If the weather gods allow, Arsenal will face Manchester City at Meadow Park on Sunday afternoon in a crunch game in the race for Champions League qualification. The Gunners sit four points behind City in 3rd with a game in hand. Victory here puts qualification in their hands, a defeat means City firmly grip the baton.
It’s a huge game for Arsenal and for Joe Montemurro, whose team have not beaten City, Chelsea or United in their last five attempts since defeating tomorrow’s opponents in last season’s Conti Cup semi-final last January. They do have a good home record against City, however, winning each of their last four fixtures against them at Meadow Park.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) February 4, 2021
However, those victories were over Nick Cushing’s City team who were always ultra defensive and cautious at Meadow Park. Gareth Taylor’s side have played three times since Arsenal’s last game and have scored 22 times across four games in January. They are in good form and have a lot more match rhythm than Arsenal.
There is still an excellent chance, I am afraid, of this game becoming a third consecutive postponement for Arsenal with heavy snow forecast overnight in Hertfordshire. I am told there might have been a decision made on Saturday but everyone wants to give the game the best chance to go ahead. I am also told that hosting the game at the Emirates was considered earlier this week but proved not to be viable due to covid protocols.
Steph Catley (hamstring) and Viki Schnaderbeck (knee) are still absent for Arsenal. Joe Montemurro told me on Friday that they were also “assessing a couple of players” too but was tight lipped on who they were. 17-year old Ruby Mace won’t be part of the squad as she has joined Birmingham City on loan for the rest of the season.
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal defeated Manchester City 2-1 in the Conti Cup semi-final last January thanks to first half goals from Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk. When the clubs met at Meadow Park in the league last season, a first half Vivianne Miedema strike settled the game in the Gunners’ favour.
After a slow start to the season, City have hit their stride in recent weeks, winning their last five WSL games. They drew at Manchester United after leading 2-0 and lost to Chelsea at Kingsmeadow so their record in the big away games has not been outstanding. However, their attacking trident of Ellen White supported by Chloe Kelly, Lauren Hemp, Georgia Stanway and Caroline Weir has blown teams away in recent weeks.
In Abby Dahlkemper they have added a genuinely world class centre-half to their squad this month too. Gareth Taylor reports that Sam Mewis, who has scored twice against Arsenal this season, and Demi Stokes are still very doubtful for this fixture. However, Janine Beckie, Esme Morgan and Jess Park all return from injury.
On Vivianne Miedema, Gareth Taylor said, “Of course, she is a top player. She has proven that over the years. She is a player who has been earmarked to be dangerous against us but they have got a number of good players. We need to be ready for that and make sure we impose our game on the opponent. We have been fairly successful in the past few months when we have played them. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Putting in that work! 💪
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 6, 2021
PLAYER TO WATCH
Chloe Kelly enjoyed a breakout season for Everton last season playing on the left but often moving inside and becoming Everton’s central goal threat. She has been handed a much different role at City, on the right she is asked to hold the width on the right hand side and feed the likes of Mewis, White, Weir and Stanway and it’s a role she has performed very well, with Lucy Bronze overlapping her from full-back.
Katie McCabe will need to be on her mettle to deal with the dual threat of Kelly and Bronze and look to push them back in the opposite direction. Neither Bronze nor Kelly are the strongest defenders, for all of their attacking prowess. City coughed up goals against Arsenal and Manchester United in the WSL by overplaying at right-back. City’s right flank is a big attacking strength but it can be a defensive weakness for them too.
Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 4.Patten, 7.van de Donk, 17.Evans, 18.Williams, 19.Foord, 20.Maier, 21.Gut.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match kicks off at 2.30pm at Meadow Park on Sunday. In the UK, the game will be screened live on BT Sport. In the US, it will be available on the NBC Soccer app, in Canada it will be shown on Sportsnet, Optus in Australia, Atafootball in Germany and Italy, viafootball in Scandinavia and Finland, Charlton in Israel, Canal in Central America and everywhere else it will be on the FA Player app, which is free to download.
We will have match reaction from Joe Montemurro on the site after the game, as well as all the usual build-up and reaction to Wednesday evening’s game away at Chelsea.