Arsenal Women face West Ham tomorrow in the WSL, with the Gunners very much needing three points. After last week’s disappointing draw away at Reading, Arsenal’s chances of winning the WSL are very slim, with focus now turning to the bare minimum of qualifying for the Champions League. To do that, Arsenal will need to finish in the top 3, and with a 2 point lead over Manchester City, who have a game in hand, and a 3 point gap to Manchester United, every game against opponents outside the top 3 is must-win territory.
West Ham have a new manager, Olli Harder, but have lost three out of their last four in the WSL. They have had better time in the Continental Cup, and are into the semi-final, having beaten Championship side Durham on Thursday. West Ham only have two wins all season, and have conceded the second most goals in the league, including 9 to Arsenal when the teams met earlier this season. Their defence has tightened up in recent weeks, conceding only five in their previous four games, but keeping more clean sheets will be part of Harder’s brief. His task will have been made slightly more difficult because of the end of Rachel Daly’s loan spell, with the responsibility for goal-scoring falling more heavily on Martha Thomas and midfielder Emily van Egmond, West Ham’s joint-top scorer.
Much like last week against Reading, West Ham will give Arsenal chances. If Arsenal raise their game, they should be able to exploit West Ham’s defence; if not, it will be another game that Arsenal muddle through.
Steph Catley and Viki Schnaderbeck remain out. Jordan Nobbs, who had a tight calf, is fit and available. Arsenal had a number of players self-isolating in the run-up to last weekend’s game, and after a full week of training, Arsenal should be able to start more or less their first choice team.
Player to watch: Jordan Nobbs
Arsenal badly missed Jordan Nobbs last weekend, as they have often this season. Arsenal’s attacking touches are down this season, and the team have struggled to progress the ball as well as they have in previous seasons. Arsenal’s shot creating actions are down too, especially in midfield, with more of Arsenal’s creative actions coming from wide areas. The one player who has continued to create shots at a high level is Nobbs—indeed, per 90 minutes, Nobbs has had the the second most shot creating actions only after Tobin Heath, and no one has created more from open play. Arsenal badly need Nobbs, and although she starred from a wide position against Everton, Joe Montemurro has to think about putting Nobbs back in central midfield.
Predicted XI (4-3-3): 18. Williams; 17. Evans, 6 Williamson, 5. Beattie, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 8. Nobbs, 10. Little; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord
Substitutes: 1. Zinsberger, 24. Stenson, 3. Wubben-Moy, 4. Patten, 7. Van de Donk, 14. Roord, 16. Maritz, 20. Maier, 21. Gut
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs West Ham United Women, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
WHEN: Sunday, January 24th 4:00 AM PST | 7:00 AM EST | 12:00 PM GMT
WATCH: atafootball.com (streaming), BBC iPlayer (UK)