Arsenal Women host Manchester United on Saturday at the Emirates. Manchester United were top of the WSL until losing to Chelsea 3-1 two weeks ago, but this still represents Arsenal’s toughest test so far in the domestic campaign.
Arsenal went top of the league with a 4-0 win against Leicester before the international break, and are ahead of Chelsea on goal difference, with Chelsea having played a game more. But matches after international breaks have tended to be tricky for Jonas Eidevall’s side, with players coming back from all over the world, as well as different playing styles. After the last international break, Arsenal squeaked out a 1-0 win against Reading, who are second bottom, and Arsenal lost at home to Chelsea in the Women’s FA Cup semi-final last season following an international break.
Manchester United finished outside of the Champions League places last season, and then sold Jackie Groenen right before the beginning of the campaign. Yet, they find themselves in a better position than this time last year, having not conceded a goal until the 3-1 loss against Chelsea. With Mary Earps, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo now European champions, along with Nikita Parris, who joined of course from Arsenal, United have plenty of big game experience.
United also have a fairly settled side: a back four of Maya Le Tissier, Maria Thorrisdottir, Millie Turner, and Hannah Blundell, who inverts at left back, and a midfield of Hayley Ladd and Katie Zelem, who hold behind Toone. United, who scored twice against Arsenal last season with set pieces that found Alessa Russo’s head, are strong on crosses and set pieces. United have had more possession in all of their matches so far this season, which could be something Arsenal look to expose on Saturday: are United a good defensive side, or were they just a good defensive side against teams worse than them?
Arsenal come into the match with still a litany of injuries, especially in midfield and defence. Leah Williamson, Rafaelle Souza, Kim Little, and Lina Hurtig will all miss out, while there are question marks over Lotte Wubben-Moy and Jordan Nobbs, though both should be fit to play. Vivianne Miedema has returned from a break.
Stina Blackstenius scored his first goal for Arsenal against Manchester United, running onto Vivianne Miedema’s stunning through ball. It was the beginning of Miedema and Blackstenius as a partnership, and while Miedema’s starting role is in question, Blackstenius’ won’t be. Stina has scored 4 goals in 402 minutes, averaging nearly a goal a game, with strong underlying data. Blackstenius constantly runs at defences, looking to exploit space in behind. In that way, Blackstenius will challenge Thorisdóttir and Turner, with neither, especially Thorisdóttir, that comfortable defending space in behind.
Predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): 1. Zinsberger; 26. Wienroither, 3. Wubben-Moy, 7. Catley, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 8. Nobbs; 9. Mead, 12. Maanum, 19. Foord; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 18. Marckese, 40. Williams, 5. Beattie, 11. Miedema, 16. Maritz, 23. Iwabuchi, 59. Agyemang, 61. Earl, 62. Reid
WHAT: Arsenal Women v Manchester United Women, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Emirates Stadium, North London
WHEN: Saturday, November 19th 9:30 AM PDT | 12:30 PM EDT | 5:30 PM GMT
WATCH: Paramount+ (USA), Sky Sports (UK)