Arsenal face Birmingham City at Meadow Park in the WSL on Sunday for the first game in front of fans at Boreham Wood since February 23rd. 900 Arsenal fans will be allowed through the turnstiles on Sunday with government restrictions relaxed. It’s also the Gunners first game for two and a half weeks after an extended international break.
Joe Montemurro’s side haven’t won any of their last three games outright- they lost to Manchester United, drew at home to Chelsea and beat Spurs on penalties in the Conti Cup. They will want to get back to winning ways against Carla Ward’s Birmingham City side- especially with an away match against Manchester City on the horizon.
Nine long months without you…
Nine long months without your songs and chants…
So which one is @bmeado9 most excited to hear on Sunday? 😅
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) December 4, 2020
Some of the players experienced disappointments during the international break, not least the Scottish trio of Lisa Evans, Jen Beattie and Kim Little, whose stoppage time defeat against Finland on Tuesday night means they can no longer qualify for the Euros in 2022. I asked Joe whether he had spoken with the Scottish players on Friday and this is what he said.
“I have had a chat with all of them. They’re obviously disappointed- with the quality of squad they have and to not go to the next step in a major tournament is always difficult. It could be one of those scenarios where the amount of games and the impact of the full schedule is realised. They’re very disappointed but they were all in great spirits in training- it was our first full session together since the break. They are true professionals and they will just get on with it.”
Lia Wälti misses this game after going off with a head injury for Switzerland against Belgium on Tuesday night, concussion protocols mean she is not allowed to play or be in full training until Monday as a result. Noelle Maritz has had a setback in her recovery from a knee injury and won’t return until the New Year.
Viki Schnaderbeck is in the final stages of rehabilitation from a knee injury and is expected to join full training soon. Steph Catley (calf) and Jordan Nobbs (hamstring) are fit again and will return to the squad for this game.
LAST TIME OUT
Back in January, goals from Kim Little and a wonderful lob from Jordan Nobbs gave Arsenal a 2-0 victory over Birmingham City at Meadow Park.
Carla Ward joined the Blues as manager during the summer and was subject to interest from West Ham recently, who parted company with Matt Beard. Ward has earned plaudits for her work with a small and recently assembled squad- for their recent victory over Aston Villa, Birmingham could only field one outfield substitute due to injuries.
Birmingham were dragged into the relegation struggle last season and lost some more key players during the summer but they currently sit sixth in the WSL table and have four clean sheets in their last five games. Forward Claudia Walker has five goals in her last five games and six in her last seven (she has actually scored on own goal during this run too) and she will present a threat to Arsenal’s defence on Sunday.
"My future is here, I don't want to go anywhere else."
The 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭 Sunday viewing, click below to watch the full interview with @cwardy7… 😁💙
— Birmingham City Women (@BCFCwomen) November 29, 2020
PLAYER TO WATCH
Birmingham have four clean sheets in their last five, the outlier in this run is West Ham who defeated the Blues 2-1 recently. Both of West Ham’s goals on this occasion came via lofted deliveries to the back post. This is an area Caitlin Foord might really enjoy attacking if Arsenal can get the correct service from wide positions.
If she can isolate Birmingham right-back Harriet Scott and attack deliveries in from the right, Arsenal could have some joy. Foord and Miedema often swap positions too, so don’t be surprised to see Miedema pull into this space to try to draw Birmingham’s centre-halves out and create space for runners into the area.
(433) 18.WILLIAMS; 17.EVANS, 6.WILLIAMSON, 5.BEATTIE, 15.McCABE; 21.GUT, 10.LITTLE (c), 14.ROORD; 9.MEAD, 19.FOORD, 11.MIEDEMA.
Subs; 1.Zinsberger, 3.Wubben-Moy, 7.van de Donk, 8.Nobbs, 12.Catley, 20.Maier, 30.Mace, 32.Garrad, 33.Pearsie.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game kicks off at 2pm on Sunday at Meadow Park and can be watched live, all around the world (except for Australia and Israel) on the FA Player app, which is free to download to your tablet or smart phone.
We will have post-match reaction from Joe Montemurro on the site on Sunday afternoon. There will also be a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast for you to download early next week.