Arsenal have made a tremendous start to the season and much of that has been down to their most influential player right now, Beth Mead. Rob Bateman delves deeper.

After a decent end to the last campaign and a summer of investment, Arsenal have a 100% record in the Barclays Women’s Super League and have scored 55 goals in 15 matches in all competitions. They are on a run of 14 wins and no defeats in their last 15 WSL matches, reached the FA Cup final and are well set to qualify in their Champions League group. The Gunners have a deep squad and are blessed with some great players such as Leah Williamson, Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema among others, but right now it’s Beth Mead that has the strongest claim to being their most effective player.

Mead joined the Gunners in 2017 after starting out at Sunderland, scoring 18 goals and registering just four assists in two top-flight seasons with the Black Cats. Her role at her former club saw Mead lead the line as a striker, with her much higher goal tally than number of assists being reflective of that.

She may have been allocated the number nine shirt at Arsenal, but her role with the Gunners has become more of a roving forward, equally adept at supporting a main striker from central or wide positions, in turn allowing her to become both scorer and creator. This season, Mead has the joint-most goal involvements in the FAWSL, with her eight contributions split equally between goals and assists.

WSL Goal involvements 2021-22

In her career with the north Londoners, she has scored 27 and assisted 30 goals in the FAWSL. It means she now sits joint-third in the all-time rankings for goal involvements in the competition with 79.

WSL All-Time Goal Involvements

Mead raised her tally of assists to 34 on Sunday in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over West Ham and now just sits one behind the all-time record holder, Karen Carney who has a total of 35. With the Gunners facing north London rivals Tottenham on Saturday, the Whitby-born forward could equal or even surpass Carney’s record if she assists against Spurs this weekend. She already has one against Tottenham in the FA Cup this season in a 5-1 triumph back in September.

all-time WSL assists

When you look at her assists on a pitch map, it’s evident that she mostly likes to supply teammates from inside the area as opposed to throwing in hopeful crosses and creates high-quality chances for fellow Gunners players.

Mead already broke a FAWSL record this season for goals assisted from open play when she set up Miedema for a goal against Reading to overtake Nikita Parris’ tally of 25, but Sunday’s assist against the Hammers saw her pull clear once again of Fran Kirby who had matched her total in recent games. Mead has currently accrued 29 goal assists from open play – more than anyone in the competition.

wsl open play assists

She already holds the record for most goal assists in a single FAWSL campaign too, setting up 12 goals in the 2018-19 season. And she has a particularly productive relationship with Vivianne Miedema, setting up the Dutch striker for 12 goals, which is the most prolific combination in Women’s Super League history ahead of Fran Kirby to Sam Kerr (10 times).

This season, Mead has four assists and is tucked in behind Kerr who has five. But looking at expected assists – which show how many goals the average player might have expected to have created given the chances they have laid on, Mead is the leader by far this season with 2.8 xA overall (2.7 from open play), highlighting her creative prowess. Unlike metrics such as assists or chances created, xA isn’t reliant on the recipient of a pass getting a shot away, so it shows how she has been able to create situations for teammates in positions which give them the best chance of finding the net.

Mead has also created more chances in total than any other player and will be an integral part of Arsenal’s challenge to dethrone Chelsea at home and challenge the best teams in Europe over the coming campaign – 23 of the 24 she has set up have also been from open play.

Her incredible season has also been embellished with a hat-trick for England, making her the first woman to score an international hat-trick at Wembley.

At 26 years of age, there is still time for Mead to create more goals, set new records and add to Arsenal’s impressive trophy haul in the Women’s game.

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