Arsenal Women host Reading on Wednesday, with the Gunners looking to increase their lead at the WSL to five points. With Arsenal holding a two point lead, but Chelsea with a game in hand, each one of Arsenal’s last eight games of the league campaign are must-win to keep the pressure on Chelsea. This is especially true now: Arsenal play two home league games, against Reading and then Birmingham City, before Chelsea next play in the WSL, giving the Gunners the possibility of having an eight point lead at the top of the table.
Reading, though, have won five of their last six games, and had been on an unbeaten run of eight games before losing to Brighton before the international break. After a slow start, Kelly Chambers’ side have found their normal consistency, though Reading did go out of the Women’s FA Cup last weekend, in a 1-0 loss to West Ham that required extra time.
Kelly Chambers has long favoured a 4-4-2 system, and Reading are a good, compact pressing team. When Arsenal beat the Royals 4-0 in September, Arsenal utilized the wide spaces to their advantage, with Reading blocking off the centre. Arsenal’s wide attacks, though, are now better understood by the league, and Arsenal have struggled against defences that keep compact lines.
Lotte Wubben-Moy, Beth Mead, and Laura Wienroither could all feature for Arsenal, having missed the FA Cup tie against Liverpool. Vivianne Miedema and Stina Blackstenius were on the bench on Sunday.
Caitlin Foord has had a rather disrupted season for Arsenal. Having been at the Summer Olympics, Foord returned late from the Olympics carrying an injury, and was largely on the bench for Arsenal, though she deputised for Vivianne Miedema for a short period. Having been absent in January because of Australia’s participation at the Asian Cup, Foord has come back into the team as a substitute against Manchester United, and kept her place against Chelsea and Liverpool. Against Manchester United, Foord won the ball before Miedema’s pass to Blackstenius, and against Chelsea, she was dangerous on the left. Foord offers a different dribbling style to Arsenal’s other wide forwards, and does well in combination play. Her two goals against Liverpool will be a bonus, but having scored 10 last season, mostly from the left, Arsenal could do with her bringing that goal-scoring form back to the WSL.
Predicted XI: 1. Zinsberger; 16. Maritz, 6. Williamson, 2. Rafaelle Souza, 15. McCabe; 10. Little, 12. Maanum; 14. Parris, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 18. Williams (GK), 3. Wubben-Moy, 5. Beattie, 7. Catley, 8. Nobbs, 9. Mead, 13. Wälti, 23. Iwabuchi, 77. Heath
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs Reading Women, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
WHEN: Saturday, March 2nd 11:15 AM PST | 2:15 PM EST | 7:15 PM GMT
WATCH: NBC Sports Live Extra (US, streaming), atafootball.com (US, streaming), BBC iPlayer (UK)