Arsenal Women host Chelsea in the semi-final of this season’s Women’s FA Cup tomorrow at Meadow Park. Chelsea are obstacles to Arsenal winning silverware, with the Blues ahead of Arsenal in the WSL, with four matches to go. But while the WSL is out of Arsenal’s hands, with the Gunners reliant on Chelsea dropping points, the Cup is in Arsenal’s hands: beat Chelsea, and beat Manchester City at Wembley, and Arsenal will have their first silverware in three seasons.
Chelsea, of course, denied Arsenal last season’s FA Cup, beating Arsenal 3-0 at Wembley in December in a match that was not, in any sense of the word, a contest. That match precipitated a poor run of form in December and the beginning of January, but at the end of that run, Arsenal drew 0-0 at Kingsmeadow, having also beaten Chelsea on the opening day of the season.
Chelsea lost the Conti Cup final to Manchester City but have come into form, scoring 22 goals over their last four games without reply. They will, however, be without Fran Kirby for the foreseeable future, meaning the nature of their attack will slightly change. But, they’ve plenty in reserve, with Guro Reiten in excellent form, and of course, Sam Kerr.
Arsenal will welcome Rafaelle Souza and Mana Iwabuchi back to the squad. Several of Arsenal’s players are coming off of a long international break, with Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, and Lydia Williams all traveling to Australia for international duty.
Lia Wälti had an FA Cup final to forget in December. Pressed out of the game by Chelsea, in a role that she was not yet well acquainted with, Wälti struggled to progress the ball, and was symptomatic of Arsenal’s overall struggles in the match, where the gameplan essentially had to go out the window. Wälti, though, has been one of Arsenal’s best players in recent months, and has been the key to Arsenal’s midfield ticking. With Vivianne Miedema the third midfielder, there’s more emphasis on Wälti and Kim Little controlling the midfield through the use of the ball. That is likely the key area tomorrow. If Arsenal can control the midfield and make the game less transitional, it will suit them against Chelsea’s counter-press.
Predicted lineup (4231): 1. Zinsberger; 16. Maritz, 6. Williamson, 2. Rafaelle Souza, 7. Catley; 13. Wälti, 10. Little; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 15. McCabe; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 18. Williams, 3. Wubben-Moy, 5. Beattie, 8 Nobbs, 12. Maanum, 14. Parris, 19. Foord, 26. Wienroither, 77. Heath
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs Chelsea Women, Women’s FA Cup
WHERE: Meadow Park, Boreham Wood
WHEN: Sunday, April 3rd 4:30 AM PDT | 7:30 AM EDT | 12:30 PM BST
WATCH: ESPN+ (US, streaming), BBC (UK), iPlayer (streaming, UK)