Arsenal in WSL title race, says Jonas Eidevall; Man Utd's Marc Skinner hopes for INEOS boost

February 17, 2024

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall said the hunt for the Women's Super League title is "very much a race" after their 3-1 win over Manchester United narrowed the gap between the top three to three points.

Arsenal took full advantage of Manchester City's win at Chelsea on Friday night to reduce their deficit in the title race with eight games to play by putting United to the sword with a comfortable 3-1 win in front of a WSL-record crowd of 60,160.

Arsenal still have to face Chelsea and Manchester City, the two sides ahead of them, in their remaining games - meaning their fate is in their own hands as they chase a first WSL trophy since 2019.

"You need a lot of results like this to achieve what I and the club want to achieve," Eidevall told Sky Sports. "It was great today, but there's a lot of football left to be played.

"People were saying after the West Ham game it was impossible for us to reach the top spot, but if I'm not reading it wrongly here it's three points with eight games to play. It's very much a race.

"The way I see it, we've never been in or out of it. We've played one game at a time, we've still got to play both teams ahead of us, and that would give us a good opportunity."

The Gunners boss made the bold decision to change six of his starting line-up from the surprise defeat by West Ham in their last WSL game.

Though two were enforced, he still chose to drop Caitlin Foord and Alessia Russo, as well as keeping Manuela Zinsberger on the bench after she had also sat out the FA Cup defeat to Manchester City last weekend.

"Sometimes these [selection] decisions turn out good, and they did today," said Eidevall. "We talk about being brave, and that comes to me as a coach. I cannot put players on the pitch for their names; if we think another player will be more perfect for the game plan, we need to do that.

"It was great to see a player like Cloe Lacasse, who has worked really hard in training, playing with real self confidence.

"She took her full back on one-vs-one at least five times in the first half, and that created some really good momentum for us."

Skinner: It's just where we are

Marc Skinner mounted a defence of his United side and said the defeat at Arsenal, which leaves them seven points off a European spot, shows where they are in the WSL.

Skinner led the Red Devils to a historic second-place finish last season, but has struggled to replicate the same form from his squad in 2023/24.

United sit 10 points off the top of the table and could potentially end the weekend only a point further away from eighth-placed Aston Villa than to Arsenal in third.

The United boss has come under increasing criticism from fans during the campaign but said their drop-off showed where the team was - and hinted at a need for increased investment following the arrival of INEOS and Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Old Trafford this month.

"It's probably where we were coming into the game," he told Sky Sports. "We have to be perfect in the big games, especially in a stadium like this with the fans.

"We weren't like that in the first half, we were better in the second. There's a lot to be excited about at Manchester United. INEOS coming in will help, but it's where we are today. It hurts, but it's where we are.

"The goals we conceded are just not good enough. The corner comes in and it looks like an own goal, a penalty we give away and a clearance which falls to the head of Lacasse who scores it. You can't concede those goals.

"It's disappointing, but you've got to look at it and try to get those out of your game. Today they weren't, but the girls regrouped at half-time and got over the first half, kept a clean sheet and they can be proud of that.

"We've got to chase. This league is getting more competitive, and we as a group of people, as a team, must make sure we are in every game. We've got to chase - that's our job. Even if we'd have won, we'd be chasing."

Zelem: Top-three race 'very difficult' after Arsenal defeat

United captain Katie Zelem did not mince her words about the quality of her side's performance in North London, and pointed to the manner in which they folded to fall 3-0 down before half-time.

The midfielder, whose poor clearance set up Cloe Lacasse for Arsenal's second goal, admitted the damaging defeat meant Manchester United's hopes of a second consecutive season of reaching the Champions League had been all-but ended.

"That was our chance to get back into the top three race and that's very difficult now," she told Sky Sports.

"I think it's three cheap goals. It's three goals that are definitely preventable, but to be honest I don't think we deserved to win today.

"I don't think you can pick one area, we didn't play our own game. We didn't get hold of the ball, we weren't tight enough out of possession. We really need to reflect on that game.

"3-0 down at half time, you've got a mountain to climb. To score three goals in one half is pretty much impossible. We gave it a good go but our first half wasn't good enough."

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