Arsenal travel to Manchester United on Sunday for their first really big test of the WSL season. With a perfect start behind them and a two point lead at the top of the table over Everton and Manchester United, the Gunners face a team in the current top five for the first time this season. Casey Stoney’s side have always been well organised defensively but this summer they added attacking talent such as Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Alessio Russo.
It’s a point I discussed with Joe Montemurro earlier this week and he says he expects United to be a much more threatening attacking prospect compared to last season. The Gunners tuned up for the match with a comfortable 4-0 win over London City Lionesses on Wednesday evening, with Vivianne Miedema scoring all four goals.
🚨 MATCH HIGHLIGHTS 🚨
Another game, another @VivianneMiedema masterclass 🐐
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) November 5, 2020
Arsenal will perhaps be disappointed that they didn’t win by a greater margin, however, Joe Montemurro was delighted to be able to bring Kim Little, Jill Roord and Leonie Maier back into his team after short spells out with injury. It means that Arsenal ought to be able to field some kind of a substitute’s bench that doesn’t purely involve academy players and goalkeepers.
Last season it was substitute Danielle van de Donk’s last minute goal that won this fixture from the bench. Arsenal are in a period of the season and up against a quality of opponent that will require an injection of quality and assurance from the bench. Arsenal and United have played one another twice and the Gunners were narrow winners on both occasions.
Kim Little, Jill Roord and Leonie Maier all came through Wednesday’s match unscathed and will be part of the travelling squad to Leigh. Beth Mead and Jen Beattie were rested for the London City Lionesses tie and Joe Montemurro tells me they will both be back for this game. Jordan Nobbs (hamstring), Steph Catley (calf), Noelle Maritz (Knee), Lisa Evans (calf) are still out.
LAST TIME OUT
Last September, Arsenal dominated the match at Leigh Sports Village but had to wait for an 89th minute winner from Danielle van de Donk to take the three points. Joe Montemurro would take the same again on Sunday.
Manchester United finished 4th in the WSL last season and they have taken a further step in the transfer market, with USWNT superstars Tobin Heath and Christen Press joining on loan, while Lotte Wubben-Moy’s former North Carolina teammate Alessia Russo (who Joe Montemurro admitted he tried to sign for Arsenal earlier this year) also joined, giving them a far improved attack compared to last season.
United had their Conti Cup game away at Everton postponed on the afternoon of the match after high winds caused some superficial damage to the Toffees’ Walton Hall Stadium. This is their first game since the October international break and boss Casey Stoney says her side have used that time well, “Morale’s good. It does feel like a long time with the international window and not having a game.
“We’ve used the time well to make sure the players have got some good work in. We’ve given them some time off as well and those players that have come back from internationals are fit and well, so we’re looking good.”
— Manchester United Women (@ManUtdWomen) November 6, 2020
PLAYER TO WATCH
Katie McCabe has been a revelation at left-back this season, minimising the disruption caused by injury to new signing Steph Catley. With five assists and a goal in her four WSL games so far this season, the Ireland captain has been one of Arsenal’s most creative players- in fact, nobody in the WSL has more assists this season (Beth Mead And Caitlin Foord are tied with her on five).
It’s fair to say this will be her stiffest examination in the other direction so far this season. With Tobin Heath likely to line up on the right flank for the home side, McCabe will be coming up against one of the best wingers in the world and she will need to show that her defensive skills are as keen as her attacking instincts have been so far this season.
Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 14.Roord, 18.Williams, 21.Gut, 22.Schnaderbeck, 30.Mace, 31.Denton.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match kicks off at 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon and is available to watch free of charge and un geoblocked on the FA Player app. The match will also be shown on MUTV.
We will have reaction from Gunners boss Joe Montemurro on the site on Sunday afternoon, as well as the build-up to next weekend’s game against Chelsea. We also have a couple of other interviews in the works in the coming weeks!