Friday, March 1, 2024

Arsenal v FC Zurich Frauen Preview

Arsenal take on FC Zurich on Thursday night at Emirates Stadium on match day two of their Champions League group stage. After the somewhat unexpected high of thrashing holders Lyon 5-1 on their own turf on match day one, the Gunners have a completely different challenge at home to the group’s fourth seeds.

Jonas Eidevall’s team will be strong favourites for this game but, unlike Lyon, who are a very known quantity, Zurich will be distinctly trickier to prepare for given the lack of available footage of Swiss women’s football. Given the density of the schedule, Jonas Eidevall might think it’s time to give first starts of the season to the likes of Mana Iwabuchi and Jordan Nobbs.

However, the Gunners will not want to take their opponents lightly by making wholesale changes, which Eidevall rarely does in any case. Juventus had to be patient and wait for the 70th minute before making their breakthrough in Switzerland on match day one. In that game, Zurich played a 451 formation and sat in a deep block, looking to frustrate Juve and there is little doubt that that’s exactly the challenge Arsenal will face on Thursday night.

Following this game, Arsenal face West Ham in the WSL on Sunday night and it will be especially interesting to see what Eidevall does in the wide forward areas. Foord and Mead have both started all but one game so far this season, with Katie McCabe needed at left-back it has taken away a rotation option in the wide forward areas that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Leah Williamson and Rafaelle are both absent with foot injuries. Teyah Goldie (ACL) is also out. Lina Hurtig returns from illness, which kept her from the Liverpool game on Sunday. Lia Wälti did not train on Wednesday due to a foot issue she has been managing for a few weeks, while Laura Wienroither also didn’t train on Wednesday due to a cold. Both are still expected to be in the squad.

Available squad
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 18.Marckese, 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 26.Wienroither, 62.Reid
MIDFIELDERS: 8.Nobbs, 10.Little, 11.Miedema, 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 15.McCabe, 23.Iwabuchi
FORWARDS: 9.Mead, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 25.Blackstenius, 59.Agyemang

‘From seeing the Zurich game against Juventus, it painted a very consistent picture (of a team playing 451 and looking to frustrate and that is one of the ways we prepare for this game. We go game by game and we try to apply ourselves in every game, it makes things simple. As for what potential and what ceiling we have, we will have to find out but we do 100% in preparation and execution and thatway you don’t regret anything. When you do that, nights like the one we had in Lyon can happen. It is not a guarantee but it can happen and it was beautiful to be part of. We have to stay focused and maybe it can happen again.

‘If we start talking about winning the competition after playing one very good game and getting a great result, for us to speak about winning the whole competition, I wouldn’t like that. I don’t think that is humble enough. That’s not where we come from, we know we are a very good football team but we need to work extremely hard to develop in order to fulfill our potential. We have that power and obligation that comes from history, we know there are so many great players and coaches that have put the club in this position and we are determined to try to leave the club in an even better place.’

The teams met in this competition in September 2008 in Lyon. Back then the group stage was held over the course of around one week and held in a neutral location (that neutral location not being Switzerland on this occasion). Arsenal ran out 7-2 winners with goals from Karen Carney, Kelly Smith, a brace from Jayne Ludlow and a hat-trick from Kim Little.

FC Zurich are the dominant team in Switzerland having won 22 league titles in their 52 years’ existence, last season saw them win the league title for the first time since 2019 after Servette won it in 2021 (the championship was cancelled in 2020). As it happens, Zurich finished 2nd in the overall league table two points behind Servette.

However, the 2021-22 championship was decided by a playoff as the top eight teams (from ten in the league) then advance to a playoff which decides the overall Super League winner. Zurich beat Servette in the playoff final in a dramatic penalty shootout to claim the title. Zurich equalised twice in the 2-2 draw, once in normal time and again in extra time.

35-year-old striker Fabienne Humm is probably their star player, she scored the last-gasp winner for Switzerland against Wales earlier this month to qualify her country for the 2023 World Cup. Humm will likely operate as the lone striker and look to hold the ball up and wait for the cavalry to arrive as Zurich look to sit deep and frustrate Arsenal.

Mana Iwabuchi appeared to leave the pitch in tears on Sunday at Prenton Park following her stoppage time cameo at Liverpool. She came on in the 92nd minute for her first appearance of the season. I asked Jonas Eidevall about Iwabuchi’s lack of minutes pre-match and he was very complimentary of the Japanese World Cup winner.


Vivianne Miedema was also seen having an exchange with Eidevall post-match and one can only speculate that that might have been about her good friend Iwabuchi only being given a few seconds at the end of the game. Arsenal have a pinch point in the wide forward positions, Beth Mead has played the full 90 minutes for the last three games, Caitlin Foord has started the last five.

With Steph Catley at centre-half, Katie McCabe is needed at left-back which has reduced Eidevall’s opportunity to rotate in the wide positions. Iwabuchi is fighting with Miedema, Maanum and Nobbs for the 10 position. The wide-forward role seems the most viable avenue for minutes and if she can’t start against Zurich at home, it would paint a picture about just how far Eidevall considers her an option at all.


Subs: 5.Beattie, 8.Nobbs, 13.Walti, 17.Hurtig, 18.Marckese, 19.Foord, 26.Wienroither, 40.Williams, 62.Reid.

The game takes place at Emirates Stadium at 8pm on Thursday and tickets are on sale on the gate right up until kick-off, or else you can buy them here. The match will be shown live on DAZN’s YouTube channel free of charge all over the world, no subscription is required.

We will have match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Thursday evening. We will have the Arsenal Women Arsecast October Mailbag edition in the coming days too.

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What’s your thinking for starting Manuum over Wälti? Or even rotating Little out? I don’t disagree with your prediction necessarily, I’m just really curious about the thought process with regards to rotation/selection in those positions when Viv is on the field as a 10.

Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

Would Vatican City be a neutral location? The Papal Swiss Guard could guarantee neutrality. I really liked the humor.


I feel like nobbs is more likely to start than iwabuchi, considering she has been getting consistent minutes.

Mo Red

Start Miedema Up top resting Stina, freeing the midfield for Mana & Nobbs. The two best deep block openers and most Technical players in the squad (With Little). Play Maanum in the 6 and Give Little a rest.

Gunner H

Agree with the idea to rest a few key players, such as Stina, Beth, Kim and even Manu – giving the new American keeper a game.

Let’s see Jordan & Mana show us what we’ve been missing!

I must admit it’s though that it’s not quite the same watching Arsenal without our magical and majestic captain on the pitch!

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