s Arsenal kept alive their dream of winning the Women’s Super League title, it was fitting that Beth Mead was at the heart of it.
The pressure was on the Gunners to deliver against Tottenham on Wednesday night, with over 13,000 tickets sold for the north London derby at Emirates Stadium and needing victory to close the gap on leaders Chelsea to one point and take the title race to the final day on Sunday.
Given what was at stake, Arsenal could have been forgiven a few nerves. But within four minutes Mead had banished any fears they were feeling the heat with an ice-cold finish. The England forward then assisted one of Caitlin Foord’s late goals to secure a vital three points.
The win sets up a dramatic final day of the WSL season, with Arsenal away at West Ham and Chelsea hosting Manchester United.
“I’m excited. That’s what we want. We want to play games that matter the most,” said Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall.
“If we don’t bring it to that point we won’t win any trophies so that’s always the starting point. Play in decisive games, get to those moments and believe that everything is possible.”
A large reason for Arsenal’s title charge has been the form of Mead, who has got back to her best under Eidevall and has even upped her game when the pressure has cranked up now.
Chelsea’s Sam Kerr will tonight be crowned the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year, but Mead would also have been a deserving winner of the award such has been the level of her performances this season.
The 26-year-old has the most assists in the WSL this season with eight, but that number should be far greater. Mead has created 63 chances, which is a new WSL record and more than double the amount of her team-mate Vivianne Miedema.
She has rediscovered her form in front of goal, too, and at a crucial time, scoring in in each of Arsenal last six games and catapulting herself to be the third top scorer in the League behind Kerr and Miedema.
“I don’t think she has reached her peak yet either, I hope this year is just another stepping stone to greater things,” said Eidevall.
“I told Beth a couple of weeks ago, sometimes when you come into a team as a coach and you have seen players playing on video and you have an idea of them, but she’s one of those I saw her, I saw positive things in her but she absolutely blew my mind with her qualities when I came here.”
Mead’s form is timely for Arsenal given they are still fighting for the title, but it also gives them hope for the future too.
Given the uncertainty around the future of Miedema, who is out of contract in the summer, Arsenal need a player to carry the team when it comes to assists and goals.
Few would have predicted Mead could be that player, but she has more assists than Miedema this season in the WSL and only trails her goal tally by three.
It bodes well for the future, but also Sunday too. Arsenal need to better Chelsea’s result and in Mead they have a player on a hot streak who is relishing the pressure.
Chelsea should, given they are at home, have enough to see off Manchester United, but there is still hope for Arsenal and last night showed they are ready to pounce if the door opens.