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Reading vs Arsenal Women: WSL match preview

Joe Montemurro’s side return to action

Arsenal Women v Everton Women - Barclays FA Women’s Super League Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

Arsenal Women return to action with a trip to the Madejski Stadium to take on 6th placed Reading. Arsenal’s fixture last weekend was postponed when several players had to self-isolate after an Arsenal player tested positive for coronavirus after an ill-advised trip to Dubai over the winter break. After an acrimonious ten days, Arsenal will want to put the episode behind them, and get back to business in the Women’s Super League. With league leaders Manchester United playing second place Chelsea, Sunday offers an opportunity to draw closer to the top two.

Reading, in 6th, are coming off of a fairly heavy 5-0 shellacking against Chelsea, and are winless in their last five games at home, with defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United in that run. They did hold Manchester City to a 1-1 draw in October, and have the potential to cause Arsenal some difficulties.

Reading played an absurdly high line against Chelsea, and were initially undone by a long ball over the top, and then Fran Kirby closing down Emma Mitchell and then simply running faster than her, before Chelsea began turning on the style. If Reading play an equally high line against Arsenal, the Gunners could take advantage, especially in transition, where they’ve hurt Reading in recent matches between the two. Yet, Reading do like to press in midfield, a tactic which has caused Arsenal problems in their last two away games.

With Jess Fishlock and Fara Williams in midfield, Reading have midfield operators who can take advantage when winning possession in midfield, and by playing a diamond in midfield, Reading can outnumber Arsenal. Arsenal, then, will have to move the ball quickly through midfield to get around Reading’s press. When the two teams met in September, Joe Montemurro sprung a surprise, deploying Leah Williamson alongside Lia Wälti in midfield, with a back three of Noelle Maritz, Viki Schnaderbeck, and Steph Catley, with the two natural full backs, Maritz and Catley, comfortable stepping wide. But, with Maritz only just returning to fitness and Catley out, Montemurro may not have that as an option.

Team news:

Arsenal have lost Steph Catley, who has had surgery to repair a hamstring injury. Noëlle Maritz has returned to training, while Viki Schnaderbeck is still rehabbing a knee injury. All of Arsenal’s players who were self-isolating last week have returned to training.

Player to watch: Jill Roord

Roord scored a hat trick when the two teams met in September—the first of two consecutive hat tricks for the Dutch international. Roord’s rate of scoring has slowed down, in part because her role as a second number 9 has been taken by Caitlin Foord. Roord, though, has the physical profile to break through Reading’s midfield pressure, and with her runs from midfield, Arsenal can exploit the space behind Reading’s back four, if they choose to play a high line.

Predicted XI (4-3-3): 18. Williams; 17. Evans, 6. Williamson, 5. Beattie, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 10. Little, 14. Roord; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord
Substitutes: 1. Williams, 3. Wubben-Moy, 4. Patten, 7. Van de Donk, 8. Nobbs, 16. Maritz, 20. Maier, 21. Gut, 24. Stenson

WHAT: Reading Women vs Arsenal Women, Women’s Super League

WHERE: Madejski Stadium, Reading

WHEN: Sunday, January 17th 6:00 AM PST | 9:00 AM EST | 2:0 PM GMT