After last weekend’s home fixture against West Ham was postponed due to snow, Arsenal will try again for their first win in 2021 as they face Aston Villa. This fixture was supposed to happen on January 6, but was postponed when a number of Arsenal players were forced into self-isolation after an Arsenal player contracted coronavirus following a Christmas-break trip to Dubai. This weekend was originally set aside for the 4th round of the Women’s FA Cup. However with the 2nd and 3rd round yet to be completed because the clubs involved don’t qualify for elite status and cannot play under current lockdown regulations, the competition has been suspended—opening up this weekend for the WSL, after a majority of the fixtures for the weekend of January 5/6 were postponed.
Aston Villa played Chelsea in the midweek, and lost 4-0. They are second bottom, with 7 points from 11 games, having conceded the second most goals in the league. However, Arsenal have not found away games straightforward recently, with only two wins away from home all season, and no wins in their last three away games—two losses, and the draw with Reading two weeks ago, in the Gunners’ last game. With Arsenal now in fourth place, anything other than a win will essentially consign Arsenal to missing the top 3, and the Champions League spot that comes with a top 3 finish. Plainly speaking, Arsenal need to win, and they should win.
For Villa, recent weeks have been about change. Head coach Gemma Davies was recently demoted, with Marcus Bignot being appointed as interim manager, with Davies and her coaching staff retaining their jobs. If it sounds like an odd situation, that’s because it is. Bignot managed Birmingham City while playing professionally, leading them into England’s top-flight after two seasons. Bignot’s brief will be to improve Villa’s defence, but statistically, they have the third worst attack in the league, with 10 expected goals from 11 games, and the third fewest shots per 90 games. Villa have signed Japanese World Cup winner Mana Iwabuchi, a former teammate of Vivianne Miedema and Lisa Evans, and an excellent attacking player, and Iwabuchi already has a goal and an assist in 225 minutes of WSL action.
Arsenal come in with a further week of training, having had a short week before the draw against Reading. Steph Catley and Viki Schnaderbeck are both out; otherwise, Joe Montemurro has a full complement of players to select from. With matches coming up against Manchester City and Chelsea in February, Montemurro may want to manage minutes.
Player to Watch: I’ll just copy and paste this from last week.
Arsenal badly missed Jordan Nobbs two weeks ago against Reading, 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 lineup (4-3-3): 18. Williams; 17. Evans, 6. Williamson, 5. Beattie, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 10. Little, 8. Nobbs; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord
Substitutes: 1. Zinsberger, 3. Wubben-Moy, 4. Patten, 7. Van de Donk, 14. Roord, 16. Maritz, 20. Maier, 21. Gut, 30. Mace
WHAT: Aston Villa Women vs Arsenal Women, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Bank’s Stadium, Walsall
WHEN: Sunday, January 31st 6:00 AM PST | 9:00 AM EST | 2:00 PM GMT
WATCH: FAPlayer.tv (streaming)