Arsenal face Manchester City Women on Sunday in an absolutely pivotal, top of the table clash. It’s probably Arsenal’s most important WSL fixture since the league was created in 2011. Joe Montemurro’s side lead City by 6 points at the summit of the table, City have won 4 of their last 5 games by margins of 3, 4 and 6 goals (twice). They have come back into form.
The Gunners have won all of their games so far this season, but the truth is, injuries have ravaged the squad and this is not the ideal time to face City at all with so many key players on the treatment table. A draw would keep City at arm’s length and give the Gunners time to regroup with a 5 week gap until their next league game.
A win would go a long way to propelling Arsenal towards their first league title since 2012, but given the injury list, that’s going to be a big ask. The Gunners aren’t quite as fluent as they were in September and October, injuries have had a knock on effect where rotation has not been possible and a few players not officially on the casualty list are carrying knocks.
City are playing at home and know they have to win, which could play into Arsenal’s hands if they spring the counter attack effectively. But Nick Cushing’s side have the quality and the form to hurt the Gunners. This is a truly mouth-watering tie and the most thorough examination of Arsenal’s title credentials yet.
Arsenal are without Jordan Nobbs (knee), Danielle Carter (knee), Kim Little (leg), Tabea Kemme (knee) and Viki Schanderbeck (knee). Arsenal have also confirmed that Jess Samuelsson has suffered a fractured foot. It’s the same foot she injured so badly last winter, but the club insist the two injuries are unconnected.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) November 27, 2018
Against Brighton last Sunday, Arsenal fielded 4 substitutes- a back-up goalkeeper and three academy players, all of whom are yet to start a game for the first team. There are players not on the injury list who are carrying knocks, among them top scorer Vivianne Miedema, who has a back problem but should be fit enough to play.
LAST TIME OUT
Last September, Arsenal lost 5-2 to Manchester City at the Academy Stadium, falling apart physically in the final 25 minutes as the home side raced into a three goal lead, Arsenal having equalised twice in the game previously. Since then, Arsenal have beaten City in the Conti Cup Final in March and defeated them 2-1 at Meadow Park in May.
PLAYER TO WATCH
With Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little unavailable, Arsenal are without two of the best players in the world. As a result, Dominique Bloodworth has moved into her preferred midfield role to cover, having spent most of the season to date in defence. Joe likes Dominique in defence due to her passing range, but she showed another string to her bow against Brighton.
🔥 @DominiqueJansse with a left-footed first time finish
— The FA Women's Super League (@FAWSL) November 25, 2018
Playing in a double pivot with Lia Wälti, Bloodworth got forward a little more against Brighton and, in doing so, bagged her second goal of the season. The Dutch international will likely be asked to play a more disciplined role against City, protecting the defence alongside Swiss international skipper Wälti.
PREDICTED LINE UP
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game will be screened live on the BBC Red Button and BBC Online and kicks off at 1230pm. The fixture will be played at Manchester City’s Academy Stadium on the Etihad Campus (which you can reach by tram from Manchester Piccadilly).
— The FA Women's Super League (@FAWSL) November 28, 2018
We will have the fallout from the game covered in our usual weekly round-up on Monday, as well as a full match preview for Wednesday’s Conti Cup group stage game against Charlton on the site on Tuesday. For further reading material, check out my conversation with Scandinavian football expert Katja Kragelund about new signing Janni Arnth.