Arsenal face WSL runners-up Manchester City in a huge top of the table clash on Sunday. After defeat in their last league game against fellow title rivals Chelsea, Arsenal dare not lose against Nick Cushing’s side, who have won all of the league games so far. However, City did lose to Manchester United in the Conti Cup last weekend and drew at home to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
City go to Madrid on Wednesday with the tie in the balance, while Arsenal should have a more comfortable evening at home to Slavia Praha on Thursday. With Aoife Mannion injured and Kiera Walsh suspended, City’s impressive rear-guard is slightly depleted. However, the Gunners could yet be without star striker Vivianne Miedema due to a calf problem.
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Arsenal were disrupted by Chelsea’s high pressing approach a fortnight ago, aided and abetted by a lack of natural width- meaning Emma Hayes’ side could pen Arsenal into central areas. Cushing’s side might look to replicate that approach through hard-working attackers such as Janine Beckie, Pauline Bremer and Georgia Stanway.
Joe Montemurro’s side know they are strong at Boreham Wood and have won this fixture in each of the last two seasons. But, as Vivianne Miedema told me on Thursday, games between these two sides are always tight and this one will be no different. The Gunners aura of invincibility was dented at Kingsmeadow a fortnight ago, this is the chance to clamber back onto their throne.
Vivianne Miedema will undergo a late fitness test before her fitness for the match is determined. She took a kick on the calf in last weekend’s win over Charlton in the Conti Cup. Leonie Maier (ankle) and Viki Schnaderbeck (thigh) will also have late checks. Maier was not involved in the squad last weekend, but warmed up with the team. Dan Carter (knee) and Tabea Kemme (knee) are out.
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal were treated to a guard of honour when City visited Meadow Park back in May. Arsenal had already secured the league title while City were preparing to say their goodbyes to the likes of Nikita Parris, Claire Emslie and Abbie McManus. A last gasp curler from Emma Mitchell gave Arsenal a 1-0 victory to kick off their title celebrations.
Manchester City won the FA Cup and the Conti Cup last season and were an Emma Mitchell screamer away from going unbeaten in the WSL. City lost Nikita Parris, Abbie McManus, Jen Beattie and Claire Emslie during the summer and Kiera Walsh agitated for a move to Lyon during the summer too.
City have rebuilt with signings like Aoife Mannion and Ellen White. White has yet to make her debut due to injury and Mannion fell victim to the ACL curse this week. White ought to be involved in this match from the bench. Cushing’s side have won all of their league games so far this season despite the upheaval, however they have enjoyed a fairly gentle run of fixtures. City are always defensively solid and carry plenty of threat on the counter.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Beth Mead is in excellent form ahead of this game with four assists and a goal in her last two games. Her strike against Charlton was something of a trademark, a fizzing strike from a tight angle. She has made the ‘crot’ (a cross-cum-shot) part of her personal brand. Her delivery with her laces in the spaces between the ‘keeper and the defence are a huge part of her game.
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If Miedema is deemed unfit, Mead will play in her preferred centre-forward role, likely rotating with Danielle van de Donk and that would be a big test for Mead, who has spent most of the last three years as a wide forward. She played upfront against City in the Conti Cup Final in February when Miedema was only fit enough for the bench. One way or another, Beth Mead holds the key to Arsenal winning on Sunday.
18.PEYRAUD-MAGNIN, 17.EVANS, 5.BEATTIE, 6.WILLIAMSON, 2.VEJE, 13.WALTI, 8.NOBBS, 10.LITTLE (c), 7.VAN DE DONK, 15.McCABE, 23.MEAD. Substitutes; 1.Zinsberger, 3.Mitchell, 11.Miedema, 14.Roord, 16.Quinn, 20.Maier, 22.Schnaderbeck.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match will be screened live on BT Sport in the UK with a 2.30pm kickoff. If you are outside of the UK, you can watch it live on the FA Player app free of charge, unless you are in Scandinavia where you can watch on NENT, or if you are in Central America the game will be on Sky Mexico.
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We will have exclusive player reaction from the game on the site on Sunday afternoon. We will also have all of the build-up for Thursday night’s Champions League round of 16 second leg against Slavia Praha on Thursday night, with player reaction too. The November edition of the Arsenal Women Arsecast focuses on the Gunners’ Dutch players and will be released after the Conti Cup game at Brighton next weekend.