AWFC January Round-up
READING, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Joseph Montemurro head coach of Arsenal during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Reading Women and Arsenal Women at Madejski Stadium on January 17, 2021 in Reading, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

To say that Arsenal had a quiet start to 2021 would be an understatement. The gunners had three out of their four scheduled Women's Super League matches postponed due to both COVID-19 and severe weather conditions, meaning that their only action came from a disappointing 1-1 draw away at Reading on January 17. This month also saw them drop out of the top three for the first time this season, possibly pushing them away from title contention.

"Dubai-gate" sees first game of 2021 postponed

At the beginning of the month, a group of Arsenal players were heavily criticised after jetting off to Dubai for the Christmas break. Despite a clean sweep of negative test results in the club upon return, one unnamed player tested positive shortly after. This meant that a number of Arsenal players were forced to self-isolate as a result, therefore the gunners were unable to field a team for their fixture against Aston Villa on January 10 and so the game had to be postponed. COVID-19 also put a stop to most matches across the league, meaning that Chelsea's 5-0 win away at Reading was the only result for that weekend. 

A disappointing result sees Arsenal share points with Reading

Arsenal's only taste of action this month came against Reading at the Madejski Stadium. The gunners began the game on the back foot with a nervous-looking defence of which the home side took advantage of when Lauren Bruton put them ahead within the first five minutes. After a lacklustre beginning to the match, Vivianne Miedema managed to find the back of the net just before half-time to level the game. However, the introduction of Jennifer Beattie, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson changed the game for Arsenal who then began to dominate the game in the second half.

Despite the dominance in the second 45 minutes, the gunners were not able to claim all the points, leaving Joe Montemurro disappointed. In his post-match press conference, Montemurro said: " We’ve lost a bit of fluidity, a bit of zip and we have to position ourselves better and do it better, we’re just not doing it well enough at the moment."

Snow prevents the London derby

A weekend of snow across the UK meant that Arsenal's clash with West Ham on January 24 had to be postponed due to a frozen pitch at Meadow Park. On the Arsenal club website an official statement said: "Our home fixture against West Ham United Women at Meadow Park today has been called off due to a frozen pitch and extreme weather warnings. The Barclays FA Women’s Super League fixture was due to kick off at 12pm GMT, however following a pitch inspection at 9:30am and extreme weather warnings this weekend, we have had to postpone the fixture." 

Aston Villa game postponed again

The gunners' final match of January was the rescheduled fixture against Aston Villa. The game was due to be played at Banks's Stadium on the final day of the month, however this time it was not COVID that prevented the occasion, but a waterlogged pitch. In an official statement by Aston Villa FC, it was stated: "Our upcoming Barclays FA Women's Super League fixture versus Arsenal has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Following a pitch inspection this morning, the pitch at the Banks's Stadium was deemed unplayable. A new date will be confirmed in due course."

A look forward to February...

There is no doubt that Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their quiet month of January, but they have a challenging game on their hands this week as they face current FA Cup holders Manchester City. A win would see the gunners take a step closer to regaining a position in the top three, whilst anything less could start to see their possible title chance slip away. The following week sees another difficult challenge for the squad as they travel across London to current WSL title holders Chelsea - another must-win game. After the Chelsea match, there are no scheduled games until March 7 as of yet, however, due to the number of matches postponed so far this year, there could possibly be the opportunity for a rescheduled game to be played during this period.