Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Chelsea Women v Arsenal Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Off the back of a busy international break, Arsenal face a cup double header against Chelsea. Next weekend, they take on the Blues in the Conti Cup Final but, this weekend, an FA Cup Fifth Round tie at Kingsmeadow is the order of the day. Given that both teams have had plenty of players on different continents during this international break, they probably would have both appreciated a gentler fifth round draw.

Sam Kerr, Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord played three games in Australia, while Rafaelle and Kadeisha Buchanan were playing stateside until the early hours of Thursday morning in the SheBelieves Cup. Gunners goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo was injured in that competition.

As a result, both teams are going to have to rotate to some extent but neither can afford to tinker too much given the quality of the opposition. That said, Arsenal haven’t won at Kingsmeadow since their 5-0 win there in October 2018 and they have lost their last four FA Cup ties against Chelsea- two of those finals.

The last time Arsenal vanquished Chelsea in the FA Cup was the last time they won it, back in the 2016 Final at Wembley Stadium. As record 14-time winners, seven years is an incredibly long wait to lift the trophy that, for many years, was Arsenal’s personal property. However, whoever wins this tie will automatically be installed as favourites to win the trophy.

TEAM NEWS


Lina Hurtig (foot) is out after getting injured in the warm-up at Manchester City, meanwhile Sabrina D’Angelo (knee) is also out after being injured in Canada’s match against Japan on Wednesday evening. Rafaelle, Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord might not start the game given that they travelled cross continent on Thursday to return to London. Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema are both out with ACL injuries.

Available squad
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 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,19.Foord, 20.Gio, 25.Blackstenius, 59.Agyemang

A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“It’s much more in these games to try to create as many situations as possible that are favourable for your team. It’s so easy when you play good teams like Chelsea to focus on what they are doing well and their strengths and trying to nullify them in those moments and those situations. But the best way is to make sure that those situations don’t happen at all.

“Of course, they try to avoid that. But that was so clear to me the last time we played Chelsea, that whenever the team, us and them, had good moments where we were successful it was forcing the other team into situations that they don’t like. That was a clear sign of success in that game and that is true in general in all football matches, but it’s also true between Arsenal and Chelsea.”

LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in the WSL in January, a late equaliser from Sam Kerr earned Chelsea a 1-1 draw after Kim Little put Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot. The last time the teams met at Kingsmeadow last February, they played out a tense 0-0 draw.

THE OPPOSITION
Chelsea won the trophy in 2021- beating Arsenal in the final- and 2022 when they beat Manchester City in the final after extra time. They have to be considered a bogey team for the Gunners who have won only two of their last 14 meetings with Emma Hayes’ side.

Having failed to get Grace Geyoro in the summer and with Melanie Leupolz unavailable until recently due to maternity leave, Chelsea’s midfield has not looked like the elite incarnation of seasons past this term. Alas, Arsenal’s own injury situation has made it tough to exploit that slight weakness in this Chelsea squad- which is only temporary in any case.

The picture in these games has been slightly different under Jonas Eidevall, who has lost two of his six meetings with Chelsea since taking over as Gunners coach, but three of those meetings have ended in draws. For the sake of Arsenal’s season, it feels like they absolutely must win at least one of these two meetings with the Blues.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Without Beth Mead, Arsenal have yet to settle on an alternative on the right side of the attack. Gio is probably still a little raw to be a regular starter, Lina Hurtig is still settling in, Caitlin Foord and Katie McCabe can play there but both prefer to play on the left flank.

Victoria Pelova, signed from Ajax in January, is more comfortable in midfield but has started the last two Arsenal games in a wide position and played there for Netherlands against Austria on Tuesday. Arsenal’s attack lacks a little creative subtlety without Mead and Pelova seems to be the most obvious player to add that guile to the front line.

She won’t run the touchline like Mead does but something is going to have to give in Arsenal’s attacking style because there is no Beth Mead analogue. McCabe, Hurtig, Foord, Gio and Pelova are all different to her and it feels like the manager is going to have to at least semi-settle on an option there and Pelova might be the best bet.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

Subs: 2.Rafaelle, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 18.Marckese, 20.Gio, 22.Kuhl, 26.Wienroither, 59.Agyemang.

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place at Kingsmeadow on Sunday at 2pm and the game will be shown live on BBC Two in the UK.

COMING UP
We will have match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Sunday afternoon. There will also be two Arsenal Women Arsecasts out next week, one out on Wednesday and the other on Thursday afternoon or Friday.

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Fun Gunner

Good luck, ladies!
Such a shame about D’Angelo.

Chrishgooner

Good luck Gooners. Let’s emulate our U16 girls with a couple more “one-nil to the Arsenal” calls over Chelski.

Gunner H

It’s time to beat Chelsea – let’s win and win well!

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