Arsenal kick off their WSL title defence at home to West Ham on Sunday. The Gunners didn’t drop a single point to any team outside of the top 3 last season, but West Ham gave them more trouble than most. The Hammers took the lead twice in this fixture last September, but a Danielle van de Donk hat trick saw Joe Montemurro’s side grab a hard fought 4-3 win.
Mark Beard’s team also took the lead twice against the Gunners in the away fixture in January, but it was DvD again who put the Irons to the sword with a second half double. For Arsenal, it has been a pre-season of two halves, with an early pre-season defeat to Bayern Munich at the Emirates Cup, a game in which Danielle Carter re-ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament, ruling her out for the season.
A 3-0 defeat to Wolfsburg in Austria was followed by a 5-2 reverse at home to Barcelona, before Arsenal hit their straps against domestic opponents. They beat Sunday’s visitors 2-0 behind closed doors, before administering a delightful 6-0 slapping of Spurs at Boreham Wood. In the latter encounters Jordan Nobbs made her comeback from an anterior cruciate ligament injury. The first week of the season demonstrates a new challenge for Montemurro’s side, as they have an away Champions League tie against Fiorentina to contend with on Thursday evening.
Last season, injuries meant selection was very regular as Arsenal often only had ten fit outfield players. They have added Jen Beattie, Jill Roord, Leonie Maier and Manuela Zinsberger to the squad over the summer and those players will need time to bed in. Arsenal know there is very little room for error in the WSL title race, that they didn’t slip up to any unexpected results last season was the bedrock of their title success and they will need to continue in that vein on Sunday.
Vivianne Miedema pulled out of Netherlands’ Euro 2021 qualification match with Turkey on Tuesday due to a tight hamstring. My understanding is that this was rudely a pre caution and that Viv is fit for the West Ham match, but the looming Champions League tie with Fiorentina may give Montemurro pause for thought when it comes to starting her.
Jordan Nobbs continues her comeback from an ACL injury and will make the substitutes bench. Danielle Carter is out for the season with a repeat ACL rupture. Lia Walti has stepped up her recovery from a knee problem, but is still a few weeks from fitness.
Goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin is still nursing a knee injury but should be fit enough for the bench with Fran Stenson having joined Blackburn on loan, while Tabea Kemme recently underwent surgery for another meniscus tear.
Since their last competitive match, the Gunners have added Manu Zinsberger, Jen Beattie, Jill Roord, Fran Stenson and Leonie Maier to the squad. Meanwhile, Janni Arnth, Dominique Bloodworth, Sari van Veenendaal, Ava Kuyken, Paige Bayley-Gayle and Amelia Hazard have all left.
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal defeated West Ham twice at home last season, beating the Hammers 4-3 in the WSL thanks to a hat trick from Danielle van de Donk and a great long range strike from Kim Little last September. Arsenal actually kicked off their season last August with a home victory against West Ham in the Continental Tyres Cup group stage, Katie McCabe scored twice and Beth Mead scored the other.
Back in January, Arsenal fell behind to a Jane Ross goal away at West Ham, before Leah Williamson and Janni Arnth put the Gunners back into the lead. Ross equalised again, but a second half double from Danielle van de Donk gave Montemurro’s side the points.
It’s been a summer of upheaval at West Ham, who have seen quite the turnover. Jane Ross, Claire Rafferty, Becky Spencer, Ria Percival, Brianna Visali and Vyan Sampson have all left. In the arrivals lounge, Laura Vetterlin, Martha Thomas, Cecilie Kvarme, Courtney Brosnan, Katharina Baunach and Australian sensation Jacynta Galabadaarachchi (the sort of name the copy and paste function was invented for).
— West Ham United Women (@westhamwomen) September 4, 2019
The Hammers finished 7th out of 11 teams last season and they will be looking to improve on that slightly. The top 3 is out of sight for them and the promotion of Manchester United makes the competition in the middle of the league more interesting, but given the upheaval at clubs like Birmingham City and Reading, who usually challenge for the ‘best of the rest’ moniker, West Ham should be confident of progression.
That said, they too have undergone lots of change. But with experience in the shape of captain Gilly Flaherty and Kate Longhurst, as well as the excellent young Swiss Alisha Lehmann, they can give any side a game on their day- as they showed Arsenal on at least two occasions last season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Having netted five goals against West Ham last season, it’s difficult to look to anyone other tan Danielle van de Donk as the player to watch. The Dutch midfielder has played a slightly different role this season in a rotating midfield three alongside Jill Roord and Kim Little that possesses no recognised defensive midfielder.
DvD also scored a sumptuous goal for Netherlands against Turkey on Tuesday evening. If Montemurro does decide to enact caution with Vivianne Miedema, van de Donk’s forward runs could become even more valuable, as they were for her country earlier this week. With Jordan Nobbs back to fitness, the battle for the attacking midfield spots is very fierce at the moment.
This goal by Daniëlle van de Donk deserves more views. What a gorgeous pass and what a great finish. pic.twitter.com/Uyf5ch08ps
— Women's Football News (@WFRumour) September 4, 2019
(4-2-3-1): 1.ZINSBERGER; 20.MAIER, 5.BEATTIE, 6.WILLIAMSON, 2.VEJE; 7.VAN DE DONK, 14.ROORD, 10.LITTLE; 17.EVANS, 15.McCABE; 23.MEAD.
Subs; 3.Mitchell, 8.Nobbs, 11.Miedema, 16.Quinn, 18.Peyraud-Magnin, 22.Schnaderbeck, 26.Grant.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
Thankfully, this section will look a little less sparse this season! The game is being screened live on BT Sport in the UK on Sunday, with a 2.30pm kickoff. However, viewers outside of the UK can watch this- and all of Arsenal’s WSL games- for free on the newly launched FA Player App. Instructions for how to download the app are below.
The FA Player is here! ?
Sign up and download the app now ?
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) September 2, 2019
As a bonus, starting from this weekend, a new three-year media rights deal with Sky Mexico and Scandinavian broadcaster NENT will see the Barclays FA WSL screened to viewers across Mexico, Central America, Dominican Republic, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark too. So now you really have no excuse not to watch!
I am away for this game, but we will still bring you the usual post-match reaction interview courtesy of Art de Roche. We will also have a full preview of the Champions League first leg against Fiorentina on the site on Wednesday. If you haven’t listened already, this month’s Arsenal Women Arsecast is available for your aural pleasure, featuring interviews with Jordan Nobbs and knee surgeon Pete Gallacher.
Pete has performed ACL reconstruction surgery many times and he explains what the ACL is, why the rupture is such a bad injury and why female athletes are so much more likely to suffer the injury than their male counterparts. All of the links you need are in the tweet below.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) September 4, 2019