Arsenal return to WSL action with a trip to Leigh to face leaders Manchester United. An Arsenal win would send the Gunners level on points with Manchester United, with Arsenal having a game in hand, and would perhaps make Arsenal favourites to win the league. A draw would keep Arsenal in it, but needing Chelsea to slip up, while a Manchester United win would knock the Gunners out of league contention. With the Champions League semi-final this coming Sunday, Arsenal face an important 10 days in their season. Here are three things to look for:
Arsenal confirmed earlier this week that Kim Little will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. The skipper, who also signed a contract extension, injured her hamstring in Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Bayern Munich last month. In her place, Leah Williamson will play central midfield. As a midfielder, though, it’s not entirely like for like: Williamson is almost a #8, rather than the second #6 that Little plays, and it necessitates a switch for Lia Wälti. While Wälti is adept at being a #6, getting that combination right will be crucial. Against Manchester City, Arsenal didn’t in the first half.
When Arsenal met Manchester United at the Emirates in the WSL, they were undone by two late goals from set pieces, with Millie Turner and Alessia Russo turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win. It was much the same last season: Russo’s header won United the quarter-final Conti Cup time, and Russo put United 1-0 up in February 2022. Arsenal didn’t have Rafaelle Souza for the league match earlier this season, and that could be significant. Among all centre backs per OPTA data, Rafaelle is in the 98th percentile for aerials won. It is also likely that Sabrina D’Angelo starts in goal, with D’Angelo proving adept at commanding her penalty area thus far.
Rejigged attack - again
Arsenal welcome Steph Catley back to the squad after the Australian left back had a broken foot the revolving door continues though: Katie McCabe is suspended and Caitlin Foord is out with a hamstring injury, with Foord targeting a return against Wolfsburg. It will mean that Arsenal will lose some of the consistency that’s developed in attack. How Jonas Eidevall replaces Foord will be one area of interest, especially as he tries to maintain the link between Victoria Pelova, Frida Maanum, and Stina Blackstenius. The likelihood is Kathrine Kühl as a wide midfielder, but there’s also the possibility of giving Gio her first league start, and keep a wide forward to balance the wide playmaking that Pelova offers.
Predicted lineup (4231): 14. D’Angelo; 26. Wienroither, 3. Wubben-Moy, 2. Rafaelle, 16. Maritz; 6. Williamson, 13. Wälti; 21. Pelova, 12. Maanum, 20. Gio; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 1. Zinsberger (GK), 18. Marckese (GK), 5. Beattie, 7. Catley, 22. Kühl, 27. Taylor, 29. Goldie, 59. Agyemang
WHAT: Manchester United Women v Arsenal Women, Women’s Super League
WHERE: Leigh Sports Village
WHEN: Wednesday, April 19th 11:15 AM PST | 2:15 PM EST | 7:15 PM BST
WATCH: Paramount Plus (US, streaming), BBC (UK)