Arsenal are back in Champions League action as we move to the quarter-final stage and it’s a big one as the Gunners take on two-time Champions League winners Wolfsburg at Emirates Stadium in the first leg. It’s the sort of occasion that Arsenal has waited for for many years. Champions League quarter-finals used to be an annual event for the club.
A five-year absence from the competition from 2014 until 2019 put paid to that. Arsenal qualified for the quarter-finals in 2020 but that game, a disappointing defeat to PSG, was played in a neutral venue in Spain as the original tie had to be postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Europe. Played over one leg in neutral territory, it never had the feel of a big European night.
This tie will, with the first leg played at the Emirates and the second at Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen Arena, both games will be played in big stadiums. This is mostly driven by the need for VAR from the knockout stage, which most women’s teams grounds cannot facilitate. Nevertheless, the Gunners have had plenty of practice playing in the club’s main stadium.
They played a pre-season game against Chelsea there in August and opened their WSL campaign with a win against the same team in September. They also faced Barcelona there in the group stage back in December. They were beaten 4-0 on that occasion and though Wolfsburg are a top class team with an outstanding pedigree, this tie ought to be closer.
Jonas Eidevall says that his staff will work with Rafaelle and Mana Iwabuchi ‘until the last minute’ to see whether they will be available for this match, both players missed Friday’s match against Coventry United. Leah Williamson will return after being rested for that game.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 18.Williams, 24.Stenson
DEFENDERS: 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
FORWARDS: 9.Mead, 11.Miedema, 14.Parris, 19.Foord, 25.Blackstenius, 77.Heath.
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“Wolfsburg have a lot of fluidity with the way they move their two sixes and their ten and their wide forwards, they interchange positions a lot. They have a lot of players that can play in these positions. You can see from the game they played against Hoffenheim that Oberdorf and Popp were taking up the ten position at times and you constantly see interchanging between players like Roord and Svenja Huth. They are a very fluid team.
“Wolfsburg are a top team but we are playing top teams in the WSL as well, Chelsea and Manchester City are top European teams. Barcelona are an anomaly, they are an outlier. But Wolfsburg are a little bit different to the teams we usually play, they have a different style. That will be very interesting for us, Wolfsburg are very good on counter attacks and we haven’t played a team so far this season that is as good as them on the counter attack. At the same time, I don’t think Wolfsburg have been exposed to many teams who play in our style either. We both play great teams but neither of us against teams that play in these specific styles. That excites me.”
LAST TIME OUT
The sides have met once before in this competition, in the 2013 semi-finals. Wolfsburg had too much for Arsenal on that occasion, winning 2-0 at Boreham Wood before seeing out the tie with a 2-1 home win.
Wolfsburg were competition winners in 2013 and 2014, they have also been runners-up on three occasions, losing the final to Lyon on each occasion. In fact, Lyon have proved to be the thorn in Wolfsburg’s side in this competition over the years, knocking the She Wolves out on another two occasions.
Until Barcelona’s recent rise to prominence, Lyon were very much the best team in Europe and Wolfsburg were very much out on their own as the second best side in Europe. Barcelona’s rise and the increased money coming into the WSL has challenged that orthodoxy but Wolfsburg remain one of the best sides in Europe. They currently lead the Bundesliga ahead of Bayern Munich with Bayern still to travel to Wolfsburg.
There are some familiar faces in the She Wolves squad too with former Gunners Dominique Janssen and Jill Roord part of the side. Janssen is the captain of the side. Turid Knaak also spent a short loan spell in North London in 2014. Meanwhile, Arsenal right-back Noelle Maritz spent seven years at the club, winning a UWCL and five Bundesligas. With continued backing from Volkswagen, whose headquarters are in the city, Wolfsburg continue to be one of women’s football’s heavyweights.
— VfL Wolfsburg Frauen (@VfL_Frauen) March 8, 2022
PLAYER TO WATCH
Arsenal have been in excellent form domestically recently and the centre-half partnership of Leah Williamson and Rafaelle has given the team a new lease of life. Williamson was rested for Friday’s game against Coventry United with this tie in mind. She is likely to be without Rafaelle on Wednesday but Lotte Wubben-Moy is not a bad replacement at all.
Arsenal’s defence will come under far more pressure on Wednesday, as Wolfsburg boast attacking talent like Svenja Huth, Ewa Pajor, Jill Roord and the competition’s leading scorer Tabea Waßmuth. The She Wolves scored seven goals against Chelsea in the group stages, in a 3-3 draw at Kingsmeadow and a 4-0 victory at home to the Blues on match day six. Firepower is not going to be a problem for them and Williamson and co will need their wits about them to counter Wolfsburg’s multiple goal threats.
Subs: 5.Beattie, 8.Nobbs, 12.Maanum, 14.Parris, 18.Williams, 19.Foord, 20.Boye, 26.Wienroither, 77.Heath.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match kicks off at 8pm on Wednesday at Emirates Stadium and will be shown live and free of charge all over the world on DAZN’s YouTube channel.
We will have post-match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on Wednesday evening as well as the usual post-match reaction video. We will also have all of the usual coverage ahead of Saturday’s North London derby and hopefully you caught the latest episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast as I previewed the tie in more detail with German journalist and Wolfsburg correspondent Jasmina Schweimler, as well as our video from London Colney and Tuesday’s open training session.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) March 18, 2022