Arsenal play at home to Manchester City in the Conti Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening in a competition they haven’t won since 2018. The Gunners are without a trophy since winning the league title since 2019 and, certainly in the fan base, there is anxiety about that stretch continuing for much longer.
When asked about this a couple of weeks ago, Jonas Eidevall’s conviction was that his team needed to make sure they were in the big games on a regular basis and that trophies would follow. It feels a little odd to be in a semi-final having only won one game in the competition (Arsenal got a bye to the quarter-finals due to their participation in the Champions League) but it’s a gift horse they cannot look in the mouth.
New: Jonas Eidevall reacts to 0-0 draw with West Ham United https://t.co/6R9sBlbHT0 #arsenal #afc pic.twitter.com/TSRHEj0Dvk
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) February 5, 2023
However, playing Manchester City, who the Gunners also face in the WSL on Saturday, is not exactly an easy route to the final. Given Arsenal’s high profile failure to land a striker in the January transfer window, followed by an immediate blank in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with West Ham, the focus is on the Arsenal attack and understandably so.
Relationships in the final third are probably going to take some time to build but with two games against Manchester City, followed by an FA Cup 5th Round away at Chelsea on the immediate horizon, time is not a luxury that Arsenal have. They have played well in their recent games against Chelsea and West Ham and had no problem scoring three times against Aston Villa in the Conti Cup quarter-finals, they will have to find that sweet spot between being well structured and performing well but taking chances as and when they arise.
Lia Wälti returns to the squad after missing the last three games through injury. Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema are out with ACL injuries while Teyah Goldie is also unavailable due to injury, she had a small, unrelated setback in her ACL recovery but is out of a protective boot and back on track with her recovery.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 14.D’Angelo, 18.Marckese
DEFENDERS: 2.Rafaelle, 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 6.Williamson, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 26.Wienroither
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little, 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl
FORWARDS: 15.McCabe, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 25.Blackstenius, 59.Agyemang
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
(On limiting City’s threat from wide areas) “It’s about both (limiting the supply to the wide players and dealing with Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp when they do get the ball in one-on-one situations). When you know a team is good at something, as a coach, the first thing you think about at all levels is to say ‘how can we stop that from happening?’
“It was like when we played Lyon and we knew they had Wendie Renard, who scores 15 goals a season with headers. We say, ‘ok, we know we are going to defend some corners against her. So how are we going to defend them?’ But also, we know we can’t give away 25 corners and 10 free-kicks because over time, they will probably score from one. It’s about finding the balance, limit the supply as much as possible but also to have a really good strategy with positions so that you can deal with the situation when it occurs.”
LAST TIME OUT
The teams have not met since last January’s 1-1 draw in the WSL at the Academy Stadium, when Tobin Heath’s stoppage time equaliser rescued a point for the Gunners. The last time they met at Meadow Park was in September 2021 and Arsenal thrashed City 5-0 with goals from Vivianne Miedema, a brace from Kim Little, Katie McCabe and Leah Williamson.
HIGHLIGHTS | Arsenal vs Manchester City (5-0) | WSL | Miedema, Little (2), McCabe, Williamson – YouTube
City started the season slowly, reeling from the loss of Georgia Stanway, Caroline Weir, Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze- a sizeable chunk of their starting eleven, while Ellen White retired. Gareth Taylor has built a new team on the fly but he has been able to count on WSL top scorer Bunny Shaw to keep them on the periphery of the league title fight.
Shaw has 10 WSL goals this season though City are the lowest scorers overall in the top four. In Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp they have two of the most dangerous wide players in the league providing the ammunition for the Jamaican striker. Arsenal will also have to watch the third player runs of Laura Coombs from midfield, who is City’s second top scorer so far this season.
Essentially, she thrives off the space that Shaw creates for late runners from central midfield. City are a relatively uncomplicated team under Gareth Taylor, they like to build from the back, feed the wide players and, in turn, the wide players like to feed Shaw in the area. Cutting off the service to Hemp and Kelly and marshalling them well when they do get the ball will be key for Arsenal in this game.
Gareth Taylor says we must 'earn the right' to continue our defence of the Conti Cup 🗣️
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— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 6, 2023
PLAYER TO WATCH
Rafaelle made her Arsenal debut away at Manchester City last season and pretty much the first thing that she did was to go shoulder to shoulder with Bunny Shaw and win the physical duel, which is no mean feat. Rafa’s strength in duels makes her an incredibly important defender for Arsenal, as she showed by totally cutting Asseyi and Brynjarsdóttir out of the game on Sunday.
She will be tested by Shaw in a more meaningful way on Wednesday, both when City look to go in behind and play balls to Shaw in the channel and when those wide deliveries come in from Kelly and Hemp. Shaw’s movement is incredibly sharp but she is also, usually, able to dominate centre-halves physically too, which gives her many different avenues of threat in the penalty area.
Rafaelle will need to be alive to her movement- as well as the movement of Castellanos and Coombs behind Shaw but she will also need to be physically strong when the ball comes into the penalty area. Shaw’s 10 WSL goals from an XG of 9.4, she is clinical so you only have to lose her once for her to damage you. Arsenal will want to work on cutting off the supply line to City’s front three but it won’t be possible in every situation, it will require strong one-on-one defending too.
Subs: 1.Zinsberger, 5.Beattie, 13.Wälti, 16.Maritz, 18.Marckese, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place at Meadow Park at 7.15pm on Wednesday and will be shown live on the FA Player. To watch, you just need to register a free account here. The game will also be shown live on the BBC iPlayer in the UK.
We will have Jonas Eidevall’s post-match reaction live on the site on Wednesday evening.
Do what the boys need to do.