After an ill-timed international break, Arsenal return to WSL action, as last season’s runners-up Manchester City visit Meadow Park. Arsenal lost to Manchester City in all three encounters last season, with each match finishing 2-1. Indeed, each of the last five games between Arsenal and Manchester City have been 2-1, with Arsenal winning one and Manchester City winning four. Unlike games with Chelsea, City have rarely thoroughly beaten Arsenal.
Much like Arsenal, Manchester City had a number of players at the Olympics, making up a significant portion of Great Britain. Unlike Arsenal, City didn’t schedule any pre-season fixtures, and thus their Champions League qualifier against Real Madrid was their first match of the season—a match they drew 1-1, before losing the return leg at home a week later, and going out of the Champions League. Between those two matches, City beat Everton 4-0, but lost at home to a hand ball aided own goal against Tottenham, adding pressure to head coach Gareth Taylor. Taylor is dealing with a serious injury crisis: Chloe Kelly tore her ACL at the end of last season, while Lucy Bronze, Esme Morgan and Steph Houghton will definitely miss out, with Keira Walsh, Alex Greenwood, and new signing Hayley Raso all question marks.
City did add to their strike force this season, signing Bunny Shaw from Bordeaux. Shaw scored 22 goals in 20 games for Bordeaux last season, and scored on the opening game of the season against Everton. It still remains to be seen how Taylor works Shaw and Ellen White into his starting eleven, though, and thus far, when White has been fit enough to start, she has, with Shaw deputising. City also signed former Arsenal midfielder Vicky Losada from Barcelona, who brings more creativity and control to the City midfield.
City, though, will be vulnerable because of injury issues. They’re already under massive pressure not to lose more ground in the WSL, but Arsenal could add to their woes if they beat City for the first time since January 2020.
Arsenal have almost every fit: Malin Gut has a long-term ACL injury and will not feature for the club this season, while Simone Boye is out injured. Everyone else, though, including Caitlin Foord, Jordan Nobbs, and Viki Schnaderbeck, is available—as is Tobin Heath, who joined in training today. It gives Jonas Eidevall plenty of options ahead of an intense period of 6 matches in 19 days.
Jonas Eidevall tells me that Caitlin Foord, Nöelle Maritz and Frida Maanum will be available for the game against Manchester City on Sunday. Tobin Heath arrived today and will train tomorrow and be available for the squad, as will Jordan Nobbs.— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) September 24, 2021
Leah Williamson spent the international break captaining England, from a slightly different position, at the base of midfield. While Williamson came through Arsenal’s ranks as a midfielder, she will likely return to her usual position on Sunday. Under Joe Montemurro, Williamson played an important tempo-setting role, and was Arsenal’s usual first pass out of defence to a more advanced full back. More of Arsenal’s play, though, was in their own third than it is now under Jonas Eidevall, who asks for slightly more direct play. Williamson’s passing, though, is still important, especially if City play their usual pressing system. But what will also be important will be her ability, along with Jen Beattie, at dealing with crosses—a route that City have exploited against Arsenal. There was some improvement on that front against Chelsea three weeks ago, though Pernille Harder scored from an Eric Cuthbert cross.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): 1. Zinsberger; 16. Maritz, 6. Williamson, 5. Beattie, 7. Catley; 13. Wälti, 10. Little; 9. Mead, 12. Maanum, 23. Iwabuchi; 11. Miedema
Substitutes: 18. Williams, 3. Wubben-Moy, 4. Patten, 8. Nobbs, 14. Parris, 15. McCabe, 19. Foord, 22. Schnaderbeck, 77. Heath
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs Manchester City Women, FA Women’s Super League
WHERE: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
WHEN: Sunday, September 26th 10:45 AM PDT | 1:45 PM EDT | 6:45 PM BST
WATCH: atafootball.com (US, streaming), Sky Sports (UK),