Arsenal Women face West Ham United Women in the late Sunday kickoff in the WSL at the Chigwell Construction Stadium. At time of writing, Arsenal will enter play 4th, with Manchester City having leapfrogged Arsenal with a 2-0 win against Leicester City. Arsenal face Manchester City twice next week—once in the Conti Cup semi-finals, on Wednesday, and in the league on Saturday. Before then, Arsenal face a West Ham team who gave Arsenal quite the conundrum when the two sides played each other in October. Here are three things to watch for.
No new striker - so who steps up?
Arsenal wanted a striker in January, after Beth Mead and then Vivianne Miedema suffered season ending ruptured ACLs. Arsenal went after Debinha, who decided to stay in the NWSL, signing with Kansas City, then chased Cloe Lacasse, who ended up staying at Benfica. Arsenal then made a huge bid to sign Alessia Russo from Manchester United on the final day of the window, which was predictably turned down. It was all a bit of a mess, and Jonas Eidevall was not pleased. It leaves Arsenal in a difficult position. They have players, in Caitlin Foord, and Stina Blackstenius, who can provide more, and have done more in their Arsenal career. Arsenal will need one if not both of those players to step up, as well as getting something from Gio and Victoria Pelova.
Frida Maanum continues as Arsenal’s #10
Frida Maanum will be Arsenal’s number 10 for the rest of the season, injury permitting. Maanum has impressed from the position, and is Arsenal’s top scorer. Maanum is, of course, a different player to Vivianne Miedema. Maanum is more about power and ball carrying. She’s an excellent off the ball runner, and while a good creative player, she’s going to be more direct than Miedema. As a result, Arsenal’s attack is also changing: it’s an attack becoming more about ball carrying and counter-attacking and counter-pressing, rather than patient possession. That is still present in Arsenal’s side, especially with Kim Little, but there’s a restructuring of Arsenal’s attack as they cope with the reality of injury and transfer market failure.
When West Ham came to Meadow Park they went 1-0 ahead, through Dagny Brynjarsdottir. That is not a surprise—the surprise is she scored after a mix-up between makeshift centre-back Steph Catley and goalkeeper Manu Zinsberger. Indeed, Brynjarsdottir had a goal from a corner disallowed for a very small push before she scored. At 5’10, Brynjarsdottir is a significant threat from set pieces and crosses, and is West Ham’s top scorer with 5 goals. Defending crosses and set pieces is an Achilles heel for Arsenal: Manchester United (twice) and Chelsea got late goals from crosses and set pieces, costing Arsenal points. One possible change may be in the identity of the goalkeeper, and whether Eidevall chooses Sabrina D’Angelo or Manu Zinsberger will go a long way to showing who Arsenal’s number 1 for the rest of the season will be.
Predicted lineup (4231): 14. D’Angelo; 26. Wienroither, 3. Wubben-Moy, 2. Rafaelle, 7. Catley; 10. Little, 6. Williamson; 15. McCabe, 12. Maanum, 19. Foord; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 1. Zinsberger (GK), 18. Marckese (GK), 5. Beattie, 16. Maritz, 17. Hurtig, 20. Gio, 21. Pelova, 22. Kühl, 59. Agyemang
WHAT: West Ham United Women v Arsenal Women, Barclays Women’s Super League
WHERE: Victoria Road, Dagenham
WHEN: Sunday, February 4th 10:45 AM PDT | 1:45 PM EDT | 6:45 PM GMT
WATCH: Paramount+ (US, streaming), Sky Sports (UK, TV)