Arsenal travel to Aston Villa for their already twice postponed WSL clash at the Bescot Stadium on Sunday. The game was postponed in early January due to covid cases in the Arsenal squad, then a waterlogged pitch did for the rearranged fixture a fortnight ago. Walsall’s home game was called off on Saturday due to a frozen pitch so it remains to be seen whether this match will again be submitted to the same fate!
The Gunners are in dire need of lifted spirits having lost their last two matches and not won any of their three games in 2021. In fact, they have taken just one point from their last four away games, losing twice in Manchester, once against Chelsea and drawing away at Reading. A trip to 10th placed Aston Villa would ordinarily be seen as a banker for Montemurro’s side.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) February 12, 2021
Following their defeat in the Manchester derby on Friday evening, Arsenal now have their eyes on reeling Manchester United in to take the final Champions League qualification spot. They are nine points behind Casey Stoney’s team with two games in hand- this being the first of those. United also have to travel to Boreham Wood in March.
There is no room for error now and Arsenal need to quickly rebuild their confidence and go on a long winning run- starting at Villa. The home side are still very much part of the relegation battle sitting four points above bottom side Bristol and this represents their game in hand on the Vixens. Even a draw for Marcus Bignot and team would represent a big result and they will fight tooth and nail for it.
Caitlin Foord (knee) is unlikely to be available. Joe Montemurro sounded bullish on the extent of the injury when quizzed on it on Wednesday evening, but then he usually does! Foord had a scan during the week and the results of that are not public knowledge at time of writing. Steph Catley (hamstring) and Viki Schnaderbeck (knee) are out but Jordan Nobbs returned to the bench on Wednesday evening after a couple of games out with a quad injury. Jen Beattie (calf) and Kim Little (hamstring) are unavailable.
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.
Aston Villa have recently made a managerial change of sorts, parachuting experienced coach Marcus Bignot into the manager’s chair with previous manager Gemma Davies kept on as his assistant. Villa insist this is a short-term change and a mentoring opportunity too given that Davies is only 27-years old. Bignot has big experience in women’s football having managed city rivals Birmingham City for many years.
Villa lost 7-0 to Manchester City and 4-0 to Chelsea during January but last time out, a Mana Iwabuchi wonder strike gave Villa a vital three points in a 1-0 win over Spurs at the Bescot. They also held Reading to a 2-2 draw in January. In Iwabuchi Villa have a player who is well-known to many Arsenal players, she played with Manu Zinsberger, Leonie Maier, Viki Schnaderbeck, Lisa Evans and Vivianne Miedema at Bayern Munich.
WHAT. A. HIT! 💥
Mana Iwabuchi smashes one into the top corner for Aston Villa Women against Tottenham Women!
So good 🙌 pic.twitter.com/LpBhD6LJeU
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 6, 2021
Iwabuchi was a player of serious interest to Arsenal last January but a move didn’t come to fruition, largely because the Japanese FA wanted her to stay in Japan until the Tokyo Olympics had taken place. Iwabuchi has played on the right for Villa and is comfortably their most dangerous player, the playmaker was a key member of Japan’s 2011 World Cup winning side.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jill Roord has forced her way into the Arsenal midfield this season but in the last two games, she has been marshalled, forced to play with her back to goal and crowded out. She only managed one shot in the games against Chelsea and City and three shot creating actions. Her possession stats are falling in recent games too, completing only 70% of her passes against a dogged Reading side.
Roord usually passes at a 90% clip, against City she completed at a rate of 87% and did manage a good assist too. At Chelsea that fell to 83% as they pressed her, crowded her out and forced her to play with her back to goal. Montemurro likes to play Roord because she helps to maintain possession higher up the pitch and she will need to find space between the lines on Sunday against a packed Villa defence.
Subs: 4.Patten, 17.Evans, 18.Williams, 20.Maier, 21.Gut, 24.Stenson.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game kicks off at 2pm on Sunday at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium. It is being shown live on the FA Player app, which is free to download to your phone or tablet.
We will have match reaction from Joe Montemurro on the site after the game. There follows a three week break for internationals thereafter, so we will try to fit in an Arsenal Women Arsecast for you during that break.