After beating Bristol City Thursday night 7-0 in the Women’s League Cup, Arsenal Women face a quick turnaround, taking on bottom-placed Liverpool on Sunday. Unlike their male counterparts, Liverpool Women have had a horrific beginning to the season, and find themselves firmly embroiled in a relegation battle, with just a single point from six games. With Chelsea and Manchester City facing the other two members of the bottom three, it’s vital for Arsenal to win and keep pace in the title race.
Although they lost at Anfield against Everton, Liverpool actually played well: they created 21 shots, and really should’ve walked away with a point. With just three shots on target, though, they failed to adequately test Tinja-Rikka Korpela in the Everton goal, which has been the story of Liverpool’s season. Although they’ve been alright defensively, conceding just eight goals, they have only scored once, despite featuring a decent front three of Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, former Arsenal player Melissa Lawley, and England youth international Niamh Charles.
Arsenal have no major injury issues, although Emma Mitchell was left out of the League Cup squad, with manager Joe Montemurro indicating a niggle. Katrine Veje and Tabea Kemme are also out injured, meaning Katie McCabe will continue at left back. Jordan Nobbs played 90 minutes on Thursday, and could be rotated out of the squad, as both Lia Walti and Kim Little were rested during portions of Thursday’s match. Jill Roord, who scored, could come in, or Danielle van de Donk could play centrally, with Lisa Evans pushing up to right wing and Leonie Maier playing right back. Montemurro’s rotation policy, though, has been fairly conservative and I wouldn’t be surprised if Nobbs starts and is subbed out around the hour mark.
The major question for Arsenal will be how Liverpool approach: in recent weeks, teams have been sitting in against Arsenal, utilizing direct play and pace to get behind. Bristol City attempted to do the same yesterday, but, Arsenal were able to find the combination and passing play to break them down: “We’ve worked a lot on the detail of our passing and movement, and I thought we were very, very good in terms of finding the right opportunities to open them up and find space behind them.” Whether Arsenal can do that on Sunday, and whether that begins with Leah Williamson, or, if Liverpool continue recent trends, someone else, will be a major determinant of how comfortable the game is.
Player to Watch: Katie McCabe
Kim Little has been Arsenal’s outstanding player in recent weeks, with her close control and ability to break beyond opposing midfielders key to getting Arsenal ahead in matches. But Montemurro utilized Leonie Maier as an inverted full back on Thursday, in an effort to improve Arsenal’s control, highlighting adjustments made to counter opposing teams:
In terms of the build-up, it’s important to condense the areas as we’re progressing and once we condense the areas, they’ve got to come inside and that allows our full backs, wingers or No 10s to drive into the space in those wide areas. We’ve got the full backs and inverted full backs to do it, and it brought us a lot of joy tonight.
Montemurro’s first choice at left back this season has been Katie McCabe, and while the Ireland international, a left-winger for her country, generally plays a conventional full back/wing back role, there is the possibility of McCabe, who can and has played central midfield, of coming inside, and providing the additional player for passing combinations.
Predicted XI: Zinsberger; Evans, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Walti, Little, Nobbs; Van de Donk, Miedema, Mead
Arsenal Women v Liverpool Women
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Kickoff: 2 PM GMT/9 AM EST/6 AM PST