Following the three week Christmas break in the WSL, Arsenal return to action, with the Gunners facing bottom side Birmingham City on Sunday. With Chelsea’s match against Spurs postponed due to injuries and COVID in the Chelsea camp, Arsenal have the chance to go 7 points clear at the top of the WSL table.
Arsenal haven’t played since 15 December, when the Gunners qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League despite losing 4-1 against Hoffenheim. Arsenal’s match for that weekend, against Brighton, was called off due to COVID-19 cases, to the annoyance of Eidevall, who has accused other teams (one suspects a certain other London team) of not being transparent:
Asked whether some clubs might be taking advantage of the Covid situation, Eidevall said: ‘I don’t know, because I don’t have any transparency into the decision making process. I do find it very weird that you can’t play games because you have big squads, you have young players— Kathryn Batte (@KathrynBatte) January 7, 2022
In any event, Eidevall will hope that the break came at a good time for Arsenal. The side had started to look leggy after the November international break, and lost three of four games, with all of the losses, against Chelsea, Barcelona, and Hoffenheim, by a large margin. Arsenal’s players played by and large an unprecedented amount of football in the autumn, with an increase of injury as the season went on not helping. Following the winter break, though, Arsenal must quickly regain momentum, with fixtures against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea to come in the next month.
Birmingham, Arsenal’s opponents, are yet to win a game this season, and are under new management. They lost to Leicester, a damaging defeat that could ultimately decide the relegation battle, before the winter break, having given Manchester City a scare the week before.
Leah Williamson and Tobin Heath are both out, and there a few other absences that Eidevall won’t reveal. Anna Patten has joined Aston Villa on loan for the second half of the season, and Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, and Lydia Williams are with Australia.
Arsenal will only have Mana Iwabuchi for the next two WSL matches before she joins up with the Japan squad for the Asian Cup. Arsenal have struggled in some games against lesser opposition in the WSL, with a lack of presence between the lines. Iwabuchi can add the presence, while also creating space for Katie McCabe to overlap into from left back. Iwabuchi is second at Arsenal in xA/90, at .35.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): 1. Zinsberger; 16. Maritz, 3. Wubben-Moy, 5. Beattie, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 10. Little; 9. Mead, 8. Nobbs, 23. Iwabuchi; 11. Miedema
Substitutes: 24. Stenson (GK), 28. Cull, (GK), 12. Maanum, 20. Boye, 22. Schnaderbeck, 29. Goldie, 33. Houssein, 35. Hennesy, 37. Jupp
WHAT: Birmingham City Women vs Arsenal Women, FA Women’s Super League
WHERE: St. Andrews, Birmingham
WHEN: Sunday, January 8th 6:00 AM PST | 9:00 AM EST | 2:00 PM GMT
WATCH: FAPlayer.TV (US, streaming—I think. The match is not listed on ATA Football or NBC, and was a late addition to Sky’s coverage), Sky Sports (UK),