After last weekend’s false start, Arsenal get their WSL campaign underway with a home game against Brighton & Hove Albion at a sold out Meadow Park on Friday evening. The Gunners finished a point behind Chelsea at the top of the table last season and will be looking to use the pain of last season to drive them on.
In Leah Williamson, Rafaelle, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Beth Mead, they have four players who won trophies for their countries this summer and they will be determined to repeat that success at club level, Arsenal have not won a trophy since winning the league title in 2019. However, first things first, it’s Hope Powell’s Brighton.
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The postponement of last weekend’s game at Manchester City has given them extra time to prepare given that there was an international break ahead of the originally scheduled opening matches. The Euros and Copa America finals only took place six weeks ago and the turnaround time for players has been incredibly tight.
Overall, the extra break will not have done Arsenal much harm, especially as they negotiate a two-legged Champions League qualifier against Ajax with the first leg this coming Tuesday. Jonas Eidevall told Arseblog News on Wednesday that he would ideally have liked to buy one more player to fill out the squad but that he will revive that plan in January.
Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley are available after both picking up knocks on international duty earlier in the month. Rafaelle returns from a calf injury that kept her out of the last eight weeks of last season, Jordan Nobbs has recovered from the knee injury that kept her from the Euros, whole Mana Iwabuchi has also recovered from ankle surgery undertaken over the summer.
Lina Hurtig and Kaylan Marckese are in line for their debuts though the latter is likely to be on the bench. Anna Patten and Fran Stenson have gone out on loan, meanwhile, Nikita Parris, Lisa Evans, Lydia Williams, Simone Boye, Viki Schnaderbeck and Tobin Heath all left the club this summer.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 18.Mackerse
DEFENDERS: 2.Rafaelle, 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 6.Williamson, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 20.Boye, 26.Wienroither
MIDFIELDERS: 8.Nobbs, 10.Little, 11.Miedema, 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 15.McCabe, 23.Iwabuchi
FORWARDS: 9.Mead, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 25.Blackstenius
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“I’ve been very impressed by Brighton during the pre-season because I also saw that they had a huge turnover. I’ve seen them play against Bayern Munich, I’ve seen them play against us, I’ve seen them play against Manchester City and they looked like a good team in those games. I think that some of the players they have got in over this window are of a really high quality, so we are expecting and preparing for a competitive game here on Friday.
“I would say two things (Arsenal need to improve on). One is from a tactical perspective, it’s to deal better with man-marking systems, as I spoke about at the end of last season as well. The second one is mental. To see – even if we have events in the games that go against us, like conceding a goal or a referee decision – that we do not let that affect us. If we want to build and grow a winning team, we need to give everything on the pitch for every second in all situations and that’s what we need to do in all games this year.”
LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in January, Brighton took a first half lead through Koivista but Arsenal came roaring back in the second half with goals from setpieces. Vivianne Miedema scored the first from a Beth Mead delivery with Mead then scoring directly from a free-kick a few minutes later to seal the points for the Gunners.
Brighton have lost a number of key players this summer, with promising young defender Maya Le Tissier moving to Manchester United, Koivisto to Liverpool and Ellie Brazil to Spurs. They have brought in Poppy Pattinson from Everton, Veatriki Sarri from Birmingham and Rebekah Stott (who is very good friends with Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley!)
Brighton have firmly established themselves as part of the WSL’s middle class under Hope Powell since promotion to the top flight in 2018. They are one of the streakiest teams in all of professional football, a random sample of 10 Brighton games would probably give you three consecutive victories, followed by three consecutive defeats followed by a draw.
However, under Hope Powell you know exactly what you will get from Brighton. They will sit off in a deep block, either in a 442 or 451 shape and seek to frustrate. They did a good job of that the last time they came to Meadow Park, with Arsenal needing two setpieces to eventually prize them open. Arsenal will hope that with the large turnover they have experienced this summer, this might be an opportune time to play the Seagulls.
Emma Kullberg on her development as a player, the season starting and more. ⤵️🎥 #BHAFC
— Brighton & Hove Albion Women (@BHAFCWomen) September 13, 2022
PLAYER TO WATCH
Captain Kim Little decided to spend six weeks on loan at Seattle based OL Reign in the NWSL this summer to keep her fitness levels high. With no international tournament, the 32-year-old felt that a four month off-season would be too long so she decided to return to the club that she represented from 2014 until 2017 in the US.
Little has a crucial role in the Arsenal midfield and, in reality, is often the deepest player who starts the Gunners’ attacks due to her ability with the ball in tight spaces. Surprisingly, Kim has not registered a WSL assist since December 2020, which just goes to show how much time she spends in deeper areas of the field.
It sounds like Kim will also be Lia Wälti’s back up in the number six position this season too, so the squad can ill-afford to lose her. Having retired from international football last summer, Little was able to play more minutes than any other Gunners player last season and Jonas Eidevall will look for something similar from his captain during this campaign.
Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 8.Nobbs, 12.Maanum, 17.Hurtig, 18.Mackerse, 19.Foord, 23.Iwabuchi, 26.Wienroither.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match kicks off at 7.30pm on Friday evening and will be shown live on the FA Player app, this app is free and only geoblocked in a very small number of countries. You can sign up for an account here free of charge to watch the game. The game will also be streamed live on Arsenal.com with post and pre-match build-up and analysis.
The match at Meadow Park is sold out.
We will have post-match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Friday evening and the usual post-match analysis piece, with graphics from Miedemastuff, will go online over the weekend too. Hopefully you saw our interview with Leah Williamson which was published on Thursday evening and our interview with Rafaelle, which will go online on Friday morning.