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Reading 1-1 Arsenal

Reading gave a much better performance, even if they relied on Arsenal not converting as they tired in defence.

Arsenal's CB has nowhere to go, and they end up penned in the corner where Reading force a poor pass.

The main improvement was the quality of the press. Reading changed their entire left-hand side. Mitchell shifted across to her usual left back role, Rachel Rowe replaced Fara Williams, and Bruton came in up front. The pairing of Rowe and Bruton were a handful for large parts of the afternoon. Rowe makes 19.2 pressures per game, whereas Williams only registers 12.5 (only kept off bottom by the centre-backs), though they are relatively similar in successful pressures. 

The home side's defensive shape largely started as man-to-man marking, which makes it easy to initiate the press regardless of where the ball goes. This is further aided by Eikeland and Rowe applying back pressure and dispossessing Arsenal players in midfield before they've had a chance to scan.

A simple pass should see Bruton with a great chance, but Fishlock overhits the pass

In a game that Reading only managed four shots, it's perhaps hard to say that Reading were good going forward, but the press saw Reading win the ball in dangerous areas, and some sloppy play cost better opportunities. The afternoon was best summed up when Fishlock stole the ball from Roord midway in the Arsenal half, drew the CB toward her, but forced Bruton wide with her pass.

One of the major changes from the game at Boreham Wood was that Reading's fullbacks were much flatter in possession, which gave Miedema less space to exploit behind them. Even when Leine ventured forward, she was able to get back while the midfield made it difficult for the away team to pick long passes. Toward the end, Leine and Mitchell were still exposed 1v1 against Mead and Foord as Arsenal went to a front four, while Reading's press tired. The 4-2-2-2 can struggle to protect the flanks at the best of times, and The Gunner's fresh legs would have made the difference but for some suspect finishing.

Everything aligned to draw Reading players inside. Eikeland and Mitchell tracking runs. Bruton and Rowe after finishing their initial press.

For all Reading's good work, if they're going to continue to give up free headers in the box, they'll continue to be punished. This time Moloney actually made a fine save from Jill Roord's header, but Miedema was never going to miss the follow up. The press (going to need to come up with a synonym for that) can be a double-edged sword, and they were made to pay as the midfield took themselves out of the match. Rowe lost the ball from a throw and pressured the ball, alongside both Bruton and Eikeland. They were played around, and Mitchell found herself outnumbered on the left.

Fishlock is never going to best Roord in the air, and maybe because of that looked to cut out the ball before it arrived. Patten's cross was placed over the top of her, and Roord had a free header. Bartrip is looking to cut off the ball across the six-yard box, and Eikeland has made an odd run toward van de Donk. Somebody needs to take responsibility, and it screams of a lack of communication.

What the match clearly showed is that Reading need the legs in midfield that Fara Williams fails to give you. If anything  Plus they hammered home the point by opening the scoring from a free-kick without their talisman. Granted, on the whole, the quality of set pieces weren't as high as they could have been, but they still managed to grind out their patented one-all draw.

But for a horrible injury to Leine at the end of the match there isn't too much to be upset about (for once). Thankfully it should continue, as we face a Villa side who haven't had much luck so far this season.


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