Arsenal Women head to Adams Park to take on Reading on Sunday, looking to extend their grip on the top of the table. With Chelsea playing Manchester City, it is an opportune time for Arsenal to put some distance between themselves and at least one of the other top three sides in the FA WSL before the winter break.
Reading, who play at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park, are firmly established as part of the middle tier of the WSL. Last season, they finished in 5th place, but with Manchester United entering the league this season and Everton improving, they find their grasp on the middle portion of the league under threat. Nevertheless, Reading are 6th, a point behind United, having played one less game. Having scored twelve and conceded thirteen in their seven league games this season, games involving the Royals can be high scoring affairs: their last three games have been a 2-2 draw with Brighton, 3-2 win against West Ham, and a 3-3 draw with Bristol City, who Arsenal, of course, beat 11-1 last week.
Sunday’s game should be tighter than Arsenal’s 11-1 win against Bristol, even with Reading’s habit of conceding. With Fara Williams in midfield, Reading are a dangerous threat from set pieces, especially with Williams’ ability to score from range. Jade Moore, an England international, holds in midfield. Millie Farrow plays upfront, but has only taken four shots in seven matches; her role is to hold play up for Williams, who is the primary shot taker for Reading, with twenty-seven shots in 628 minutes; an average of nearly four a game.
Arsenal beat Reading 3-0 in the corresponding fixture last season, but were held for large portions of the match. Given Reading’s threat going forward, expect Joe Montemurro to not have Jen Beattie as a lone centre back, as he did last week, with Leah Williamson and Viki Schnaderbeck pushing forward into midfield. Indeed, Montemurro will likely return to a nominal back four, with Katie McCabe and Lisa Evans pushing on from fullback. Evans was involved in five of Arsenal’s eleven goals last week, scoring twice and assisting Vivianne Miedema three times. With Danïelle van de Donk, a central midfielder, and Beth Mead, a right-footed player playing on the left, as Arsenal’s two wide players there is a lot of space for Evans and McCabe to push forward into, and Evans was particularly effective last week.
Kim Little should come back into the team, having been rested last week. She could replace Jill Roord, who is starting to get acclimated to Arsenal, or Jordan Nobbs. Nobbs, who scored last week, looked a little closer to her best, with Montemurro saying, “[last week] was a positive step forward.” It will still take some time for Nobbs to be completely back after her ACL injury, with Montemurro observing that, “Every experience I’ve had with a player coming back from an ACL it takes about six months until they really get into the rhythm.”
Player to Watch: Vivianne Miedema
Was it going to be anyone else? After her six goals and four assists last week, the focus of the entire league will be on Miedema, expecting to see more heroics. Miedema, incredibly, still doesn’t feel at her best, following an abbreviated summer break after reaching the final of the Women’s World Cup. Miedema has scored 49 goals in the calendar year of 2019 for Arsenal and the Netherlands, but, despite being the best striker in the WSL, she takes more pride in her creativity. Indeed, with Little, Nobbs, Van de Donk, Roord, Mead and others, like Lisa Evans, she has teammates who take advantage of her creative ability, and take up the space that Miedema vacates, allowing her to flourish creatively.
Predicted XI: Zinsberger; Evans, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Wälti, Little, Nobbs; Van de Donk, Miedema, Mead
Reading Women vs Arsenal Women
Date: Sunday, December 8, 2019
Time: 2:30 PM GMT/9:30 AM EST/6:30 AM PST
Stream: FAPlayer.tv (free)