Arsenal face bottom side Bristol City on Sunday in the WSL. With the international break following the match, Arsenal will have to get three points to build some momentum. Bristol City, promoted from the Championship, are winless and pointless, having conceded 12 goals in 3 games. Here are three things to watch.
Arsenal wide play
Arsenal played 50 and 39 crosses in two home games against Aston Villa and Liverpool respectively. The amount of crosses speaks to Arsenal frustration and desperation, with attackers forced wide and crossing rather aimlessly. But it is a big avenue of how Arsenal attack, and an area where Bristol City are vulnerable, with the Robins conceding five first half headed goals to Manchester City last weekend. The crosses need to be more measured, which speaks to Arsenal needing to use the ball better and more quickly, to manipulate space.
One reason for Arsenal’s attacking struggles has been the midfield balance. Against Aston Villa, much like Liverpool, Arsenal almost went wide too early. Part of Arsenal’s issue is balance: behind Alessia Russo, Arsenal played three attack minded players, with Caitlin Foord, Frida Maanum, and Katie McCabe. But all three, in attacking positions, are wide forwards or second strikers, who want to run behind rather than receive possession on the half turn or between the lines. When Arsenal replaced Maanum with Victoria Pelova, Arsenal began to see a little more possession and control in central areas; in short, Arsenal had the balance between directness and possession. Arsenal will be coming up against another deep block on Sunday, and so the challenge is to pick an eleven that can break Bristol City down.
Arsenal were boosted by the return of Beth Mead from ACL injury last weekend, with Mead coming on with Arsenal losing and assisting Alessia Russo’s winning goal. Mead will likely feature again on Sunday but from the bench as she makes her way back from ACL injury. She could be joined by Vivianne Miedema, who is also close to returning. Miedema has been named in the upcoming Netherlands squad to keep her training at a high level. In any case, it is a boost to Arsenal to have their two best attackers on the way back, though it is likely that both will not be ready to start for several weeks.
Predicted lineup (4411): 1. Zinsberger; 16; Martiz, 3. Wubben-Moy, 27. Codina, 15. McCabe; 24. Lacasse, 10. Little, 13. Wälti, 19. Foord; 23. Russo, 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 14. D’Angelo (GK), 5. Beattie, 7. Catley, 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 12. Maanum, 24. Lacasse, 25. Blackstenius, 28. Ilestedt, 32. Cooney-Cross
WHAT: Bristol City Women v Arsenal Women, WSL
WHEN: Sunday, October 22nd, 1:45 PM EDT/10:45 AM PDT/6:45 PM BST
WHERE: Ashton Gate, Bristol
HOW TO WATCH: Paramount+ (US, streaming), Sky Sports (UK)