Top of the table Arsenal travel to bottom of the table Reading without their two first-choice centre-halves and the last time that happened….I don’t remember…After two and a half weeks of international break Jonas Eidevall’s side hit the road for the first of three away trips in seven days, with Reading on Sunday, Lyon away on Wednesday followed by a trip to Liverpool next Sunday.
The Gunners won their opening WSL games at home to Brighton and Spurs and qualified for the Champions League group stage with a narrow qualifying round victory over Ajax. With that first block of the season done, now Arsenal are into the meaty part of the campaign with the games coming thick and fast.
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Arsenal have been dealt a blow with the absence of their first choice centre-half pairing Leah Williamson and Rafaelle, both of whom will be absent for “several weeks” according to Eidevall. It means that Lotte Wubben-Moy will likely be partnered by Jen Beattie with Steph Catley and Lia Wälti the other options.
Arsenal have never lost to Reading in the WSL and will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s 4-0 victory at the Select Car Leasing Stadium. On that day, Reading struggled to deal with Beth Mead, who grabbed a goal and two assists, as she found space down the sides of the Reading back three. Spurs’ Ashleigh Neville also gave Reading a hard time in that right half-space in the Conti Cup a fortnight ago, it’s definitely an area to watch.
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
They are a really hard-working team, I think we saw last season that they had a tough start but once they got going, they were one of the better performing teams in the league. It’s an opposition we have a lot of respect for, we prepare properly, it’s our most important game because it is the next one.
It can be challenging [to get back into the rhythm of club football after a long international break] because we have to reconnect with the group. We have to find out foundation and identity again. Not only have we not been together for long but players have been in different cultures and environments and now we have to focus on the task at hand.
Leah Williamson and Rafaelle are both absent with foot injuries. Teyah Goldie (ACL) is also out.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 18.Marckese
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
LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met at the Select Car Leasing Stadium last September, Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners thanks to a brace from Vivianne Miedema, a goal from Beth Mead and one from Jen Beattie. The return fixture at Meadow Park also finished 4-0 to Arsenal with the goals coming from Miedema, McCabe, Williamson and Blackstenius.
Reading have started the season with a pair of WSL defeats, as well as a home defeat against Spurs in the Conti Cup. However, Kelly Chambers’ side started last season in a similar fashion, losing their first four games before roaring back to win six and draw two of their next eight, including a home win over Chelsea in that time.
However, the slump has returned after a promising mid-season, the Royals are without a WSL win since early February and have nine defeats and three draws in their last 12. On top of this, they have lost their best attacker with Canadian forward Deanne Rose out with a ruptured achilles. “Looking at each of our first three games, for one reason or another we’ve not been good enough from the first whistle,” manager Kelly Chambers told the Reading website.
“It’s taken us a while to get going and has often lead us to going a goal behind which makes it really difficult, especially in this league as each side are of a really top level. In contrast, our second half performances I’m really proud of. We’ve been managing to really turn games in our favour by dictating a lot of the ball.”
💬 "It’s been a mixed start from us admittedly, but there has been plenty of positives which we can take with us into the next few games"
Royals forward speaks on season start, first goal of the season and Arsenal test…
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PLAYER TO WATCH
Lotte Wubben-Moy has quickly gone from losing her England place (albeit temporarily) due to a lack of playing time at club level to becoming the leader of the Arsenal defence for the next couple of months at least. With Rafaelle and Leah Williamson out, there can’t be many better third-choice centre-halves in world football than Wubben-Moy.
However, “one of the best third choice centre-halves in world football” is not exactly her ambition. She is the closest replica to what Williamson and Rafaelle provide with her assuredness on the ball and her pace going back towards her own goal. Jen Beattie hasn’t started a WSL game in eight months so Wubben-Moy will have the keys to the defence, at least initially.
It’s also very important that Arsenal don’t take too much time to adjust to an unfamiliar centre-half partnership. When Reading beat Chelsea last season their goal came in the fourth minute. When Birmingham beat an Arsenal team slow to get into the game as they grappled with an unfamiliar defensive partnership, they conceded inside two minutes.
In the WSL draw against Manchester United in February, injuries meant Arsenal had to start with Beattie and Catley at centre-half and it took them some time to get going. United scored in the opening ten minutes on that occasion and Arsenal could only get a draw. It’s crucial that the Gunners either hit the ground running, or at the very least, do not concede while they adjust to a new defensive partnership.
Subs: 7.Catley, 11.Miedema, 12.Maanum, 18.Marckese, 23.Iwabuchi, 25.Blackstenius, 26.Wienroither, 59.Agyemang, 62.Reid.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at the Select Car Leasing Stadium at 6.45pm on Sunday and will be shown live on Sky Sports. For those outside the UK, the game will be carried by your local WSL broadcaster.
We will have the usual match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Sunday evening, as well as the usual post-match analysis piece on Monday. Arseblog News will also be in Lyon to cover Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with videos, Jonas Eidevall’s pre and post-match press conferences, we will also hear from a player pre and post-match. Hopefully you already saw our exclusive interview with goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese from earlier this week too.
Beattie came on for the last minutes of Scotland’s WC qualifier against Rep of Ireland this week and Scotland switched to a back 3 when she came on. Would it be crazy to try a back 3 against Reading?
Apart from the CBs thats quite a “rotation” in that predicted lineup Mr S!
Big calls indeed..
I was thinking the same. Given the potential weakness at the back I’d be inclined to go stronger further forward and ‘defend from the front’, or at least make sure we score enough to ensure any defensive slips are not meaningful.
To be fair that line up *should* be enough
Didn’t we play with Lotte and Jen as our CB pairing in the postponed FA Cup Final last year? Not a happy memory. However, Lotte played very well later in the season when Rafaella was injured. I’d be happier if Steph played alongside her.
I’m very excited for Lotte. I’ve been a massive fan of her ever since several seasons ago when she and Anna Patten, as youth players, had to step up as a makeshift CB partnership. They both rose to the occasion magnificently.
Really looking forward to this evening and seeing what Jonas comes up with.