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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Lycett

Arsenal vs. Villa: The return of Beth Mead

So, I've not tried this format before and it may not hit the mark. Surely you come to this blog for, well, a blog, a written collection of musings and opinions and inexpert analyses on Arsenal Women and women's football.

But I also love to take photos, and I love to capture moments. I try to see what others don't, where I can. So, here's that Villa game - including Beth Mead's return - as I saw it, through a lens.

It was a make or break 90+ minutes, that could have left our WSL ambitions dead in the water, or reinvigorate the team to get their first win of the season.

Luckily - spoiler alert - it was the latter.

The Emirates crowd

35,829 in attendance for this second game at the Emirates of the season. The first proper test of whether it would be financially viable to move there full time, even if it's not a big-name rivalry. At over 35k, that must surely be a tick in the right box.

A moment of silence

Before the game, a moment of silence for the innocent victims in the Israel-Gaza war. Stillness all around, aside from the distant rumble of passing trains.

Steph Catley

Steph Catley, shot between a wave of clapping hands. To jump ahead and to not dwell, by this time, we were 0-1 down - and looking unlikely to score...


Frustrations started to boil over at certain tense moments. Ilestedt and Pacheco tested each other in the penalty box.

Jordan and Beth

On the sidelines, a hug between friends and rivals. While warming up, Beth, Jordan, and Jen chatted and caught up. A bittersweet moment I'm sure for Jordan, returning to the Emirates to experience that crowd, on the 'wrong' side.

A pep talk

A player down led to the players taking stock. How could they make a difference? How could they change the game?

Stina Blackstenius being subbed on

Then, the subs. Pelova and Lacasse on in the 63rd minute. Blackstenius on in the 76th.

Beth Mead's return

A ripple of anticipation from the crowd. Beth exchanging words with Patrick, Arsenal's set piece expert. After 11 months on the sidelines, Beth Mead prepared to step onto the pitch. She didn't look at the fans, at the bench.

The roar of support and chants of "Meadoooo" echoed around the stadium as she joined the ranks of the Arsenal once again.

It never ceases to amaze me how sportspeople can thrive on pressure - but I cannot begin to fathom the emotions Beth must have felt in this moment.

The weight of expectation and the excitement and fear of leaping back into the world of football.

Beth Mead playing football

Beth Mead's return to the game, her presence was the boost, the lift the team needed. The intent was clear. We had nearly all our attacking players on the pitch. We were here to win this.

And that's just what we did - leaving it to extra time to really test the nerves of the fans in attendance.

Blurry celebrations

To draw level, a wonder goal by Katie - of course, who else? No riotous celebrations, but sweeping arm gestures to the crowds, asking for more energy, more belief, more passion.

I was leaping around, this blurred photo is a visual representation of my happiness.

Celebrating the winning goal

Then, the winning goal. An assist from Beth Mead, driving forwards to draw the defence, slotting the ball back to Russo, who slams it into the back of the net from outside the penalty area.

The limbs in the stands were unreal. The player celebrations were end of season-esque, with the referee needing to chivvy the players back to the halfway line to take us through the final few minutes of the game.

Post-game hugs

The final whistle blew and the players hugged, while the fans did the same in the stand. Hard fought, gritty, but this was the Arsenal again.

Last season, they were defiant in the face of unfair and frustrating circumstances outside of their control. This season, they've battled back to overcome challenges of their own making.

Happy Beth Mead

This was the day the team started to come full circle. The absence of Beth Mead this past year was the start of a series of unfortunate events that forced the team to adapt, to fight, to grow. To surpass expectations and to find ways to win with the odds stacked against them.

Now, Beth is back, and she's come at just the time when they needed to find that fighting spirit again. With Viv Miedema's return imminent, and Leah and Laura before season end, the full Arsenal will soon be back in force.

I hope you're sitting comfortably, cos you're going to want to be here for it all.

Want to see more photo recaps?

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