Arsenal Women kick off the WSL season against Brighton on Friday evening. Arsenal were supposed to play last weekend against Manchester City, but the death of Queen Elizabeth II led to the postponement of last weekend’s fixtures. Arsenal fell a point short of Chelsea in the title race last season, but while Chelsea have invested heavily this summer, Arsenal have only brought in striker Lina Hurtig and goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese. It should be noted, though, that Arsenal did bring in three players last January in Stina Blackstenius, Rafaelle Souza, and Laura Wienroither, and Rafaelle and Blackstenius should be key members of Arsenal’s starting eleven.
A number of Arsenal players had long summers, with Beth Mead, Leah Williamson, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Rafelle involved in finals six weeks ago. It led to a slightly disrupted pre-season for Arsenal, with the whole group having about two weeks together before another international break. In that sense, the last week will have been valuable time for Jonas Eidevall.
Brighton lost Maya Le Tissier, Ellie Brazil, Emma Koivisto, and Inessa Kaagman over the summer. Hope Powell has brought in WSL experience in Veatriki Sarri, who scored against Arsenal last season, as well as the return of Rebekah Stott, who comes back to Brighton after treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphona. Hope Powell always has well organized sides, who defend well in either a 442 or 451, and Brighton have an excellent shot stopper in goal in Megan Walsh; they’ll be happy to sit back and concede shots.
Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley are both fit after injury concerns while on international duty for Australia. Jordan Nobbs, Rafaelle, and Mana Iwabuchi should be available after missing the end of last season through injury.
Predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): 1. Zinsberger; 16. Maritz, 6. Williamson, 2. Rafaelle, 15. McCabe; 13. Wälti, 10. Little; 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 19. Foord; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 18. Marckese, 3. Wubben-Moy, 5. Beattie, 7. Catley, 8. Nobbs, 12. Maanum, 17. Hurtig, 23. Iwabuchi, 26. Wienroither
Stina Blackstenius joined Arsenal in January, with her first half-season in the WSL somewhat of an adaptation period. Still, she scored 6 goals in 631 minutes (7 full games), despite not having had a pre-season before joining Arsenal after playing in Sweden, in a summer league. Should Arsenal win the league, much will be resting on Blackstenius, who now has the role of Arsenal’s main goal scorer, with Vivianne Miedema in a providing role.
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs Brighton and Hove Albion Women, FA WSL
WHERE: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
WHEN: Friday, September 16th 11:30 AM PDT | 2:30 PM EDT | 7:30 PM BST
WATCH: FAPlayer.TV (streaming), Arsenal.com (streaming)