Sunday, 24 November 2019

Restoration Drama

Hopperational Details
Date & Venue
Sunday 17 November 2019 at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur Women 2 Arsenal Women 2
FA Women’s Super League
Ground 706 on the lifetime list. Restores for now my complete current “92” for the top four divisions in England (or 91 when you take account of Coventry City as a groundsharer). Likewise it means that I have been everywhere currently in use down to Step 2 National League N & S for the moment. Brentford’s and York City's new grounds will be opened sooner rather than later too so there will always be the need for restoration.
Spurs Women usually play at The Hive, Barnet, but an international weekend and the prospect of a big crowd meant that this first WSL meeting between these local rivals was switched to the new place. The season is five games old. Reigning champions Arsenal have a slightly better win-loss record, 4-1 as opposed to Spurs’ 3-2. The hosts have priced the fixture very attractively (£7 for my ticket) and have made a pitch for parents-and-children attendance. I dare say there will be a few more groundhoppers dotted around too.
In one sentence
A record crowd (38000+) for a women’s club game in England saw Arsenal take the points with a composed, stylish and efficient performance.
So what?
Still early in the season but it seems that Arsenal will be title challengers and Spurs will be at least safely mid-table.
Match Report
I’m late with this and the game will have been covered in detail already for anyone interested, so I will be brief and impressionistic. It was a predictably cagey start to the game. Arsenal looked a touch more composed on the ball, and their patterns of movement looked promising. Spurs were more robust. There were few clear chances initially but by half-time Arsenal probably should have been in front. Spurs will also point to chances that could have gone in and changed the narrative, especially a shot by Kit Graham that went straight at keeper Manuela Zinsberger. In the end any Arsenal nerves were calmed by a great finish from Kim Little. She controlled a defensive header that fell nicely for her to control, manoeuvre and then fire into the corner of the net.

Arsenal managed the game very well from then on. A short backpass gifted them a second, scored by Vivianne Miedema, and it looked for a moment as if Spurs could collapse. Anything more than 0-2 would have been harsh on the home side, who played a full part in an enjoyable, entertaining game of football. Rachel Furness caught the eye with an all-action and energetic display.

As a neutral and blogger, I just have to comment on the cultural differences between the equivalent fixtures in the men’s and women’s game. I do not side with those who think the latter lacks something in the way of “passion”, that word that is so often used as an excuse or a proxy for poor personal standards or outright lack of self-control. The game played at this level deserves to succeed and all the signs are that it will. The men’s game changed forever once the suits realised there was so much money to be made from media and advertising. Like many groundhoppers, I lost a lot of interest from that point onwards and I hope the development of the women’s game does not make the same mistake and create too big a gulf between the rich and the poor clubs. There’s no evidence at all that Sky, BT and their sponsors really care too much about their wider unintended impact. There, I said it.

I can only imagine that with a capacity crowd, the local infrastructure comes under severe strain. I watched a couple of teenagers deal with this by clinging limpet-like to the back of a bus as it headed south down the High Road. Not recommended. The teacher in me wanted to intervene, but I couldn’t get close enough and maybe it’s just as well.

It is a phenomenally impressive stadium. Up to now I’d have chosen The Emirates as best club stadium in England, but this one now takes the honour in my book. The asymmetry has been used cleverly to create a clear home end. The range of food outlets is impressive and diverse. Lighting, signage, sight lines and space are all excellent.

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
New this season – a pre-match prediction based only on keeper top colours as a preliminary test of the data.  Proper statistical significance test to follow in due course.

Today was a contest between two very different shades of green.

Pre-match Prediction based on Keeper Top Colour:
Was the prediction correct?
% of correct predictions so far
52% (32 from 62)

Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis. The odd decimal places were caused either by half-and-half tops or sub keepers in a different colour.  The Fire Cracker colour was confirmed with the help of the social media team at Dulux UK.  All of this arises from a comment attributed to Petr Cech that orange is the best colour for a goalkeeper because it changes the behaviour of other players around the box.

Full table on this page:

What Next?
Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter! I’ve been everywhere down to Step 2 now, and I have two grounds (Atherton Collieries & Radcliffe) left at Step 3 and seventeen at Step 4. I've not been very active as yet this season but these remain my priorities.

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