Arsenal travel to Walsall’s Banks’ Stadium to play Aston Villa for the first time in the WSL. This fixture was supposed to take place in early January but was postponed after seven Arsenal players were required to self-isolate after a positive coronavirus test in the camp. The fourth round of the FA Cup was supposed to take place during this weekend but the postponement of the tournament freed up the date.
For the Gunners, this game is about getting their league season back on track having slipped up last time around against Reading. Arsenal have not won their last three away fixtures and that hasn’t happened since the WSL was formed in 2011. Villa recently shipped seven to Manchester City and were beaten 4-0 by Chelsea on Wednesday night while Arsenal didn’t have a match.
Go behind the scenes at training! 🎬
🔜 @BarclaysFAWSL 🏆
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 28, 2021
Villa also played out a 2-2 draw with Reading last weekend while Arsenal had their feet up. The Gunners ought to be the fresher team for this one and, even so, they should still be beating Aston Villa and beating them reasonably well. City’s recent form has seen them move above Montemurro’s side into 3rd and the last Champions League qualification spot.
Subsequent to this match, Arsenal face City at home and Chelsea away in the same week and play Manchester United at home soon after. First and foremost, they need to take the points at Villa and take them emphatically to set themselves up for a pair of crunch games that will probably decide the fate of their season.
Viki Schnaderbeck (knee) and Steph Catley (hamstring) are Arsenal’s only absentees for this game. Noelle Maritz was an unused sub in the Reading game after three months out with injury and she could be in line for a start. Joe Montemurro started with Manu Zinsberger in goal against Reading and given his goalkeeper rotation policy, Lydia Williams might be favoured for this one.
LAST TIME OUT
The last time the teams met competitively was January 2006 in the FA Cup 5th Round, goals from Julie Fleeting, a Lianne Sanderson penalty and a stoppage time effort from Ciara Grant saw Arsenal to a 3-0 victory in the West Midlands.
Villa squeezed a creditable 2-2 home draw with Reading between a 7-0 away defeat at Manchester City and a 4-0 home defeat against Chelsea. Villa have undergone a managerial overhaul recently with experienced coach Marcus Bignot coming in as Head Coach and previous manager 27-year old Gemma Davis demoted to assistant manager.
The line from Villa is that this is a temporary arrangement until the end of the season with Bignot, who spent seven years managing Birmingham City Ladies, mentoring Villa’s young coaching staff in the meantime. The Villains are currently second bottom five points clear of Bristol City and they have secured the marquee signing of Japanese World Cup winner Mana Iwabuchi.
Iwabuchi was a player of interest to Arsenal last year and is a former teammate of Leonie Maier, Viki Schnaderbeck, Lisa Evans and Vivianne Miedema at Bayern Munich- she remains very good friends with the latter two. She is comfortably the most talented player on Villa’s roster and will provide the biggest attacking threat on Sunday.
Vivianne Miedema abrazando a su ex compañera de club Mana Iwabuchi después de que su selección 🇳🇱 eliminara a 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/wH7VQhR6S4
— Mª Valentina Vega (@mvalentinavs) December 30, 2019
PLAYER TO WATCH
This season Arsenal have spent significantly more time with the ball in their defensive third of the field. Teams have become wise to the Gunners’ “rope-a-dope” style where they seek to draw opponents out of deep blocks by passing the ball around their defensive third before quickly moving beyond them and exposing opposing defences.
There is much more onus on Arsenal’s central midfielders to pick the lock in crowd scenes and that’s where Kim Little and Jill Roord will come in. They have been Montemurro’s favoured midfield pairing ahead of Lia Walti this season. Personally I would like to see Jordan Nobbs move back into a central role to provide a greater sense of urgency in possession with the runs beyond the front line to match.
Subs: 1.Zinsberger, 3.Wubben-Moy, 4.Patten, 7.van de Donk, 14.Roord, 16.Maritz, 20.Maier, 21.Gut, 30.Mace.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place at Walsall’s Banks’ Stadium and kicks off at 2pm on Sunday. The game will be shown live on the FA Player app, which is free to download, or else you can register an account here and watch on your laptop or PC. In Australia the game will be shown on Optus.
We will have the usual post-match reaction from Joe Montemurro on the site on Sunday afternoon, as well as a match analysis piece online on either Monday evening or Tuesday morning. We will also have all of the usual build-up to next weekend’s match against Manchester City.