Arsenal Women will be back in action for the first time in three weeks this weekend, after the international and the FA Women’s Cup semi-final kept the Gunners out of league action. Arsenal head into the final three weeks of the season having secured qualification to the Women’s Champions League next season, and need only two wins from their final three games to win the title. The first of those three is against Everton on Sunday.
Arsenal will be without Lia Wälti for the rest of the season. The Swiss international, who has been a revelation in midfield, initially injured her knee in late January in a friendly for Switzerland, and it was thought she might return before the end of the season. Having not responded to treatment, Wälti underwent surgery last week to repair her LCL. Arsenal have not put out a timetable for her recovery, but the timetable can be similar to ACL recoveries, so it can be expected that Wälti will miss the beginning of next season. Wälti is the third Arsenal player in the last calendar year to suffer a serious knee injury: Danielle Carter, injured at the end of last season, has returned, while Jordan Nobbs is rehabilitating her knee.
With so many injuries this season, it speaks to the quality and performances of the rest of the Arsenal squad that they remain top of the league. Yet despite the performances of Katie McCabe, Danielle van de Donk and Beth Mead, who leads the WSL in assists, with 10, and was named the player of the month for March, only Vivianne Miedema was named in the PFA awards shortlist. Tim Stillman, writing at Arseblog News, has more on the Gunners who haven’t been recognized by their fellow players.
Miedema, 22, was named for both PFA Player of the Year, and PFA Young Player of the Year, and will surely win one of the awards, if not both. Joining Miedema on the shortlist for Player of the Year are Steph Hougton, Keira Walsh and Nikita Parris, of Manchester City, and Erin Cuthbert and Ji So-Yun. Walsh and Cuthbert have been nominated for both awards, and are joined by West Ham’s Alisha Lehmann, Manchester City’s Georia Stanway, and Bristol City goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley. Miedema was also named to the Netherlands’ World Cup squad, where she’ll be joined by Arsenal’s Van de Donk, Dominique Bloodworth, and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
Finally, Arsenal face Everton on Sunday, looking to increase the gap over second place City, who don’t play this weekend, to 4 points. Victory would mean Arsenal would only require a win against Brighton next weekend to clinch the league. Everton are second bottom, and are the only team to have lost to Yeovil Town this season. Indeed, all two of Yeovil Town’s wins in the FAWSL have come against Everton. Arsenal beat Everton 4-0 in the fall, in a match more notable for being the game where Nobbs suffered her ACL injury.
With Everton’s survival secure (the league will be expanding next season, so only one team, Yeovil, will be relegated), Arsenal certainly have more to play for, and are overwhelming favourites. With City at home to Yeovil next weekend, there is very little room to slip up. From the victory against Birmingham at the end of last month, Arsenal will be able to name almost the exact same team. Goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin was injured during the international break, but Van Veenendaal is more than capable to start. Vikki Schnaderbeck continued her comeback from injury during the international break, coming on for Austria in the closing stages of their 2-0 loss to Sweden. Kick off is on Sunday at 12:30 BST/7:30 AM EDT/4:30 AM PDT, with coverage on the BBC iPlayer.