very different proposition.


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