Arsenal Women are back in the saddle after a short Christmas break with a WSL game against struggling Birmingham City at Meadow Park. Birmingham is traditionally a very tough game, but the Blues have undergone a sizeable transition under manager Marta Tejedor having lost the likes of Aoife Mannion, Ellen White, Meghan Sergeant and Ann-Katrin Berger in the last 12 months.
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The Gunners sit on top of the pile in the WSL but the margins are razor thin with Chelsea four points back with a game in hand and City only three points behind, there is no room for error. Joe Montemurro’s side haven’t dropped a point to a team from outside of the top 3 since April 2018 and that consistency will need to continue into 2020.
Arsenal will check on Beth Mead, who suffered bruising to her leg in the 3-1 win over Everton before Christmas, while Jen Beattie will also undergo a fitness test after missing the Everton match with a calf injury. Katrine Veje (foot) is not quite ready to play yet. Danielle Carter (knee) and Tabea Kemme (knee) are certainly unavailable. Emma Mitchell has joined Spurs on loan for the remainder of the season.
Best of luck, @EmsMitch3 ?
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— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 3, 2020
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal toughed out a 3-1 win over Birmingham in the WSL last November. Jordan Nobbs opened the scoring, before Lucy Quinn notched an immediate equaliser. A Danielle van de Donk penalty and another late goal from Nobbs sealed a hard-earned win. The teams also met at Meadow Park in the Conti Cup quarter-finals last January.
Lucy Quinn gave Birmingham a second-half lead, but late goals from Danielle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema gave Arsenal a heart-stopping win. The last time the teams met was back in March in Solihull where Katie McCabe’s late winner put the Gunners within two wins of the league title and guaranteed Champions League qualification.
Birmingham have been a thorn in the side of the top teams for some years now, they were always renowned as the kind of team capable of bloodying anyone’s nose and, under the stewardship of Marc Skinner, any team that took them on would have to claw with their fingernails for every inch of turf. Skinner’s departure for Orlando Pride before the end of last season precipitated a mass churn, with several key players leaving.
The Blues have struggled this season with new boss Marta Tejedor and a host of new players. They have only won two WSL games in this campaign, but both wins have come against the bottom two (Liverpool and Bristol City) which should go a long way to saving them from relegation. However, they are very much a team on a downward spiral.
They were thumped 6-0 by Chelsea earlier in December, but they have drawn with Spurs and beaten Bristol City since then. They did manage to keep hold of midfielder Lucy Staniforth this summer, whose long-range shooting remains a present threat, while captain and local lass Kerys Harrop will be charged with holding the defence together.
PLAYER TO WATCH
If Jen Beattie is not passed fit for this game, it is likely that Viki Schnaderbeck will step into central defence ahead of Louise Quinn. The Austrian has played the last four games for Arsenal and her ball retention stats give you an insight into why Montemurro has increased her involvement. With a 92% pass completion rate, Schnaderbeck is Arsenal’s most accurate passer this season.
The former Bayern defender has the highest XG Build-up ratio in the squad at 1.13. She passes accurately and she passes through the lines. Montemurro even fielded her at left-back for the 3-0 win over Reading in December due to her defensive and technical security. After a frustrating first year at Arsenal, Schnaderbeck is starting to make her mark.
1.ZINSBERGER, 17.EVANS, 6.WILLIAMSON, 22.SCHNADERBECK, 15.McCABE, 13.WALTI, 14.ROORD, 10.LITTLE (c), 7.VAN DE DONK, 23.MEAD, 11.MIEDEMA. Subs; 3.Mitchell, 8.Nobbs, 16.Quinn, 18.Peyraud-Magnin, 20.Maier, 26.Grant, 27.Filis.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Meadow Park on Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are available on the turnstile at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Otherwise, the match is available to stream on the FA Player app completely free of charge and un-geoblocked. You just need to register the app using the link below.
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 will have exclusive player reaction from the game on the site on Sunday afternoon and then we will have all of the usual build-up and reaction to next weekend’s game against Brighton & Hove Albion. Also, we released the latest episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast earlier this week, where Pippa and Tim chat to Sophie Lawson on the subject of individual awards in women’s football, whether they are feasible and whether Vivianne Miedema is unfairly overlooked for them. We also chat with Sophie about Chelsea signing Sam Kerr and whether the WSL salary cap should be removed and whether the Conti Cup is still fit for purpose. You can download that at the links below.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) January 2, 2020