Arsenal take on Aston Villa in the final match of the WSL season. The Gunners have all but confirmed Champions League qualification for next season, they are three points ahead of Manchester United in fourth place and have a goal difference that is 26 goals superior to Casey Stoney’s side. To surrender third place, Arsenal have to lose to Villa and United have to beat Everton and there has to be a 27-goal swing towards United in the process.
Arsenal are on a run of nine consecutive victories and will want to finish the season- and Joe Montemurro’s reign- on a high. For Aston Villa, the game has a lot more riding on it. They are two points above Bristol City in the relegation place at the bottom of the league. Bristol City travel to Brighton, who they beat 3-0 earlier in the season, while Villa have the tougher task of a trip to Arsenal.
🎶 We’ve got McCabe, @Katie_McCabe11…
And now she’s here to stay! ❤️
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) May 4, 2021
Villa’s vastly superior goal difference to Bristol City means that a point virtually guarantees them safety and they will fight for that point with everything they have. The Villains have been draw specialists in April, tying games against West Ham (x2), Bristol City and Birmingham in their last four games.
Arsenal have an FA Cup tie at home to against Crystal Palace next weekend but this will be Joe Montemurro’s last WSL game as Arsenal manager. There are some players who will take their WSL curtain calls for this game too (most of those stories are already in the press) and they will want to go out on a high, as well as continue Arsenal’s unbeaten run.
A WORD FROM THE COACH
“They (Aston Villa) are in a different position to us, we have the pressure off but we still want to achieve certain goals for the season, we want to get up to the 50 point mark. We want to finish the season in the way that we’ve been going over the last few weeks. We do expect they will probably be conservative because they need a point. They will look to deny us space in our attacking third but we’ve come up against that plenty of times before and we just need to make sure we do what we need to do to get through.”
Jen Beattie (hamstring), Lisa Evans (achilles) and Viki Schnaderbeck (knee) are unavailable and Joe Montemurro tells me that Beattie and Schnaderbeck certainly won’t play again this season while Lisa Evans has an outside chance of playing against Crystal Palace next weekend but is unlikely to be risked.
“It’s not likely (that we will see any of them before the end of the season,” Joe told Arseblog News on Friday. “Jen and Viki certainly not. Lisa is starting to get back onto the pitch but it’s probably not worth pushing her at this point considering where we are in the season and they can all start to plan for the seasons ahead.” Fran Stenson (thumb) is also out. Vivianne Miedema needs a hat-trick (at least) to secure the Golden Boot. She has 18 goals to Sam Kerr’s 20.
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal were 4-0 victors over Marcus Bignot’s side in February thanks to goals from Vivianne Miedema, Jordan Nobbs, Katie McCabe and Lisa Evans at Walsall’s Banks’ Stadium.
For Villa, survival was always the name of the game for this season- their first in the WSL. They made a manager alteration in mid-season with 28-year old coach Gemma Davis demoted to assistant manager and the experienced Marcus Bignot brought into the hotseat until the end of the season. Bignot has plenty of experience with city rivals Birmingham City Women.
Bignot has changed Villa’s style to something more agricultural, the number of long passes they play has crept up as they have sought to play survival football. It has cost them some of their attacking potency and conceding stoppage time equalisers to Bristol City and Birmingham in April have kept them mired in the relegation struggle.
What happens when you get promoted, struggle, install an interim manager *alongside* your 'progressive' 20-something year-old head coach, and drop your possession-based identity?
I look at Aston Villa women's seasonhttps://t.co/L7VVz5XjUS
— Mark Thompson (@EveryTeam_Mark) May 5, 2021
PLAYER TO WATCH
Katie McCabe signed a new contract this week which is fantastic news for Arsenal. McCabe has 11 WSL assists this season (12 in all competitions) with Chloe Kelly injured, an assist on the final day of the season will see her top that particular metric in the WSL. 12 assists and four goals from left-back illustrate the extent of McCabe’s impact.
Quite simply, she has been Arsenal’s player of the season and has responded to the challenge set down by the arrival of a world class left-back in Steph Catley. It remains to be seen how the new manager envisages McCabe, who is also comfortable on the right and left-wing. One thing is for sure, wherever she plays, Arsenal are a better team with Katie in it.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) May 7, 2021
Subs; 1.Zinsberger, 3.Wubben-Moy, 4.Patten, 12.Catley, 19.Foord, 20.Maier, 21.Gut, 29.Goldie.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match kicks off at 2.30pm on Sunday at Meadow Park and will be played behind closed doors. The game will be streamed live on the FA Player app, which is free to download and not geoblocked (except for Australia where Optus will probably pick the game up).
We will have match reaction from Joe Montemurro on the site on Sunday afternoon as well as the usual analysis piece on Monday evening. There will be a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast on Tuesday AND we will have something exclusive and a little special on the site on Friday, so stay tuned….