Following their thumping 7-0 win over Bristol City in the Conti Cup on Thursday evening, Arsenal are straight back in the saddle with a WSL fixture against bottom of the league Liverpool at Meadow Park on Sunday. Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are embroiled in a three way fight for the title and Chelsea and City have very winnable games against relegation battlers Birmingham and Bristol City on Sunday.
It’s a lopsided weekend of WSL fixtures with the bottom 3 pitted against the top 3 and the Gunners know there is absolutely no margin for error against Liverpool. Vicky Jepson’s side are still without a win in the WSL this season and have only collected a solitary point. However, they did manage to thrash Blackburn Rovers 6-0 on Thursday evening in the Conti Cup.
The Reds have not been beaten by more than two goals all season in the league, they are defensively pretty sound. However, they have only managed to score one goal and that was from the penalty spot. Arsenal will be significant favourites for this match and having won every single game they’ve played at Meadow Park since late January, Liverpool will know the odds are stacked against them.
Arsenal have, of course, been dealing with the extra scrutiny that being champions brings. In their last two WSL games, Manchester City and Spurs have detailed their strikers to disrupt Jen Beattie and Leah Williamson as they play out from the back. Having your centre-halves marked by opposing centre-forwards demonstrates the fear and respect Montemurro’s team now commands.
🗣 "You can see how well Kim Little’s playing – she’s commanding, enforcing her stamp on the game and dictating when we want to slow it down and speed it up."
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) November 22, 2019
Katrine Veje (foot), Tabea Kemme (knee) and Danielle Carter (knee) are out. Emma Mitchell was not part of the squad on Thursday due to a knock. Leah Williamson, Katie McCabe, Lia Wälti and Beth Mead were rested on Thursday evening and all are likely to come back into the starting line-up against Liverpool. The U-21s do not play again until Wednesday, so Mel Filis, Ruby Grant and Silvana Flores are available for consideration.
LAST TIME OUT
On the opening day of the 2018-19 season, Arsenal thrashed Liverpool 5-0 at Meadow Park thanks to goals from Scottish internationals Kim Little and Lisa Evans and a hat-trick from Scotch / Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema. When the teams met at Prenton Park in March, the Gunners were 5-1 victors thanks to goals from Kim Little, Beth Mead (2), Dominique Bloodworth and a goal of the season contender from Vivianne Miedema.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Leah Williamson is crucial to the way that Arsenal build play from the back. Leah is just as adept in midfield due to her probing, progressive passing between the lines. Opposing sides have begun to pay her the ultimate respect by detailing their strikers to play close attention to her and block passing lanes into the midfield.
It’s another tactical puzzle for Joe Montemurro and part of the scrutiny that being league champions brings. Liverpool play with Courtney Sweetman-Kirk upfront and there is a good chance that she will be asked to keep a close eye on Leah and try to disrupt Arsenal’s ability to progress through the thirds. Jepson’s side are defensively disciplined and good at maintaining shape.
In Rinsola Babajide they also offer plenty of pace on the counter. Joe Montemurro recently acknowledged that pace on the counter is increasingly seen as a weapon with which to hurt Arsenal. That said, the Gunners have not conceded a goal in nearly six weeks now and Williamson’s recovery pace is a significant reason that counter attacks have been thwarted.
— Tony Adams (@TonyAdams) November 21, 2019
Liverpool have fallen from grace in recent seasons having won the WSL title in 2013 and 2014 with star players like Fara Williams, Gemma Davison, Lucy Bronze, Lucy Staniforth and Natasha Dowie. Liverpool have not been as willing to compete with the spending of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City in recent seasons and have haemorrhaged talent like Caroline Weir, Siobhan Chamberlain, Amy Turner, Alex Greenwood, Kate Longhurst, Laura Coombs and Shanice van de Sanden.
Last season they finished 8th in the WSL, but well clear of relegation in a troubled season that saw boss Neil Redfearn leave after one WSL match (that 5-0 defeat to Arsenal on the opening day), to be taken over by Chris Kirkland on a caretaker basis. Kirkland later revealed he had bought new players furniture for their homes and sought reimbursement from the club at a later date due to organisational issues.
This season, Liverpool are stone bottom and locked in a relegation battle with Birmingham City, to whom they have already lost this season. They have talent in the likes of Niamh Fahey (formerly of Arsenal), Sophie Bradley-Auckland, Courtney Kirkman-Sweet, Rinsola Babajide and Melissa Lawley, but they have struggled badly for goals this season.
Blackburn Rovers 0-6 Liverpool | Match Reaction
Amy and Lauren give their thoughts after Liverpool beat Blackburn Rovers 6-0 in the Conti Cup!!
— RMTV Womens Podcast (@RMTVWomensPod) November 21, 2019
1.ZINSBERGER, 17.EVANS, 6.WILLIAMSON, 5.BEATTIE, 15.McCABE, 13.WALTI, 14.ROORD, 10.LITTLE (c), 7.VAN DE DONK, 23.MEAD, 11.MIEDEMA. Subs; 8.Nobbs, 16.Quinn, 18.Peyraud-Magnin, 20.Maier, 22.Schnaderbeck, 26.Grant, 27.Filis.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match kicks off at 2pm on Sunday at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park and tickets are available on the turnstile at £10 adults and £5 concessions. If you can’t make the game, it will be streamed live on the FA Player app free of charge.
It's @BarclaysFAWSL matchday, and we can't wait for you to join us!
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) September 7, 2019
We’ll have exclusive player reaction from the match on the site soon after the game on Sunday. We will also have an exclusive interview with Gunners boss Joe Montemurro on his squad building philosophy and why he prefers to work with a small squad. That will be available on Tuesday on Arseblog News. We’ll also have the usual build-up and reaction to next weekend’s WSL game at home to Bristol City.