Arsenal kick off the new Women’s Super League campaign with a home match against Reading, one that will be behind closed doors. It’ll be Arsenal’s first domestic fixture in over six months, following the suspension and early completion of last season’s WSL. While fellow big 3 competitors Manchester City and Chelsea have made big statements with their summer signings, with City signing USWNT players Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, and Chelsea adding Pernille Harder, one of the best strikers in the world, to an attack that already featured Sam Kerr and Bethany England, Arsenal have kept the core of the team that won the WSL two seasons ago.
Don’t mistake that, though, for Arsenal standing pat. This summer, Arsenal signed Steph Catley, one of the best left backs in the world (wanted by Lyon), and Noëlle Maritz, another very good full back. In addition, Malin Gut came into the team, and Lydia Williams replaced the departing Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. Arsenal, then, have made defensive upgrades to a team that, at its best, can be devastating in attack.
Reading finished fifth in last season’s curtailed campaign, and much like the teams throughout the WSL, made some splashy summer signings. Danielle Carter and Emma Mitchell, two former Arsenal players, along with Deanna Cooper, a former Chelsea player, give Reading added WSL experience. Erin Nayler, a goalkeeper, has been at Bordeaux for the last three years. The biggest addition for Reading, though, is Jess Fishlock, on loan from OL Reign. Fishlock, the second winner of the MBE to play in Reading’s midfield, after Fara Williams, has been one of the best midfielders in the world over the last ten years. She’s won two Champions Leagues, four W-League titles, two NWSL Shields, and many more individual awards. A midfield all-rounder, if she and Fara Williams control midfield, it could be a long day for Arsenal.
Jen Beattie went off in Arsenal’s 2-1 loss to PSG a fortnight ago, and may not be available to play. “She had a bit of a lower back issue which kept her out at the turn of the year. She had a great pre-season, there was no sign of it and against PSG it came back again very early in the second half.” Should Beattie by unfit, her place would likely be taken by Viki Schnaderbeck.
Katie McCabe is suspended—a suspension from yellow card accumulations that should’ve been served last season! Lydia Williams suffered an ankle injury in pre-season, and will be out until after the upcoming international break. Melisa Filis, the England U-19 international, has left the club, joining London Bees in the Women’s Championship.
Player to Watch: Jordan Nobbs
Nobbs was left out, somewhat controversially, from the starting lineup in the quarter-final loss against Lyon. It was probably an error from Joe Montemurro to leave her out, and definitely a mistake to not bring her on, along with Caitlin Foord, until the final quarter of the match.
After missing most of the 2018/19 season following an ACL rupture, Nobbs was beginning to get back to her best before the shutdown, scoring against Liverpool in what turned out to be Arsenal’s final league game of the season. “I’m probably not where I want to be right now. In two years, I’ve played about half a season of football, which is a long time out. I’m still in a great place but I need a few more games under my belt,” Nobbs said in an interview with The Athletic.
Nobbs’ box to box midfield play adds directness and physicality to Arsenal’s midfield. She can control games through her power and passing, with her forward running allowing her to get into goal-scoring positions, moving, in support of Vivianne Miedema, and beyond her.
Predicted XI (4-3-3):
1. Manuela Zinsbeger; 16. Noëlle Maritz, 6. Leah Williamson, 22. Viki Schnaderbeck, 12. Steph Catley; 13. Lia Wälti, 10. Kim Little, 8. Jordan Nobbs; 9. Beth Mead, 11. Viviane Miedema, 7. Danïelle van de Donk
Subs: 24. Fran Stenson, 20. Leonie Maier, 17. Lisa Evans, 14. Jill Roord, 21. Malin Gut, 19. Caitlin Foord, 30. Ruby Mace
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs. Reading, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
WHEN: Sunday, September 6th 4:30 AM PDT | 7:30 AM EDT | 12:30 PM BST
TV: NBC Sports app, NBC live extra (Streaming, US only), BBC (UK),