Arsenal Women play their final WSL game of 2019 as they travel to Willie Kirk’s resurgent Everton side at Southport. The Gunners top the table by a single point, but second placed Chelsea have a game in hand after their own match away at Everton was postponed a fortnight ago. Joe Montemurro’s side have won every game since losing at Kingsmeadow in October.
Montemurro is back in his native Australia for personal reasons, so the game will again be taken by trusted coaching duo Aaron D’Antino and Leanne Hall. The pair elected to rest Lia Walti, Jordan Nobbs, Danielle van de Donk and Kim Little for the 9-0 win over London Bees on Wednesday evening, while Vivianne Miedema, Viki Schnaderbeck, Beth Mead and Lisa Evans only played 45 minutes a piece.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) December 11, 2019
Everton is a far tougher test than it was last season with the Toffees investing in their squad over the summer over the guidance of an excellent coach in Willie Kirk. The team can look forward to three weeks off after Sunday’s game and will want to finish 2019 where they started it- on top of the WSL table.
Arsenal know they are in for a fight and they showed their battling qualities against a very direct and physical Reading side last weekend, on a bumpy surface at Adams Park. Southport is, indisputably, the worst pitch in the WSL and this could be the home side’s final game there before they move to the better appointed surroundings of Walton Hall Park next year.
Jen Beattie was subbed early during the London Bees game with an ankle injury and is unlikely to recover in time for this game, so either Louise Quinn or Viki Schnaderbeck will come in at centre-half. Leah Williamson also picked up a knock in the dying embers of the Bees game, but she should be fit to play.
Danielle van de Donk, Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little and Lia Walti will all return after being rested for Wednesday’s game against Bees. Katrine Veje (foot), Danielle Carter (knee) and Tabea Kemme (knee) are all unavailable.
LAST TIME OUT
Last season, Arsenal were 4-0 winners at Haig Avenue thanks to goals from Danielle van de Donk, Jordan Nobbs and a brace for Vivianne Miedema. This was the game in which Nobbs ruptured her cruciate ligament. In April, the game between the teams was notably tighter at Meadow Park, with Vivianne Miedema and an own goal giving the Gunners a 2-1 victory that took them within three points of the WSL title.
Everton sleepwalked through much of last season, relying on the fact that Yeovil Town were so far inferior to every other team to stay up. With Manchester United and Spurs promoted this season, Everton got the memo that the division would not prop up another whipping boy and they duly invested in their squad.
In the early part of the decade, Everton were the biggest challengers to Arsenal’s domestic supremacy, but they fell away from their perch shortly after the creation of the WSL when the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City upped the financial ante. They were relegated in 2014 before being instantly promoted again from the Championship.
This summer, they brought in Dutch left-back Kika van Es, who came very close to joining Arsenal last January. In Chloe Kelly, they have an ex-Arsenal trainee who is one of the in-form players in the division. Kirk is one of the most respected coaches in the division and the Toffees will be well organised and prepared to play on the break.
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) December 14, 2019
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jordan Nobbs will return to the scene of her greatest career disappointment. Having scored her 9th goal of the season last November and in the form of her life, Jordan fell awkwardly and jarred her knee and with it, her World Cup dream died. Nobbs returns in the latter stages of her recovery, with her top form slowly coming back into view.
Joe Montemurro has been adamant all along that we would see the real Jordan in the Christmas and New Year period as her recovery continues. Playing again is only half of the battle, rediscovering your top athletic form takes a few more months and Jordan is showing signs of reaching her level again. She will be desperate to perform well at the scene of her greatest career disappointment.
1.ZINSBERGER, 17.EVANS, 6.WILLIAMSON, 16.QUINN, 15.McCABE, 13.WALTI, 8.NOBBS, 10.LITTLE (c), 7.VAN DE DONK, 23.MEAD, 11.MIEDEMA. Subs; 3.Mitchell, 14.Roord, 18.Peyraud-Magnin, 20.Maier, 22.Schnaderbeck.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Southport FC’s Haig Avenue on Sunday at 12.30pm. It will be streamed live on the FA Player app, which is entirely in geoblocked and free of charge.
I won’t be at the game so we won’t have the usual match reaction, however, the next episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast will be available before Christmas.