Arsenal dismantle Manchester City to go top of the WSL

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Leah Williamson put the cherry on top of a week in which she twice captained England by scoring Arsenal’s final goal in an emphatic 5-0 defeat of Manchester City to catapult the club to the top of the Women’s Super League.

Vivianne Miedema opened the scoring early on and her effort was added to by a goal in each half for the captain Kim Little and strikes for the full-back Katie McCabe and Williamson as Arsenal earned a first league win over City in two years – coincidentally dating back to the previous time City lost three games in a row.

Positivity in the stands is a familiar feeling for Arsenal here in Borehamwood and it was heightened by the men’s team’s victory in the north London derby 13 miles away.

Related: Arsenal 5-0 Manchester City: Women’s Super League – as it happened

“We’re early on in the process still,” cautioned manager Jonas Eidevall. “We [said] that we needed to put pressure on ourselves to get performances and better results against the top teams. We were very honest that that was something we needed to work on.”

City got the better of Arsenal three times last season, including two 2-1 league wins, but there is a sense that the home team have decidedly closed last season’s seven-point gap between the clubs after an instantly impactful summer of spending and with the new manager, Eidevall, impressing.

Arsenal were aided by City’s heavy injury toll. Their captain Steph Houghton was added to a list that includes Lucy Bronze, the first-choice keeper Ellie Roebuck, the defensive midfielder Keira Walsh and the defender Esme Morgan after sustaining an ankle injury in training with England. Her absence was heavily felt. The fresh centre-back pairing of Alex Greenwood, recently converted from right-back, and the Australian Alanna Kennedy lacked cohesion and the latter gifted Arsenal the opener after City began brightly.

A mis-hit backpass was short and the goalkeeper Karima Taieb was forced to race Beth Mead for the loose ball; they tangled but Mead leapt free and squared to Miedema who, back to goal, spun and fired home.

City, for all their dominance of possession, struggled to find the final ball. There were worrying moments too, with the striker Ellen White, who has scored seven in 11 games against her former team, and the winger Lauren Hemp temporarily down receiving treatment.

“City and Chelsea play a similar way, they want to play with their defence high and want to deny the opposition space and time in their own half, there is a cost to that if it’s exploited,” said Eidevall. “Possession is useless as a stat if it can’t be combined with results. It’s different ways to control the game.”

Arsenal were much more efficient, carving out chance after chance as they bullied the depleted visiting back line.

They doubled the lead midway through the half with the dynamic Little dancing past Greenwood and a hesitant Kennedy before driving past Taieb, who got a hand to it and perhaps could have done more.

Related: WSL roundup: Chelsea end Manchester United’s 100% record with 6-1 thrashing

On the hour McCabe had the crowd on their feet as she latched on to Lia Walti’s stunning ball from the back, which bounced kindly off Georgia Stanway, clipped it over Kennedy and fired in.

Next Greenwood was at fault, with the England international penalised for a soft challenge on Little and Little converting from the spot, before Williamson completed the rout, heading in from Caitlin Foord’s corner.

In a string of changes as Eidevall looked to rest legs there was a late cameo for the recently arrived two-times World Cup winner and long-time Arsenal fan Tobin Heath, recruited after leaving Manchester United at the end of last season.

“We have to fight, and we will fight,” said City manager, Gareth Taylor. “I want to look and see now who is giving us that positivity. I want to see us really up for that game on Wednesday night. I’m looking for a real response.”

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