Arsenal Women are aiming to bounce back from their first defeat since April with a midweek Conti Cup tie against Championship side Charlton Athletic at Meadow Park on Wednesday. Injuries have ravaged a small squad and Joe Montemurro may take the chance to give some of his U-21 players a run out in this London derby.
The Gunners top their Conti Cup group after wins against West Ham and Lewes at the beginning of the season. 4 points from matches against Charlton on Wednesday and Millwall Lionesses 7 days later will guarantee Arsenal progression to the knockout phase of the trophy they are defending.
With no WSL game for 5 weeks, Montemurro needs to patch up his squad and ensure there are no further injuries. Players carrying knocks really ought to be spared and the Gunners should still have enough to take the necessary points from two sets of lower division opposition.
Arsenal are without Jordan Nobbs (knee), Danielle Carter (knee), Kim Little (knee), Jess Samuelsson (foot), Tabea Kemme (knee) and Viki Schnaderbeck (knee). Additionally, Emma Mitchell has been carrying an injury and was an unused substitute on Sunday at Manchester City. I would expect her to be allowed to receive treatment ready for the resumption of the WSL in January.
Vivianne Miedema picked up a knock on the back in the victory over Brighton and could also be spared, while Beth Mead appeared to pick up a minor groin injury at City. Young players like Ava Kuyken, Paige Bayley-Gayle, Ruby Grant and Amelia Hazard could all be in line to get some game time, maybe even England U-17 international Melissa Fillis could be included in the squad.
LAST TIME OUT
The teams met in the FA Cup back in March and Arsenal ran out 5-0 winners at Boreham Wood, with goals from Kim Little, Heather O’Reilly, Vivianne Miedema, Danielle Carter and Jordan Nobbs. Charlton’s history is actually quite interesting, having formed from the ashes of Croydon Ladies- one of Arsenal’s rivals at the top table of English women’s football in the 1990s.
— Kunjan Malde (@kunjanmalde) March 26, 2018
Ex-Gunner Debbie Bampton managed them for a while and they have boasted the likes of Casey Stoney, Pauline Cope, Eni Aluko and Katie Chapman in their ranks. Charlton finished 1 point behind Arsenal in the Premier League in 2004 and lost to the Gunners in the 2004 FA Cup Final too. They won the competition in 2005.
However, their funding suffered when the men’s team were relegated from the Premier League in 2007. Nowadays, the Addicks are in the second flight of the women’s game having been promoted from the Women’s Southern Premier League last season. Their squad contains Arsenal trainees Chloe Brunton-Wilde and Lilly Agg.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Paige Bayley-Gayle made her full debut on the right hand side of the attack against City and I would expect to see her start there again. Bailey Gayle only turned 17 3 weeks ago, the Stoke Newington born winger also excelled at cricket at school and represented England at the recent UEFA U-17s Championships in Lithuania.
Montemurro will almost certainly be on the lookout for further squad reinforcements in January, but Bayley-Gayle has the chance to earn a regular place in the match day squad as her contemporary Ava Kuyken has managed to do in 2018. Bayley-Gayle is a pacey forward who can play all across the front line.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game is not being televised anywhere and even tracking down highlights for Conti Cup games can be hit and miss, though Charlton seem pretty good at posting them on their website. It will be a case of following @ArsenalWFC on twitter for updates.
Due to the clash with the men playing Manchester United, I won’t be at this game and therefore we won’t have player reaction. But the usual Weekly Round Up will appear next Monday, as well as a full preview of the Conti Cup clash with Millwall Lionesses next Wednesday. I will be at that game to gather some exclusive player reaction. The December feature interview will go out shortly after the Millwall game.