Arsenal travel to Reading (well, Wycombe, actually) with the intention of keeping their bid to retain the WSL title on track. Last week, in my Bristol City preview, I spoke about the need for Arsenal to make up a goal difference deficit on Chelsea and Manchester City. An 11-1 victory put that nagging anxiety to bed pretty emphatically.
All eyes will be on Vivianne Miedema after the Dutch master scored six and laid on another four against Bristol last week. Prior to the match Miedema led the WSL for goal involvements with seven- four goals and three assists. She raised that bar to 17 in one match. She also broke her own record for direct goal involvements in a single WSL game, previously set at five. Miedema is one goal away from 50 for the calendar year for Arsenal and Netherlands.
The greatest individual performance of all time? ?
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) December 2, 2019
Reading won’t be as accommodating as Bristol, who had the worst defensive record in the WSL even prior to last weekend. However, Royals games tend to be high scoring affairs, their last four games have seen a 2-2 draw, a 3-3 draw, a 6-0 win against Championship Crystal Palace and a 3-2 win over West Ham. They concede, but they also have cutting edge.
For Joe Montemurro’s side this weekend is a big opportunity to open up a gap at the top of the WSL as Chelsea and Manchester City play one another earlier in the day, meaning one or both will drop points. Chelsea’s match against Everton last weekend was postponed, which meant Arsenal went top. On Sunday, the mission is to line their nest at the top of the table.
Arsenal will likely reinstate captain Kim Little, who was rested and remained an unused sub during the demolition of Bristol City. Katrine Veje (foot), Dan Carter (knee) and Tabea Kemme (knee) are all out. Katie McCabe should return after illness kept her out of last weekend’s game. Joe may look to play Pauline Peyraud-Magnin in goal, after Manuela Zinsberger started the last three WSL games.
90 minutes played
93.4% passing accuracy
Her long balls tho ?? pic.twitter.com/yPCFY7iHqY
— miedemastuff ⚽️ (@miedemastuff) December 4, 2019
LAST TIME OUT
Last season, the Gunners were 3-0 winners at Adams Park thanks to a first minute strike from Vivianne Miedema, a Kim Little penalty and a late Katie McCabe thunderbastard. They also thrashed the Royals 6-0 at Meadow Park last season with a Miedema hat-trick as well as goals from Jordan Nobbs, Beth Mead and Danielle van de Donk.
PLAYER TO WATCH
While Vivianne Miedema maxed out at 10 goal involvements last weekend, Lisa Evans managed 5. Playing in an advanced right-wing position, the Scottish international scored twice and laid on another three. Evans plays on either the right flank or at right back with the same, unerring level of competence. She remains one of Arsenal’s most underrated players.
? @LisaEvans_17 appreciation tweet ?
Quietly going about her business ? pic.twitter.com/D914YwpxVv
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) December 3, 2019
WSL coverage is still very England-centric and the Scot doesn’t earn the credit she deserves as a result. Evans has to be a serious candidate for Team GB at the 2020 Olympics. Evans will likely return to right-back on Sunday, where she will consistently provide width on the overlap and power her way to the by-line, as is her wont.
1.PEYRAUD-MAGNIN, 17.EVANS, 6.WILLIAMSON, 5.BEATTIE, 15.McCABE, 13.WALTI, 10.LITTLE (c), 14.ROORD, 7.VAN DE DONK, 23.MEAD, 11.MIEDEMA. Subs: 1.Zinsberger, 3.Mitchell, 8.Nobbs, 16.Quinn, 20.Maier, 22.Schnaderbeck.
Reading have comfortably established themselves in the middle tier of the WSL, which is no mean feat given the level of funding available to them compared to many of their competitors. Spurs and Manchester United are threatening to encroach on that territory, while Everton and Brighton have made improvements since last season too.
In Fara Williams, Reading have a legend of the English game and having spent two years at Arsenal recently, the Gunners will know all about her qualities. Fara is the best striker of a dead ball in the division, whether that entails shooting at goal or delivering into the box. Fara scored directly from centre against Arsenal two seasons ago.
Under Kelly Chambers, Reading have been a little more open at the back than they would have liked this season. The Royals are an experienced squad- which means a lot of the squad will need turning over soon. Williams and Jo Potter are 35, Tash Harding and Remi Allen are 29 and Brooke Chaplen is 30. But for the time being, that makes Reading a team packed with WSL experience.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park and kicks off on Sunday at 2.30pm. Tickets are available on the turnstile at £6 adults and £3 concessions, otherwise it is £12 for a family ticket. Otherwise, the game will be available to watch live and un-geoblocked on the FA Player app and will also be shown on BBC Online in the UK.
We will have exclusive player reaction after the match with a member of the first team, as well as the usual preview and post-match reaction for Wednesday’s Conti Cup tie against London Bees. The December Arsenal Women Arsecast will be available after the Everton game on 15th December.