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Chelsea Women vs Arsenal Women: The Big One

Arsenal go to Kingsmeadow in a potential title decider

Arsenal Women v Manchester United Women - Barclays FA Women’s Super League Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Arsenal face Chelsea at Kingsmeadow in a potential WSL title decider on Friday night. Arsenal, who drew last weekend with Manchester United, enter the match top of the WSL, 2 points ahead of the defending champions Chelsea. Chelsea beat Manchester City last weekend, and have a game in hand. Should Chelsea win on Friday, they’d be heavy favourites to retain the WSL. A draw would leave things as you were, with Arsenal still top, but Chelsea’s game in hand would make them slight favourites. If Arsenal were to win at Kingsmeadow for the first time since October 2018, the Gunners would be favourites to win the WSL. Much of the season, then, could lie on Friday’s fixture.

Arsenal enter the fixture in middling form, with just two wins in the nine games since the 2021 Women’s FA Cup final, where Chelsea thrashed Arsenal 3-0. Recent performances, though, have improved, and Arsenal have taken five points from their last three games, despite falling behind in each of them. That Arsenal have been able to rescue points against Manchester United and Manchester City shows the level of fight in the team, but that they have fallen behind in four straight WSL games will be worrisome to Jonas Eidevall, as Chelsea are just a cut ahead of everyone else in their capability to see out games.

Arsenal’s opponents, though, have also been in middling form since the Cup final, though performances and results have picked up in the last two weeks, with Chelsea through to the Continental Cup final, and having reduced the gap in the WSL to two points. However, Chelsea have unexpectedly dropped points: they drew 0-0 with Brighton, lost away at Reading, and were unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League in the group stage, losing 4-0 away to Wolfsburg in the final group game. Chelsea have been boosted by the return of Sam Kerr from Asian Cup duty, as well as the potential return of Ji So-Yun in central midfield, after South Korea lost the final of the Asian Cup last weekend.

Chelsea, of course, comprehensively defeated Arsenal in the Cup final. Whether Arsenal can improve on that showing—admittedly not that difficult—will determine a lot how Friday goes. At Wembley, Arsenal really struggled to play out from the back, with Chelsea’s counter-press suffocating Arsenal’s possession play from the back, and then picking Arsenal off on the counter-attack with quick, direct passing straight through the middle. Arsenal were more organized in the league victory at the Emirates on the opening day of the season, but Emma Hayes had an answer in the Cup final. Does, then, Jonas Eidevall have a new plan that Arsenal can execute?

Team news:

Eidevall said that he was hopeful that Leah Williamson and Tobin Heath could face Chelsea. Lotte Wubben-Moy is out, and Katie McCabe is suspended. Mana Iwabuchi should be available after Asian Cup duty.

Player to watch:

Vivianne Miedema was barely involved in the FA Cup final, after scoring one, setting up Beth Mead’s first goal, and being heavily involved in her second goal in the league fixture at the Emirates. Miedema’s lack of involvement in the Cup final saw her drop deeper and deeper in search of the ball as Arsenal struggled to play beyond Chelsea’s counter-press. Miedema could play as a number 10 with Stina Blackstenius ahead of her, as she did when she set-up Blackstenius’ goal last weekend. Miedema has struggled since the FA Cup, but has begun to look like she’s getting back in stride in recent weeks, which has coincided with Arsenal’s improved ball progression from the back, especially with the return of Leah Williamson and the addition of Rafaelle Souza.

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): 1. Zinsberger; 16. Maritz, 6. Williamson, 2. Rafaelle Souza, 7. Catley; 13. Wälti, 10. Little; 9. Mead, 8. Nobbs, 19. Foord; 11. Miedema
Substitutes: 18. Williams, 5. Beattie, 12. Maanum, 14. Parris, 20. Boye, 23. Iwabuchi, 25. Blackstenius, 26. Wienroither, 77. Heath

WHAT: Chelsea Women vs Arsenal Women, Women’s Super League

WHERE: Kingsmeadow, London

WHEN: Friday, February 11th 11:45 AM PST | 2:45 PM EST | 7:45 PM GMT

WATCH: NBC Sports Live Extra (US, streaming), (US, streaming), Sky Sports (UK)