Arsenal Women travel to Manchester City on Thursday to play the semi-final of last season’s FA Cup. With Everton having knocked Chelsea out, the winner of tomorrow’s match is going to be the favourite to lift the Women’s FA Cup.
Arsenal played Manchester City three times last season, winning two of the matches, including the Continental Cup semi-final. But they lost in Manchester in a game where, despite having more possession, more shots, and a higher xG, City won 2-1, taking advantage of slack defending and poor finishing. Arsenal haven’t won away at Manchester City since the 2017 Spring Series.
Manchester City made a number of high profile signings in the summer transfer window, bringing Lucy Bronze back to the club from Lyon, while also signing Alex Greenwood from the European champions. Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle also joined, as did Chloe Kelly, from Everton. Lavelle has not yet played for City, but could make her debut on Thursday. City also have a new manager, with Gareth Taylor replacing Nick Cushing, who left for an assistant coach position at New York City in MLS.
The amount of change to City has caused some disruption in one of the WSL’s more predictably steady teams. Having dropped points only to Arsenal and Chelsea last season, City drew at home to Brighton 0-0 in their last WSL match. To get to the semi-final, City beat Women’s Championship side Leicester 2-1, a contest that was much closer than otherwise predicted. Thus far in the campaign, City’s attack hasn’t really gotten going yet, and the loss of Pauline Bremer, who scored 22 goals for City in all competitions last season and took 7 shots per 90, has been keenly felt, with no true backup centre forward for Ellen White. Yet, City have quality players; Chloe Kelly has impressed on the left, Georgia Stanway has three goals in three games, and City have a strong overall squad. After a benign start to the domestic season, Thursday’s semi-final will be a good test to see where Arsenal are.
Arsenal will be without Steph Catley and Jill Roord. The former has a calf injury, while the latter will be out for 2-3 weeks with a knee injury that was picked up on international duty. Lydia Williams remains out, but Lia Wälti, who was rested on Saturday, and Jen Beattie, who had a back injury, will be back in the squad.
Player to watch: Vivianne Miedema
Vivianne Miedema is off to a typically strong start this season, with two goals against Reading and another two against West Ham. Miedema scored in both home victories against Manchester City last season. Yet what has been most notable about Miedema this season is not just her goals, but how she has increasingly played a deeper role. Miedema, to an extent, has always done this. She is not only an exceptional striker, but also an exceptional creative player, and likes to drop off the forward line, which creates space for Arsenal’s two number 8s and wingers.
Miedema has dropped off the front line a lot thus far this season, but Arsenal have had forward numbers, especially through Jill Roord, and then Caitlin Foord, as Montemurro explained: “Playing Caitlin Foord on the left allows us to have a second number 9 and for Viv to float a little bit more.”
In these two moves, Miedema plays a larger role in the development and build-up of Arsenal’s play, with Foord playing as a target forward to play one-twos with at the edge of the box, opening up space for runners—Jordan Nobbs in the first clip, and left-back Katie McCabe in the second. Thus, as Arsenal look to control the game against Manchester City, it may be a case of having Miedema float away from the centre backs marking her to contribute to that control, and then force the centre backs to decide whether to follow her, leaving space for runners behind, or to leave the best striker in the league unmarked.
Predicted lineup (4-3-3):
1. Zinsberger; 16. Maritz, 6. Williamson, 22. Schnaderbeck, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 10. Little, 8. Nobbs; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord
Substitutes: 24. Stenson (GK), 3. Wubben-Moy, 5. Beattie, 7. Van de Donk, 17. Evans, 20. Maier, 21. Gut, 30. Mace
WHAT: Manchester City Women vs Arsenal Women, Women’s FA Cup
WHERE: Academy Stadium, Manchester
WHEN: Thursday, October 1st 11:15 AM PDT | 2:15 PM EDT | 7:15 PM BST
TV: FA Player (streaming), BBC 2 (UK), BBC iPlayer (UK, streaming)