Arsenal face Chelsea at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday night in a huge WSL clash in West London. The Gunners have lost on each of their last three visits to Chelsea since their 5-0 win over Emma Hayes’ side in October 2018- losing once in each domestic competition since. Montemurro’s side haven’t beaten any of their top three competitors (Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City) in 13 months, a run that spans eight games in which they have suffered seven defeats.
The only exception in that run was a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Meadow Park in November where the visitors needed a last minute Lotte Wubben-Moy own goal to take a point. Montemurro’s side are probably too far adrift of Chelsea and Manchester City in the WSL to have serious designs on anything other than third place and the final Champions League qualification spot.
Reliance on the pressing game was understandable from Arsenal Women in their first game back after three weeks
To recover against Chelsea on Wednesday, however, there must be more comfort in the ball to get a real grasp of the gamehttps://t.co/nAENrocXl9
— Art de Roché (@ArtdeRoche) February 8, 2021
Montemurro’s side are nine points behind Manchester United with two games in hand and with United due to come to Meadow Park. Their best hope of Champions League qualification is to reel United in. Casey Stoney’s side visit Manchester City on Friday evening. It is an absolutely pivotal week for Arsenal.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are shaken from having suffered their first WSL defeat in just over two years on Sunday, going down to a shock 2-1 home defeat to Brighton, who had lost all of their previous five games. Primarily, Arsenal need points but it would also be very nice for them to bury their hoodoo against the clubs around them in the table.
Arsenal will be without Jen Beattie, Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs, all of whom suffered muscular injuries in training recently. Steph Catley (hamstring) and Viki Schnaderbeck (knee) are long-term absentees and will miss this game too.
LAST TIME OUT
In this fixture last season, Arsenal took an early lead through Danielle van de Donk before Chelsea turned the tables in the second half thanks to goals from Beth England and Maria Thorisdottir. When the teams met in the reverse fixture in November, a late Beth Mead goal was cancelled out by a ricochet off Lotte Wubben-Moy in the dying seconds.
Chelsea’s shock defeat against Brighton brought to an end a 33 game unbeaten run in the WSL- a record since the league was rebranded in 2011 but still some way short of the top-flight record, set by Arsenal, between 2003 and 2009 when the Gunners went 108 league games without defeat. The result, coupled with United’s defeat at home to Reading, has allowed Manchester City back into the title race.
The Blues have one of the deepest squads in women’s football and have flitted between 442, 433 and 4231 during this season with a rotating cast of players. That rotation hasn’t always led to cohesive performances but they have so much individual talent that it often doesn’t really matter. And of course, they haven’t lost to Arsenal in their last seven meetings home and away. Arsenal have struggled to deal with their high pressing style.
A big London derby tomorrow night! 💪
Everything you need to know ahead of the clash, including details of our matchday Instagram Live with @ClRafferty1! 😁
— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) February 9, 2021
Coach Emma Hayes said, “We have to reflect, we have to be calm about those things, everybody feels emotional after a defeat because we don’t get them that often but when they come, you have to be calm about it and put in place the right things so you rectify it. These games like Arsenal are really tough, they are even games and there is a lot at stake. I know the performance I’ll be looking for and I’ll demand that from my team.
“This is a setback but we are built to cope with the various competitions across the league and I keep reminding everyone that we’re in the Continental Cup final and we’re top of the league, we’re still in a good place and it’s important to stay positive about that.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
Beth Mead was omitted from Hege Riise’s England squad this week. When pressed on her reasons, Riise said, “The reports on her were not great.” Mead is still one of the first names on Joe Montemurro’s team sheet due to her high chance creation and her ability to win the ball back high up the pitch. Against Manchester City, she attempted ten interceptions and won three of five tackles- nobody in the Arsenal team attempted more tackles or interceptions.
Being left out of the 20-strong Lionesses squad will sting Mead, who was a regular in the starting eleven under Phil Neville. From Arsenal’s perspective, the hope will be that she will be motivated to prove Hege Riise wrong and a strong performance, backed up by a goal or an assist here- would make her case strongly.
FA WSL creative players 20/21 season (minimum 540 mins)
•Fran Kirby out there on her own🤷♂️
•Tobin, Beth Mead, Kelly creating high in volume & quality
•McCabe, Bronze and Greenwood defenders who create lots
•Pernille, Galton, Daly & Izzy doing good too
Feedback appreciated! pic.twitter.com/32ssn8uhFu
— Yash (@Odriozolite) February 8, 2021
Subs: 1.Zinsberger, 4.Patten, 17.Evans, 20.Maier, 21.Gut
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place at Kingsmeadow and kicks off at 7pm on Wednesday evening. The game will be shown live on the FA Player app, which is free to download and is only geoblocked in Australia, where the game will be live on Optus Sport.
We will have match reaction from Joe Montemurro on the site on Wednesday evening, as well as the usual build-up and match reaction to Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa.