Arsenal Women face Manchester City at Meadow Park, with Joe Montemurro very much needing a positive result. With matches against City this week, and then Chelsea on Wednesday, Arsenal’s future is very much in their own hands. Win both fixtures, and Arsenal are very much back in the thick of the WSL title race. A loss against Manchester City, though, would be devastating for Arsenal’s Champions League qualifications hope. With the top 3 in the WSL qualifying for the Champions League, Arsenal enter play in fourth, four points behind City, with a game in hand.
Following postponements against West Ham and Aston Villa, Arsenal haven’t played in three weeks, since drawing 1-1 away at Reading, and with heavy snow in the offing, there is a potential postponement on the cards tomorrow. Manchester City, on the other hand, come in to the match in fine form, having scored 18 goals and conceded just once in three wins in January. City’s form has put them back in contention for the title.
A big part of City’s form has been Caroline Weir’s midfield play. Weir scored the late winner when Arsenal played City in December, and she has kept up the scoring run, with two goals against Brighton and one last week against West Ham. Beyond that, Chloe Kelly has been dangerous on the right, and Lauren Hemp has returned from injury to slot in to City’s left. The combination of all of this is that City have barely missed Sam Mewis, who was on international duty.
It’s been over a year since Arsenal last beat one of the WSL’s other top teams—Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-1 in January 2020. Arsenal’s issues in big games has been well-documented, and against City, their inability to handle the press has meant that Arsenal have been uncharacteristically toothless going forward. In the two defeats to City this season, in the FA Cup and league, Arsenal have had very few attacking moments: Jordan Nobbs’ goal came out of nothing, while Vivianne Miedema’s opener in December came inside the opening five minutes. If Arsenal are to get a good result, it’ll be because they will have found a tactical solution to City’s press; otherwise, it could be another long afternoon.
Arsenal are without Viki Schnaderbeck and Steph Catley. Youngster Ruby Mace, who has been on the bench throughout this season, has moved on-loan to Birmingham City.
Player to Watch: Kim Little
When Arsenal played Manchester City in December, Kim Little was essentially not a factor. Forced deep by City’s press, and looking to help Malin Gut defensively, Little was often too deep to link Arsenal’s midfield to the attacking line, with Jill Roord, playing as a second striker, isolated from both Little and Gut, and from Arsenal’s attacking three. Little was much better when Arsenal drew at home against Chelsea in November, and was one route that allowed Arsenal to evade Chelsea’s press. But, in order to make Arsenal an effective attacking force, she’ll have to be higher up, where she can link up with Miedema, and others, including Jordan Nobbs, who will likely start from the left hand side.
Predicted lineup (4-3-3): 18. Williams; 17. Evans, 6. Williamson, 5. Beattie, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 10. Little, 14. Roord; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 8. Nobbs
Substitutes: 1. Zinsberger, 24. Stenson, 3. Wubben-Moy, 4. Patten, 7. Van de Donk, 16. Maritz, 19. Foord, 20. Maier, 21. Gut
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: Arsenal Women vs Manchester City Women, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
WHEN: Sunday, February 7th 6:30 AM PST | 9:30 AM EST | 2:30 PM GMT
WATCH: atafootball.com (streaming), BT Sport (UK)