Joe Montemurro: Beth Mead’s movement and explosiveness are huge weapons for England
In September of our 2018-19 Women’s Super League title-winning season at Arsenal, wWe beat Liverpool 5-0 at home.
She didn’t score, but I’ll never forget the way Beth Mead toured with Danielle van de Donk. She was in, and the DVD went beyond; or else she would go home for Vivianne Miedema, and Viv would go out. I never forget that because she was just getting shot and causing so much havoc – we created a two-on-one situation every time we played between the lines.
It was a big moment for Beth. From there, she had the freedom, the courage and the confidence to say, “If I go inside, I know someone is going to be on the outside to take my place and we can really create overloads”.
At Arsenal, we had a very fluid policy in the attacking third. She may have been a winger in the line-up charts you’d see in the papers or on TV before a game, but the reality was that Beth was left, right, inside, outside, half-spaces and pockets as a No.10.
When I first took over at Arsenal in 2017, I could immediately see Beth’s incredible potential, and that unique explosiveness she had when in one-on-one situations. The key was doing it more in game situations and understanding when and where to do it. She had been one of Sunderland’s best players and it was probably fitting that she was the best player on her side. Once she arrived at Arsenal and started playing with better players, her talent was always going to explode.
That’s exactly what happened – and I think its best might be yet to come…
When Beth and I first met, she spoke with a very strong northern English accent. With my Aussie twang and very little understanding of some English accents, we would sometimes look at each other a bit strangely, saying: “You are speak English that I don’t understand, and I am speak English that you don’t understand”, which was quite funny.
This false confusion didn’t last too long, as we immediately worked closely together to change his role in the team. She was brought up as a centre-forward, but wViv was playing more centrally and I thought Beth coming from the outside to an inside position really suited him. She was able to see the game a little better and be a little more effective in more individual situations coming from the outside in.
The beauty of it was that with Viv floating around in her free role, Beth was able to start in a wider position where she could pull defenders away and watch that stretched defensive line and decide to wait and receive the ball wide then take someone. one on, or race inside the ball to combine with Viv, DVD and Kim Little. It helped a lot because we just created overloads, whether it was on the outside or in the central areas – many teams found that very, very difficult to fight.
While you’d think Beth’s shift from centre-forward to wing – where she’s shone for Arsenal and England ever since – would have been a lot of work, the positional aspect was the hardest part. easy.
IIt was more about identifying what the best passing choice was, because sometimes she would go inside, keep going and probably give opposing defenders a few extra seconds to reorganize. When she should come in and maybe reverse the pass quickly, or come in and play an early ball behind the defense.
That first ball behind the defenders was something she was beginning to identify with. I can probably count 10-15 goals we scored at Arsenal just with that. She was – and still is – so good at it.
Phil Neville then managed the England women’s team and I can honestly say he’s always been a huge fan of hers. He saw something in her very quickly and she was always going to be part of the English setup while he was there. There was always a very positive attitude that she would be an important player for England, and it shows now after the disappointment of missing the Olympics in Japan with Team GB last summer.
It’s all part of growing and maturing.
I got her four years ago from 22 when she was just developing and still going north in terms of its capacity. I think all of the high pressure situations and big game scenarios that she went through at that age – the fact that she was an important player and a leader during my tenure – was part of her growth and development for become the player she is now.
The reality is that we had a few years of big injuries and a very thin team. We relied on five or six people week in and week out to keep us performing at a high level. We’re talking about the FA Cup and League Cup finals as well as the Chelsea and Manchester City games, which will always be key fixtures for the Women’s Super League.
These games forced Beth to say, “OK, well, I’m one of the main players here, I’m a leader here, and now I have to perform.” There were a lot of games, moments and situations where she grew and got better and better because she knew she was going to be an important part of – not just Arsenal – but also of the English setup.
One of the main differences between those early days and now is that sit no longer dwells so much on errors.
In the past, she was sometimes affected if she made a mistake and it took her some time to bring her back on board. But now she’s moving on, and I think that’s been important to her. If she makes a mistake – which we all do on the pitch – she just makes sure to make the next chance count.
We saw it in the European Championship semi-final against Sweden on Tuesday, when they missed their first attempt – a difficult header at the far post – but responded later in the half with a fine volley to put England 1-0 up.
I’m not surprised at all that Beth has rediscovered her goalscoring form over the past 12 months – she’s been putting herself in fantastic positions all the time.
You have those golden points where you score a lot of goals, and you have moments where it doesn’t quite fall for you. Great players know how to react when things go wrong. When things aren’t going well for Beth, she’ll often become the assist champion instead — she’ll always help the team.
She has all the tools a top striker needs: she has the ability to beat a player one-on-one, she can shoot from distance, she can get into those goalscoring positions, so it doesn’t surprise me not at all to see her so well at these Euros.
I can only speak highly of Beth.
If you have fun training, just her smile and having her with her when she’s flying and confident, it’s just fun to be a part of.
We used to joke around a lot and she used to say I looked like one of the Aussie fish from Finding Nemo.
She’s a beautiful person who deserves everything she gets, and I think she could still improve – better as a footballer and obviously she has great values and respect, which I think are her great assets.
I texted her just before Euros to wish her luck and now I just want to congratulate her, the England team – and (Arsenal team-mate) Leah Williamson too. She really had the responsibility of being captain and is so efficient in her passage. It’s something really special. I want to wish them the best.
(Main graphic — Photos: Getty Images/Design: Sam Richardson)