Arsenal Women kick off a big December with a home fixture against Carla Ward’s rapidly improving Birmingham City. With league matches against Manchester City and Everton to follow before the winter break, Arsenal will want to get the month off to quick start, having not won in the league since October and falling to second in the league after losing against Manchester United and drawing with Chelsea last month.
Birmingham appointed Carla Ward in the middle of August, with only ten senior players at the club. Ward was able to build the squad out, and after a rough start, where they looked odds on favourites for relegation, Birmingham have won three of their last four league games, and are now firmly midtable.
Birmingham have the second fewest shots per 90 in the division while giving up the second most shots per 90, and have the most touches in their defensive penalty box and the second fewest in the attacking third. Yet, they don’t just sit passively deep; with the second most pressures per 90 in the WSL, they make the most of their defensive positioning, and as a result, their expected goals against is the sixth best in the league. In attack, Claudia Walker has scored 5 of Birmingham’s 9 goals, with a goal in each of her last four games.
Arsenal will be buoyed by the return of fans to Meadow Park. With the ground in Tier 2, Arsenal will welcome 900 fans to tomorrow’s match.
Joe Montemurro confirmed that Steph Catley and Jordan Nobbs will be available. Catley hasn’t played for Arsenal since the 9-1 win against West Ham, having suffered a recurrence of a calf injury. Jen Beattie and Lisa Evans, having made their comeback in Arsenal’s last match, played 90 minutes in each of Scotland’s defeats over the international break. Lia Wälti will miss out through concussion protocols, while Noëlle Maritz remains out, having suffered a set back. Viki Schnaderbeck suffered a knee injury in Arsenal’s loss against Manchester United last month, and has not yet returned. Vivianne Miedema, who withdrew from the Netherlands squad over the international break will be fit to start.
Player to watch: Jill Roord
Jill Roord scored twice in the Netherlands’ 6-0 win over Kosovo over the international break—Roord’s first goal since September. Having started the season off with two hat-tricks before suffering a knee injury, Roord’s role has been slightly different since she made her return to Arsenal’s starting lineup. Earlier this season, Roord was a second number 9, taking up central striking positions when Vivianne Miedema dropped deep or wide. Since Roord’s injury, that role has been taken by Caitlin Foord, who more naturally gets into goal-scoring positions. Roord, though, has been valuable: against Chelsea, she completed 90% of her passes, while also leading Arsenal in pressures in the middle third, a side of the game she did very well last season. Roord is a good ball-carrier and safe in possession, which is valuable against pressing teams but with Jordan Nobbs having returned to fitness, there are places in midfield up for grabs, with next weekend’s trip to Manchester City looming. And with Birmingham’s defence of space deep, Roord’s ability to get into goal-scoring positions, and her ability to carry the ball, can be of increased value.
Predicted lineup (4-3-3): 18. Williams; 17. Evans, 6. Williamson, 3. Wubben-Moy, 15. McCabe; 21. Gut; 10. Little, 14. Roord; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord
Substitutes: 1. Zinsberger, 5. Beattie, 7. Van de Donk, 8. Nobbs, 12. Catley, 20. Maier, 30. Mace, 32. Garrard, 33. Pearsie
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs Birmingham City Women, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
WHEN: Sunday, December 6th 6:00 AM PST | 9:00 AM EST | 2:00 PM GMT
WATCH: FA Player (streaming)