Chelsea Women v Arsenal Match Preview [Conti Cup]

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THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal travel to Chelsea on Wednesday evening for the opening game of their Continental Cup group stage. Questions abound over Arsenal’s record in games against big opponents with two defeats to Chelsea already in 2020- one in the final of this competition last season- as well as a pair of defeats away at Manchester City and against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League.

This is not the most important game Arsenal will play against Emma Hayes’ side this season but there is a need to correct this big game record. Montemurro’s side performed excellently against Chelsea in the Conti Cup Final in February but were left to rue missed chances but even a draw on Wednesday evening (in the event of a draw both teams keep their point with a penalty shootout to determine who gets an extra point) would represent progress.

The second place in this Conti Cup group are not guaranteed progression to the quarter-finals, although six points against fellow group opponents Spurs and London City Lionesses should be enough to see them through as one of the best group runners-up. Usually Arsenal’s Conti Cup groups are a formality but that’s not the case this season.

Arsenal might be heartened by Chelsea’s slow start- they were held by Manchester United and lost to Everton in the Cup, while they only managed to beat lowly Birmingham by a solitary goal on Sunday. However, all of those games were away and they remain formidable at Kingsmeadow. As a counterpressing outfit, they relish matching themselves up against the Gunners’ possession based style.

TEAM NEWS
Joe Montemurro suggested that captain Kim Little was in contention for this game, after leaving the field with a thigh injury against Manchester City last week but she didn’t feature in the training photos published by Arsenal on Tuesday. Neither did Jordan Nobbs, who was substituted with cramp during the 3-1 win over Bristol City. Lisa Evans awaits the results of a scan but will not be available for this game, Steph Catley and Lydia Williams will not return until after the international break. Jill Roord (knee) is still out.

LAST TIME OUT
Chelsea defeated the Gunners 2-1 in the Conti Cup Final in February thanks to a stoppage time winner from Beth England. England had earlier given the Blues the lead with Leah Williamson equalising in the 85th minute. The last time the Gunners went to Kingsmeadow last October, they took the lead through Danielle van de Donk but lost the game 2-1 thanks to second half goals from Beth England and Maria Thorisdottir.

THE OPPONENTS
Chelsea have caused a stir in women’s football with their recent transfer business. Australian striker Sam Kerr arrived in January and she has been joined by Danish forward Pernille Harder, one of the world’s best players. They also drafted the likes of Melanie Leupolz, Jess Fleming and Niamh Charles this summer, giving them the biggest squad in the WSL.

Hayes’ challenge has been to integrate new players and keep her big squad happy. So far she hasn’t quite nailed accommodating Harder, Kerr and England as well as Fran Kirby, who has started the season in great form. However, Chelsea have so much talent and Hayes’ high press has proved to be kryptonite for Arsenal in recent encounters.

PLAYER TO WATCH
Jen Beattie has returned from a lower back injury and the return is well-timed. She was badly missed in both defeats to Chelsea earlier in 2020. When Hayes’ side took Arsenal apart at Meadow Park in January they scored from three crosses- two of which were headed in and Beattie’s aerial prowess proved difficult to replace.

England and Kerr like to drag centre-halves out to the channels with their running and Beattie and McCabe at left-back will need to be nice and in-tune to keep those spaces compact. Jen is also an excellent passer from the back and Chelsea will put her under plenty of pressure as she looks to start Arsenal’s build-up play.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 8.Nobbs, 20.Maier, 21.Gut, 24.Stenson, 30.Mace

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
Kickoff is at 7pm at Kingsmeadow and the game will be played behind closed doors. At time of going to press there are no plans for this game to be broadcast but the whole match will be made available to watch on the FA Player app on Thursday morning. I will be at the game so you can follow me for updates on twitter @Stillberto if you like.

COMING UP
We will have the usual post-match reaction from Joe Montemurro on the site on Wednesday evening and all of the usual build-up and reaction for Sunday’s WSL game away at Brighton.

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Falooda

Really, really hope that Joe doesn’t screw this up again and picks the best team which really comes down to picking the best players in their best positions. Its not that the Conti cup is that important in the grand scheme of things but yet another defeat against a big team will really cement the perception (rightly IMO) that Arsenal simply can’t compete with the big girls. Winning 1 match against Chelsea since 2016 when half their team was injured, including losing the last 5 in a row against Chelsea, is embarrassing. Joe really has to do better with the… Read more »

Its the Arsenal

Also nearly all the time we’ve played them we’ve had an injury crisis (shock) tomorrows no different

Eeleen

I am with you usually about playing our best players in their best positions, but if Jordan and Kim are also out, our lineup picks itself. Only questions is Leah or Malin at midfield. If Joe in convinced Malin is not ready yet, when even that is decided. At what point we have to ask questions about our injury record. It can’t be just bad luck. Chelsea and City players don’t have more games than ours, how it is possible that 3rd year running, we are the only ones who break down. And this year we are 5 games into… Read more »

Eeleen

It might not be the most meaningful “big” game this year considering titles, but for our players and Joe it might be. The big game thing for me at moment is more about needing to break the narrative. I have also been critical of Joe’s tactical set-up in big games, but reality is that tactically he has for me srewed up two games – Chelsea at home and PSG. Rest of time we have played players who are not injured, what is about 11 players. Not much we can do about it. But if we are losing 5th big game… Read more »

Peter Story Teller

In the main I have supported Joe as he has really turned around the mess left by Shelley and Pedro but I am concerned over some of his actions. It was evident, for understandable reasons, that several of our players were dead on their feet in the PSG game and yet Joe steadfastly refused to substitute any of them. We never appear to be able to name a full bench due to injuries but there is a reluctance, it seems, to properly rotate players. We’ve all, including Tim, been a little critical of Manu recently. Ok Lydia is injured but… Read more »

Eeleen

Yep. We need the win against Chelsea, it doesn’t matter how, with who or with what playing style. Another loss, how ever objectively justified because we don’t have players again, is 5th big game lost in a row. Nobody cares at that point what are the valid reasons for another defeat. I understand that it is harsh. The main narrative is that he is bad against big teams (although it is not always true, he is good against City usually), but it is up to him and players to change that. I agree with everything about Manu. There has to… Read more »

Armchair

It doesn’t sound like Monte is taking this match too seriously, given the team selection. Maier, Gut and Wubben-Moy are all starting, and they’ve each hardly played since the restart. Granted, the options are limited given the injury situation–again–and the need to rest some players.

Christopher Humphrey

Well Leonie, Lotte and Malin get their starts. Perhaps it was “a bridge too far” for Fran to come in as well.
I’m in hope rather than expectation?

Peter Story Teller

Different players same result!

Its the Arsenal

*weaker players* not particularly worried about a groupstage league cup match

Peter Story Teller

Cannot be complacent with the spuds lurking in the shadows! How embarrasing will it be to get knocked out at the group stage when we don’t even have European games to worry about?