Arsenal v Birmingham City, Part One

Arsenal continues their UWCL run with their first leg matchup against Birmingham City.

It's been a hot diddly darn minute since we've talked about the Arsenal Ladies and UWCL. Finally, after what seems like forever, the Arsenal Ladies are back in UWCL action with the first leg of their quarterfinal tie against Birmingham City tomorrow. Three other games happened today, and here are the results:

  • Tyreso 8 - 1 Neulengbach
  • Torres 0 - 8 Turbine Potsdam
  • Wolfsburg 3 - 0 Barcelona

An apparent trend of goals and shutouts for the big dogs showed up today, and hopefully will continue tomorrow for Arsenal. Let's hit the big points.

Previously in UWCL action:

To get to this point, the Arsenal Ladies took on Glasgow City in the round of 16, winning 6-2 on aggregate and fueled by a beautiful home leg effort in which they won 3-0. The win booked Arsenal Ladies a trip to their 12th straight quarterfinals, and keeps the door open for a potential 4th straight semifinals appearance.

Worth noting that of the six goals scored for the Gunners, five of them were scored by players still with the club. Considering the personnel lost over the past few months, that is a massive stat. However, one of the goals did come from Jordan Nobbs, who, as I mentioned earlier today, is currently out of action with a back injury.

Considering the signing of forward Shinobu Ohno and several other new signees that will give the defense a nice little face lift, I think Arsenal's losses this offseason, injury or otherwise, come out to a bit of a wash. Arsenal Ladies is still a very strong team. While they'll look a bit different than they did last round, they'll obviously still be looking for a victory.

What to watch for in Birmingham City:

As compared to Arsenal, Birmingham City has had a relatively quiet offseason, and looks quite a lot like the squad the Gunners beat four times just last year. That is most certainly a good thing. However, this isn't going to be some pushover. Birmingham City is a squad that has showed they can hang with some of the tougher teams, and won't be going down without a fight. Two players that will be key to that fight are Kirsty Linnett and Jo Potter.

Forward Kirsty Linnett will be especially important for Birmingham City if they want to advance. Linnett is the leading goal scorer for City, with three goals in four games. Considering that City lost their second leading goal scorer, Isobel Christiansen, over the offseason, there will be a lot more pressure on Linnett to provide the offensive spark for the Blues.

With captain Laura Bassett exiting this offseason, I fully expect Jo Potter to not only step up in a goalscoring and distributer role, but also in a leadership role. Potter only had one goal and one assist through four games in Birmingham's current UWCL run, and she's going to have to step up to another level which is very possible. Potter was stellar in her 2013 FAWSL campaign with City, and if she comes to play with that mentality, Arsenal could be exposed in the central midfield.

Keys for the Gunners:

For Arsenal to get a win, and hopefully a nice cushion heading into the home leg, two things need to happen: Danielle Carter needs to stay, as they say, "en fuego" and the new defensive line needs to gel.

Dan Carter is currently tied atop the UWCL goal scorers table with six goals in four matches. She'll need to keep up her fine form as the club's second and third place goal scorers, Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs respectively, wont be playing in this matchup. Do it Dan, like we know you can.

As for the defense, there are a lot of fresh faces coming into this game. To review, defense sound off! Yukari Kinga, Anouk Hoogendijk, and Casey Stoney are three new arrivals that I think will absolutely have an impact on this matchup. Along with ole faithful Alex Scott, the Gunners seem to have a solid back line in place to protect Sio Chamberlain, who I think will takeover the starting goalkeeper position. Success all depends on if communication across the back line goes well, and this is the first big game they've played together.

Prediction:

Arsenal Ladies win this one 3-1. I think Birmingham's offense is going to be at a premium, and while they bag one early against a fresh Arsenal defense, the Gunners rebound and take this one easily behind a Dan Carter brace and Ohno's first competitive goal for the Arsenal. Yay, positivity!

While I'm almost 100% confident the game will not be available for viewing anywhere, I'm almost just as certain the Arsenal Ladies twitter account will be live tweeting the game, as their social media game has been very strong as of late.

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