Arsenal kick off the group stage of the 2022-23 Women’s Champions League with a huge test, away at defending champions and 8-time winners Olympique Lyon. Lyon returned to European glory last season, beating heavily favoured Barcelona 3-1 in the final after goals from Amandine Henry, Ada Hegerberg, and Catarina Macario.
Lyon made big moves after losing the league title to PSG in the 2020-21 campaign, and regained that trophy last season as well. They’ve won 5 from 5 in the league so far this campaign, with 15 goals against 4 conceded. Despite injury concerns, they’re still going to start a formidable team: Lindsey Horan, Henry, and Danïelle van de Donk in midfield, Wendie Renard in defence, Eugenie Le Sommer and Melvine Malard up front. They’ll provide a stiff test for Arsenal, who lost both group games to Barcelona last season, and finished second on the back of 3 wins. But Arsenal are not, unlike last year, clearly the second best team in the group: Juventus, from pot 3, qualified ahead of Chelsea last season and have played well against Lyon. Arsenal may just have to pick up points from a big game.
Arsenal will be without Rafaelle Souza and Leah Williamson, both of whom sustained injuries that will keep them out until November. In their stead, expect Lotte Wubben-Moy and Steph Catley to play at centre back, with Katie McCabe dropping into left back, though Noëlle Maritz could be deployed there. Another thing Arsenal will be challenged on is midfield. With Vivianne Miedema playing as a number 10, there is a tendency for Arsenal to get cut off between their midfield and attack in bigger games, as Kim Little and Lia Wälti are flattened out and end up much deeper. How Arsenal connect those lines will go a long way to determine how effective the attack is.
Lotte Wubben-Moy will be Arsenal’s primary centre back for the next few weeks. Whether Wubben-Moy is partnered with Steph Catley, Lia Wälti, or Jen Beattie, it’s Wubben-Moy who will be tasked with being the replacement for Leah Williamson. It’s a chance for Wubben-Moy to make another case for a starting role at Arsenal, and while she isn’t the passer that Williamson is, she can start attacks through her capability of driving on the ball, and her long passing.
The real test, though, will be defensively. Whatever partnership Arsenal use at centre back will be a fairly new one: how quickly can it gel?
Predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): 1. Zinsberger; 26. Wienroither, 3. Wubben-Moy, 7. Catley, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 10. Little; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 18. Marckese (GK), 5. Beattie, 8. Nobbs, 12. Maanum, 16. Maritz, 17. Hurtig, 23. Iwabuchi, 40. Williams (GK), 59. Agyemang, 61. Earl, 62. Reid
WHAT: Olympique Lyon v Arsenal, UEFA Women’s Champions League
WHERE: Groupama Stadium, Lyon
WHEN: Wednesday, October 19th 12:00 PM PDT | 3:00 PM EDT | 8:00 PM BST
WATCH: DAZN YouTube