Arsenal travel to St. George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent to take on Carla Ward’s Birmingham side on Sunday, the game was initially scheduled to take place at Solihull Moors’ Damson Park but the FA have ruled that the ground no longer meets WSL requirements after a number of postponements this season. St. George’s Park is the FA’s remote premises in the Derbyshire countryside.
The Gunners got back to winning ways with a comfortable 4-0 win at Aston Villa last weekend after a difficult first half. They can expect a similar challenge from Birmingham this weekend who will look to sit deep and frustrate Arsenal with a deep defensive block. One of the players aiming to stop the Arsenal attack will be very familiar to the away side.
— miedemastuff ⚽️ (@miedemastuff) March 5, 2021
17-year old Ruby Mace joined Birmingham on loan from Arsenal in January. Ruby usually trains with Arsenal for the first half of the week before joining Birmingham for the second half of the week. Mace has been thrown straight into action at centre-half with Rachel Corsie curtailing her loan spell and signing for Kansas City in the NWSL.
Montemurro’s side negotiate a crunch home game with Manchester United following this game but his team will need to focus on the task at hand at St. George’s Park. Arsenal trail Manchester United in third by six points with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference. The team rediscovered some flow and confidence in the second half against Villa and will look to take that momentum with them on Sunday.
Kim Little is in contention for selection after recovering from a calf strain. Arsenal will still be without Steph Catley (hamstring) and Viki Schnaderbeck (knee) for Sunday. Caitlin Foord (knee) returned from the bench at Villa last weekend and should be in contention to start.
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners at Meadow Park in December thanks to goals from Caitlin Foord, Jill Roord and a Kim Little penalty. The last time the Gunners played away at Birmingham City saw a famous 1-0 victory in March 2019 thanks to a late goal from Katie McCabe, a victory that put the team within two wins of the league title.
Birmingham haven’t won any of their last five games and have only scored one goal in that time. Last weekend they were beaten 4-0 by Manchester City at St. George’s Park. They are currently 9th in the table five points above Bristol City in the relegation spot. Given the level of upheaval at the club over the summer, they would have taken that in September.
Birmingham have been hit hard by the pandemic and they boast the smallest squad in the division, seven of their current first-team squad have joined since the summer of 2020. However, Ward has made the team resilient and difficult to break down- only the WSL’s “big four” have better defensive records than the Blues.
— Birmingham City Women (@BCFCwomen) March 5, 2021
Manager Carla Ward said pre-game, “It’s as tough as Man City. I love playing these games, testing yourselves against the best in the world. It’s a free hit for us, we can go and enjoy it. We’ve had an unbelievable attitude all year. Ruby Mace is available to play, which is great for us and for Arsenal because they get to see her compete as well. She’s been excellent for us.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
Arsenal found space against Villa by attacking wide spaces and moving midfield players closer to the wide players to create numerical superiority. Since Birmingham will look to clog up the centre of the pitch as Villa did, how the full-backs get forward to help the wide players will be key. Noelle Maritz returned at right-back against Villa.
From left-back, Katie McCabe is second to only Chloe Kelly for assists in the WSL and she has two goals to boot. Arsenal will look for similar numbers from right-back too, whether that be Lisa Evans, Noelle Maritz or Leonie Maier on Sunday. The Gunners consistently used Beth Mead as an outlet on the right wing on Sunday and how her full-back supports her to create overloads could hold the key to this game for Arsenal.
3.Wubben-Moy, 4.Patten, 7.van de Donk, 17.Evans, 18.Williams, 19.Foord, 20.Maier, 21.Gut, 24.Stenson.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game kicks off at 2pm on Sunday at St. George’s Park and will be live on the FA Player app, which is free to download to your smartphone, PC or tablet.
We’ll have full quotes from Joe Montemurro’s post-match press conference on the site on Sunday afternoon. We will also have the usual analysis piece on Tuesday morning as well as all of the usual build-up to the Manchester United game on March 19th. We will have a podcast out for you before the United game too.