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Arsenal Women v Brighton and Hove Albion Women: Match Preview

Arsenal play Brighton to close out their September

Arsenal Women v Fiorentina Women - UEFA Women’s Champion League Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Arsenal Women will play their final match of a frenetic September on Sunday, when they welcome Brighton and Hove Albion Women to Meadow Park. Arsenal have won all five of their fixtures so far, having beaten London City Lionesses 5-0 in the Continental Cup last weekend, and Fiorentina 2-0 midweek in the Champions League. Having played on Thursday, Arsenal face a quick turnaround to kickoff against Brighton.

Brighton, who finished 9th last season, have been solid so far this season, drawing away with Bristol and drawing at home with Chelsea. Managed by former England boss Hope Powell, they have so far been far more solid defensively than they were last season, when they conceded 38, the third most goals in the FA WSL. Part of that improvement comes from having signed Yeovil Town goalkeeper Megan Walsh in the summer. Despite being part of the league’s worst defence, Walsh stood out as a shot stopper. Powell has Brighton line up in a 433 system, and looks to utilize the pace of Iniabasi Umotong in behind, with support from Ellie Brazil from the right and Aileen Wheelan from the left. Against Chelsea, Brighton were very direct: Danielle Buet, their holding midfielder, was their best passer, and their other players through the spine of their team all had passing completion rates under 70%. Brighton will likely perform similarly against Arsenal, who beat them 4-1 and 4-0 last year.

For Arsenal, the number of games this month has seen the team develop, as they’ve gotten over a shorter pre-season for many of their crucial playes. With Jordan Nobbs and Lia Wälti returning from injury, Joe Montemurro has more options, though it is unlikely either of those two start; Wälti played 45 minutes on Sunday and then the final 15 against Fiorentina, while Nobbs played 90 on Sunday and another 15 against Fiorentina. With Leah Williamson having picked up a knock on Sunday, and then playing 75 minutes against Fiorentina, Montemurro may keep a centre back pairing of Viki Schnaderbeck and Jen Beattie, with a midfield trio of Jill Roord, Kim Little, and Danielle van de Donk.

Player to Watch: Lisa Evans

Evans returned to her right back position on Thursday with Leonie Maier rested. With Evans at right back, Katie McCabe at left back, and Leah Williamson in midfield, Arsenal often morphed into a back three with McCabe and Evans pushing forward. Evans runs on the right were crucial last year, with Williamson to Evans one of their most frequent passing cominations. Evans has played higher up the pitch this season, but has largely done the same, very effective thing: eventually get played in behind, get to the byline, and play a cross. It is how Arsenal’s second goal against West Ham was scored, and Evans was a constant outlet against Manchester United. Facing a similarly defensive team, her ability to stretch play will be crucial for Arsenal to break down Brighton’s defence.

Arsenal Women v Brighton and Hove Albion Women
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Kickoff: 12:30 PM BST/7:30 AM EDT/4:30 AM PDT
Stream: FAPlayer.tv, BBC Red Button (UK)