Beth Mead scores her first WSL goals in over a year with first-half brace as Arsenal beat West Ham to keep up the pressure on leaders Chelsea

Two goals in an emphatic win over Arsenal, five days after being recalled to the England squad, this was by far the best week of the past twelve months for Beth Mead.

The attacker has had a tough time both on and off the field. She tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in November 2022, causing her to miss the World Cup, and then lost her mother to ovarian cancer in January.

But Mead has a smile on her face again and her performance against West Ham was similar to the one we saw at the European Championships last summer, where she won the golden boot.

The forward was left out of the England squad for the games against Belgium last month, but received the call from Sarina Wiegman this week after proving her fitness is up to par. Now she proves that her football is back at its best.

Mead’s two goals made her the second Arsenal player after Vivianne Miedema to reach 100 goals (57 goals, 43 assists) in the WSL.

Beth Mead scored a first-half brace as Arsenal beat West Ham on Sunday

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“The first goal is brilliant,” said Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall. ‘She’s constantly putting herself in really good scoring positions so hopefully she has some really good days with England and she can come back and contribute a lot for us in the final block [of games] for Christmas.’

It wasn’t just on the pitch where the difference in quality between Arsenal and West Ham was clearly visible.

At the start of yesterday’s match, the Gunners’ bench, which had an average age of 28 years and 204 days, had a combined 529 WSL appearances. West Ham’s, who had an average age of 20 years and 177 days, had just 95.

The Hammers may have the worst squad in the league. An injury to their number 1 Mackenzie Arnold meant they had no reserve goalkeeper on the bench.

That is the challenge facing boss Rehanne Skinner, whose side are bottom of the table along with Bristol City.

‘That [squad depth] is the difference, isn’t it?’ Skinner said. ‘When you reach these small margins and you have players who have played a hundred caps for their country, they just deal with moments in matches a little differently.

The Arsenal striker scored from close range four minutes before half-time

‘Clear means [between West Ham and Arsenal] are very different. That’s something we want to make progress on, but it won’t happen overnight.”

Arsenal took the lead after just two minutes when Frida Maanum drove a cross into the top left corner. Hammers goalkeeper Megan Walsh had no chance, and so did Arsenal’s second goal sixteen minutes later. Played through by Kyra Cooney-Cross, Mead drove forward before firing a brilliant left-footed shot into the same far corner of the net.

It was 3-0 shortly before half-time when Alessia Russo won the ball back deep in West Ham’s half before setting up Mead and firing in from close range.

Arsenal faces a top match with Chelsea, who defeated Leicester 5-2 yesterday after the international break.