Eidevall's Arsenal take steps forward in trophyless season

Beth Mead had an outstanding season for Arsenal

Beth Mead had an outstanding season for Arsenal - Credit: PA

Josh Bunting reflects on Arsenal Women’s 2021-22 season and names his own award winners as the curtain comes down on another campaign.

Despite finishing empty handed, the 2021-22 campaign was a step forward for the Gunners as they pushed eventual champions Chelsea all the way until the final day of the season.

They also reached the FA Cup semi-finals and last eight of the UEFA Women's Champions League under new head coach Jonas Eidevall.

Player of the season

Beth Mead had an incredible 2021-22 campaign in north London and is my player of the season.

Leah Williamson finishes as runner-up, with injury maybe the reason this award evades the newly appointed England captain.

Mead was a real shining light for the Gunners, scoring 11 goals in 22 Women’s Super League games, while also providing eight assists.

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She reacted in fine fashion to not being included in the Great Britain Olympic team last summer and proved why she is one of the best players in England.

When Mead set up Jordan Nobbs to put Arsenal 3-0 up at Everton she broke another WSL record as her 36th assist made sure she was the top 'helper' in the competitions' history.

She scored herself at Everton, with that being her 50th WSL goal, and proved a crucial part of the Gunners dynamic attack that netted over 100 goals throughout the campaign and one that is raring to go once again next season.

Mead was also nominated for the Women’s Super League player of the season due to her high quality performances.

Young player of the season 

Arsenal's Frida Maanum in action during the Barclays FA Women's Super League season

Arsenal's Frida Maanum in action during the Barclays FA Women's Super League season - Credit: PA

Frida Maanum started the season well, before fading towards the end, but it was still a campaign that she will reflect upon with positivity.

The 22-year-old netted three WSL goals in her debut season with the Gunners and also scored against Barcelona away from home in the Champions League.

Maanum showed that she is a good all-round midfielder as she carries the ball forward aggressively and with quality.

Only Mead averaged more pressures per 90 minutes than Maanum, showing the Norwegian is a crucial point to Arsenal’s attacking play.

In the first half of the season, Maanum started all the fixtures but since Stina Blackstenius introduction in January she was rotated more with Lia Walti coming in to Maanum’s position for the second half of the campaign. 

Most improved player

Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger applauds the fans after a Super League match at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger applauds the fans after a Super League match at Emirates Stadium - Credit: PA

Manuela Zinsberger takes my most improved player of the season award after the Gunners goalkeeper won the Golden Glove prize for keeping 13 clean sheets.

This season saw Zinsberger improve her all-round performance, especially in terms of commanding her box and taking pressure of the defence.

The Austrian number one was much more confident in her overall game this season and it was evident straight from the beginning of the campaign in the Champions League qualifying matches.

Lia Walti was also in contention for her performances in the second half of the season, after initially struggling to adapt to Eidevall’s system. Walti worked on her game and became one of the Gunners key players from January onwards.

Walti has had to adapt to a new role in the midfield under Eidevall due to his much more aggressive high pressing approach to the game.

When the Swiss international isn’t there it is very easy to see that Arsenal struggle without her anchoring the base and protecting the midfield.

Per 90 minutes she won 80 per cent of her tackles, showing that she is a tough character to get past, and she is crucial for Arsenal in turning over the possession and hitting teams on the counter attack. 

Walti also made 89 per cent of blocks per game, showing her clear defensive awareness and that she is always thinking ahead of the opponent.

She also took over two more touches per 90 in the final third, while her interceptions are up from 1.26 per 90 last season to 2.26.

Goal of the season 

Arsenal's Katie McCabe (centre) is congratulated by teammates after scoring at Aston Villa

Arsenal's Katie McCabe (centre) is congratulated by teammates after scoring at Aston Villa - Credit: PA

Katie McCabe has to take the goal of the season accolade for her effort at Aston Villa.

The Republic of Ireland captain received the ball straight from Villa goalkeeper Hannah Hampton's clearance, before taking a touch, spotting Hampton off her line and launching the ball into the back of the net.

Champagne moment 

The 3-2 opening day victory over Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium gets the nod for this award.

England international Beth Mead scored twice in the second half after Vivianne Miedema had opened the scoring. 

Erin Cuthbert levelled on the stroke of half time for Chelsea but Mead's double in 11 minutes put Arsenal in the driving seat.

Pernille Harder's header set up a dramatic ending as Chelsea pushed desperately for an equaliser but Arsenal, helped over the line by the roar of the home fans, held on for a huge victory to kickstart their season.

Although it didn’t turn out the way the Gunners wanted it to, losing out on the title to Chelsea by a point, the season showed they can compete with their nearest challengers again.