Arsenal Women face Everton in their final match of 2019, with three points necessary to ensure that Arsenal head into the Christmas break on top of the league table. Everton were second bottom last season, only surviving relegation because Yeovil Town were out of their depth, then placed in administration, and because the league was only relegating one team. Under new head coach Willie Kirk, Everton recruited smartly, bringing in former Arsenal target Kika van Es, and Lucy Graham, who was Bristol City’s top scorer last season. Thus far, Everton have been one of the surprise packages of the league, in competition for the league’s 4th placed spot with the likes of Manchester United, Reading, and Tottenham, and winning at Anfield against Liverpool.
Everton lost last time out against Manchester United. Having taken the lead after two minutes, Everton gave up the equalizer on four minutes and a second goal in the eleventh minute, with United adding a third on the stroke of halftime. That defensive weakness will have been frustrating; before last weekend’s game, Everton had only given up five goals in seven games. Their home defeat against Manchester City—a game they only lost 1-0—is instructive. Playing on the counter attack, Everton were able to create sixteen shots, despite only have 42% possession, with Maéva Clemaron in central midfield the platform through whom Everton look to play to Graham, former Arsenal player Chloe Kelly, and playmaker Inessa Kaagman. They, rather than striker Simone Magill, are Everton’s main scoring threats.
After beating Reading, Arsenal ran out 9-0 winners on Wednesday against Championship side London Bees in the Continental Cup, as both Katie McCabe and Melissa Filis scored hat-tricks. Arsenal completely rested Danïelle van de Donk, Kim Little, and Jordan Nobbs, with Vivianne Miedema, Lisa Evans, and Beth Mead only playing 45 minutes. Arsenal did lose Jennifer Beattie to a calf injury.
Arsenal were sturdy in winning against Reading, and similar will be needed against Everton, especially as the pitch, Southport FC’s Haig Avenue, is an awful pitch. Over the past 18 months, though, Arsenal have typically been able find ways to win these games, as they have often needed to, with the 1-0 win against Birmingham City last season coming to mind.
Player to Watch: Jordan Nobbs
Jordan Nobbs suffered ACL injury in this fixture last season, and it has taken some time for Nobbs to get back to her best, with Joe Montemurro saying it can take up to six months after regaining fitness. Nobbs has been better recently: she was excellent against Bristol City, looking sharper in her ball movement and play off the ball, though she was less influential last week against Reading. With teams looking to cut off Leah Williamson and Lia Wälti, to disrupt Arsenal’s build-up play, Kim Little has increasingly dropped deeper, meaning Nobbs is left higher up the pitch. Nobbs is better suited to being a number 8, but even still, she still maintains an important roll in Arsenal’s build up play: it was Nobbs who got the pre-assist for Arsenal’s opener last week, playing the ball to Van de Donk from a deeper position as Little made an intelligent off the ball run.
Predicted XI: Zinsberger; Evans, Williamson, Quinn, McCabe; Wälti, Little, Nobbs; Van de Donk, Miedema, Mead
Everton vs Arsenal Women
Sunday, December 15, 2019
KO: 12:30 PM GMT/7:30 AM EST/4:30 AM PST