Arsenal Women travel to Leicester City on Sunday, looking to make it four straight wins in the WSL. After a stuttering start to the season, Arsenal now find themselves three points behind league leaders Chelsea as one of four teams on ten points. Here are three things to watch.
Leicester offer a different profile
Thus far this season, Arsenal have struggled to break teams down, specifically struggling against the 541 and deep blocks that Liverpool, Aston Villa, and Bristol City have favoured. Leicester City offer a different threat: Leicester allow the fourth fewest passes per defensive action, after both Manchester clubs and Arsenal. Leicester played a back four against Manchester United and a back three against Manchester City, but in the latter game stuck to their principles by pressing and playing a high line, ultimately losing 1-0. Willie Kirk, the manager, wants his team to stick to their principles of play no matter the opposition, so expect Leicester to press Arsenal.
How Arsenal respond to Leicester’s press will be fascinating. Last week, against Manchester City, Arsenal invited the press before going long. It was not the original game plan—as Manu Zinsberger, rather than Sabrina d’Angelo, started—but Arsenal kept losing the ball in dangerous areas, and thus needed to go long. As the game went on, Lotte Wubben-Moy became crucial in how Arsenal invited the press and then played long. Wubben-Moy, who leads the league in passes into the final third, has an excellent long pass, and Arsenal could look to play over the top to take advantage of her long passing and Leicester’s high line.
Russo or Blackstenius?
Stina Blackstenius scored the winner last weekend, and scored again midweek in Conti Cup action, taking her to four goals in all competitions this season. Alessia Russo, who led the line well against City, has scored one WSL goal to go along with two goals in Champions League qualifiers. The two have worked well as a pair, either on together, or with Blackstenius replacing Russo, as she did last weekend. Last weekend, Blackstenius offered more of an option in behind, which Arsenal, tiring, needed. Russo, for all of her qualities, looks more to combine first than run in behind, but in not starting Russo, you lose the combination play and hold up play she offers. The likelihood is that Eidevall sticks with starting Russo, especially as Blackstenius started midweek, but the form of the Swedish striker is making this a good problem to have.
Predicted lineup (4231): 1. Zinsberger; 16; Martiz, 28. Ilestedt, 3. Wubben-Moy, 15. McCabe; 21. Pelova, 13. Wälti; 24. Lacasse, 10. Little, 19. Foord; 23. Russo
Substitutes: 14. D’Angelo (GK), 5. Beattie, 7. Catley, 9. Mead, 11. Miedema, 12. Maanum, 17. Hurtig, 25. Blackstenius, 32. Cooney-Cross
WHAT: Leicester City Women v Arsenal Women, WSL
WHEN: Sunday, November 12th, 1:45 PM EST/10:45 AM PST/6:45 PM GMT
WHERE: King Power Stadium, Leicester
HOW TO WATCH: Paramount+ (US, streaming), Sky Sports (UK)