Arsenal face Manchester United in the WSL at Meadow Park on Saturday lunchtime as Jonas Eidevall’s team shape up for a decisive week in their league campaign. Manchester City and Chelsea play one another on Sunday while the Gunners travel to Kingsmeadow on Friday evening. For now, however, the focus is fully on Marc Skinner’s Manchester United side.
Arsenal lost to United at home in the Conti Cup just over a fortnight ago but given the choice between the two, this is the game the Gunners would really want to win. For the first time this season, Arsenal will play a team that has played a midweek match while Arsenal did not. United were beaten 3-1 at Kingsmeadow in the Conti Cup semi-finals on Wednesday evening.
🖥️📝Yesterday I talked to ARSEBLOG about myself, my career, and sent a message to Arsenal’s Brazilian fans https://t.co/Emqyo7h1PY
— Rafaelle Souza (@Rafaelleleone) February 2, 2022
Eidevall’s side had many injuries and illnesses to deal with last week when they beat Brighton at home last Thursday and followed it up with an FA Cup victory over London City Lionesses. The latter fixture especially had a real “let’s just get through this unscathed” feel, with a subs bench stacked with academy players.
Arsenal ought to welcome back a number of key players for this match, however. The next week will provide a stern examination of the team’s title credentials and though United have been in excellent form in the WSL, they can take some comfort from their defeat, down to ten players and the level of exertion expended by their visitors. Nothing less than three points will do here.
Jen Beattie, Stina Blackstenius and Tobin Heath will all return from illness, as will Rafaelle Souza. Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Lydia Williams are available after Australia’s elimination from the Asia Cup. Mana Iwabuchi is still away at the tournament with Japan. Leah Williamson and Lotte Wubben-Moy were not in the training pictures released on Thursday but it’s not known whether that is because they are unavailable for the game. Vivianne Miedema is fine after playing with a migraine against Brighton and LCL.
Lia Wälti was rested for the LCL game after her recent foot injury and will return. Jonas Eidevall told Arseblog News on Thursday that there had been some other illnesses in the squad but didn’t want to reveal who for. “Everyone is doing their best to be ready, we had a complicated week last week with illnesses, there are a couple of those issues this week too. But we’ll see what that means on Saturday.”
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 18.Williams, 24.Stenson
DEFENDERS: 2.Rafaelle, 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 6.Williamson, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 20.Boye, 26.Wienroither
MIDFIELDERS: 8.Nobbs, 10.Little, 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 15.McCabe, 37.Head
FORWARDS: 9.Mead, 11.Miedema, 14.Parris, 19.Foord, 25.Blackstenius, 77.Heath
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“I am putting our last performance against United in perspective. At the time I regarded it as a step forward but that was compared to our performance against Birmingham. If I view it now in the light of our performances against Man City and Brighton for example, then I would say it was a performance with a lot of room for improvement.
“We know United have been playing well and they have quality players but we have a clear plan and a clear understanding of what we need to do to win the game. With regards to them playing in midweek, I don’t overthink that. We have still played more matches than any other team in the league so we know that the schedule is just part of the game.”
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal were beaten 1-0 by United in the Conti Cup just over a fortnight ago thanks to a late Alessia Russo header. In the reverse WSL fixture, Arsenal were 2-0 winners at Leigh Sports Village thanks to goals from Vivianne Miedema and a Katie McCabe penalty. When the teams met at Meadow Park last season, goals from Jill Roord and Lotte Wubben-Moy gave Arsenal a 2-0 victory.
United have won their last four WSL games without a conceding a goal, scoring 15 times in the process. The Red Devils endured a slow start to the season but Marc Skinner’s methods seem to be taking root within the team now. They added Jade Moore and Danish striker Signe Bruun from Lyon on deadline day to help them in their chase for Champions League qualifications.
After this match, United play away at Manchester City (whom they have also drawn in the FA Cup 5th Round) and after that tranche of games, we will have a clearer idea of whether Manchester United are ready to annex themselves onto the big three and turn it into a big four. Their elimination from the Conti Cup in midweek means they have to wait for their first showpiece final since being reformed in 2018.
Skinner’s side will take heart from their Conti Cup quarter-final victory at Meadow Park a few weeks ago. They sat deep and frustrated Arsenal well before scoring from a setpiece shortly before the end. They have scored five times from corners in the WSL this season and Arsenal will need to control those situations much better if they are to avoid another defeat to the Red Devils.
— Manchester United Women (@ManUtdWomen) February 2, 2022
PLAYER TO WATCH
Beth Mead has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers this season and comes into this game off the back of consecutive player of the match displays against Brighton and London City Lionesses. Her high pressing style is very well suited to Jonas Eidevall’s demands from his wide forwards.
While Arsenal focus a lot of their build-up on the left, that leaves Mead to be able to create chaos in bigger spaces on the right, closing down opponents and driving in-field from the right flank. On Saturday, she will come up against Hannah Blundell, who has had a quietly impressive season for United and it will be a key battle.
Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 12.Maanum, 14.Parris, 18.Williams, 19.Foord, 20.Boye, 25.Blackstenius, 26.Wienroither.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park on Saturday at 12.30pm. Tickets are available online at £8 adults and £4 concessions if bought before 2359 on Friday or £12 adults and £6 concessions if bought on the gate. The game is being shown live on Sky Sports in the UK, check your local WSL broadcaster if you are outside the UK because they will almost certainly be carrying it too.
🚨 CALLING ALL GOONERS 🚨
We’re facing @ManUtdWomen on Saturday…
And we want to see all of you there! 🤩
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) February 3, 2022
Hopefully you saw that we released a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast mailbag on Thursday. There was also an exclusive interview with new defender Rafaelle Souza published on the site on Wednesday. We will have the usual match reaction from Jonas Eidevall and post-match video on the site on Saturday afternoon.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) February 3, 2022