Arsenal travel to The People’s Pension Stadium tomorrow to face off against Hope Powell’s Brighton and Hove Albion, looking to secure three points ahead of next week’s vital top of the table clash against Chelsea.
Arsenal beat Brighton 4-0 in the return fixture earlier this season, and indeed, have scored 4 against Brighton in every league meeting in the WSL, winning 4-1 and 4-0 last season. But, in the Continental Cup this season, Brighton held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw and then won on penalties, albeit against a somewhat rotated Arsenal side. Arsenal will look to ensure such a setback doesn’t happen again, especially as goal difference is again becoming tight at the top of the table.
Brighton are in a relegation battle this season, with the bottom team going down to the Women’s Championship. Last weekend’s victory against Liverpool, though, give the Seagulls some room to breathe, with a gap of now 6 points between Liverpool, who are bottom, and Brighton, who are 9th.
Brighton defend in a deep block, which is how they caused a Miedema-less Arsenal team in November issues. They also play quick, direct passes into the channels, looking to exploit the space that can be left behind by Arsenal’s attack minded full backs. They soak up pressure and are happy to let the opposition have more shots; even last week, Liverpool out shot Brighton 15-6, with Brighton having only 30% possession and completed only 55% of their passes. Part of the rationale behind their tactics is the pitch: in a groundshare with Crawley Town, in League Two, the pitch is not the best, and is in the period of the season where pitches in the lower leagues get very rough.
Arsenal’s injury absences are starting to clear up: Jen Beattie and Beth Mead should both be available, with Katrine Veje also close to returning.
Player to Watch: Jordan Nobbs
Jordan Nobbs is starting to get back to her best after rupturing her ACL in November 2018. Nobbs returned in September, but it has taken some time for her to get into a rhythm, with manager Joe Montemurro saying, “Jordan is finding a rhythm, an ACL injury takes time and I remember when Kim was coming back from her ACL injury in my first six months here and it took her a real six months to get right.”
Nobbs’ outstanding goal last week, where she ran onto a long pass from Leah Williamson is a sign of her coming back to her best, and also important tactically, with the England international saying, “We wanted Viv to come inside and for me to run in behind, and that’s a big part of my game.” That kind of movement from Miedema and Arsenal’s attacking midfielders will be crucial in breaking down Brighton’s deep block, with movement from deep much harder to track by a defence who likes to have play in front of them.
Zinsberger; Evans, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Wälti, Little, Nobbs; Van de Donk, Miedema, Mead
Brighton v Arsenal Women
Sunday, January 12, 2020
KO: 12:30 PM GMT/7:30 AM EST/4:30 AM PDT
Stream: FAPlayer.tv (free)