Friday, March 1, 2024

Arsenal v Chelsea Women: Conti Cup Final Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal face Chelsea in the Continental Tyres Cup Final at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon looking to end their four-year trophy drought. The Gunners have a few psychological hurdles to clear as well as, by their standards, a long spell without a cup. Chelsea knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup for the third season in a row last Sunday.

The Blues also defeated Arsenal in the 2020 Conti Cup Final and the 2021 FA Cup Final. In fact, Arsenal have only won one of their last 13 games against Emma Hayes’ side. In the league, the games continue to be tight, there have been two draws and an Arsenal victory in the last three WSL encounters.

However, in the cups, it’s a different story. Chelsea are that ‘final boss’ that Arsenal struggle to negotiate when it comes to getting over the line and winning a trophy. Victory on Sunday would mean a lot for Arsenal in the context of their silverware barren spell, but would also go a long way to lifting some of the gloom that has enveloped the club in recent games with some spotty form.

Jonas Eidevall was bullish in his pre-match press conference, pointing out Chelsea’s record in big European games as and how they would earmark that as a point of improvement just as Arsenal will. I don’t think that remark was entirely about putting his own side’s recent record into context and the Gunners will certainly need any psychological edge they can avail of in this game.

TEAM NEWS


Lina Hurtig has trained this week and ought to be back in the squad after a foot injury. Sabrina D’Angelo is in contention but Jonas Eidevall is awaiting the all clear from his medical staff after the Canadian obtained a minor knee injury on international duty recently. Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema are out with ACL injuries. Gio is cup-tied having appeared on loan for Everton during the group stage.

Available squad
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, 25.Blackstenius, 59.Agyemang

A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“I look at this as a final and we want to give absolutely everything in order to win. Not more, not less, not looking further on from this. It’s just this final. It’s my second final since I am here and I think we learned a lot of things from last time and we will do everything to put that into practice and try and win on Sunday.

“Sam Kerr is, of course, a very good player but when you play a team like Chelsea you cannot only focus on one player, it is about how you work as a collective and stop that. You could see on Sunday that the number of touches and number of chances Sam Kerr had it wasn’t a lot. The most part of the game we did that very well, it’s about doing that again but getting closer to perfection this time.

“It’s a great opportunity to go and win a trophy, it’s exciting. It’s always exciting to play a final, it is one game between us and a trophy so let’s go and do our very best and enjoy the occasion. I am an optimist, so I always think now is the best time to play any team but we can only focus on ourselves. Our actions, our behaviours, our mindset. We do that and they have to focus on themselves.”

LAST TIME OUT
The teams met on Sunday in the FA Cup at Kingsmeadow and the home side ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Sophie Ingle and Sam Kerr. The last time the clubs met in a final was the 2020 Conti Cup Final when Chelsea again ran out 2-1 winners thanks to a last gasp Beth England winner.

THE OPPOSITION
Chelsea have won the last three league titles and the last two FA Cups. They also won the Conti Cup in 2020 and 2021, losing the final to Manchester City last season. Domestically, Chelsea just seem to find a way to win more often than not. This marks the start of a month where the Blues face Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Lyon twice.

For Arsenal, Chelsea are simply the main reason for the trophy drought. They have knocked the Gunners out of the last three FA Cups and beaten them the last three times they have met in a final. You have to go back to the 2016 FA Cup Final and Dan Carter’s goal at Wembley for the last time Arsenal defeated Chelsea in a cup match.

The simple fact is, to win a domestic trophy, you almost certainly have to beat Chelsea at some point and that has proved to be an issue for Arsenal. Winning on Sunday probably means more to Jonas Eidevall’s side than it does Emma Hayes’, Arsenal need a dam breaking victory to bring a more positive mood to the season run-in and to break their twin hoodoos with domestic trophies and Chelsea, both of these hoodoos are strongly linked.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Vivianne Miedema’s absence is less of an issue for Arsenal than Beth Mead’s. In Frida Maanum, Arsenal have a replacement in Miedema’s number 10 position. On the right wing, where Mead has been a constant fixture for five seasons now, it has been a different story. Katie McCabe, Caitlin Foord, Lina Hurtig, Victoria Pelova, Katherine Kuhl and Gio have all played there in the last month.

That is where Arsenal are still searching for connections since all of those players differ in style to Beth Mead. Last weekend, McCabe played principally on the right with Foord on the left. They did swap, however and when Foord played on the right, she caused plenty of issues for Chelsea’s left-back Niamh Charles.

What Arsenal do on the right and what Chelsea do at left-back- with Niamh Charles, Jess Carter and Magdalena Eriksson all possibilities to start there, will be the most fascinating element of the team sheet. Personally, I would opt to play Foord on the right with her strong one-on-one dribbling power with the potential to swap to the left if Chelsea’s left-back solution requires it.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 14.D’Angelo, 15.McCabe, 16.Maritz, 17.Hurtig, 18.Marckese, 22.Kuhl, 59.Agyemang.

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Selhurst Park on Sunday with a 3pm kickoff, the game will be shown live on BBC One in the UK and will be shown on the FA Player everywhere else. The FA Player is free of charge, you just need to register an account.

COMING UP
We will have post-match reaction from Jonas Eidevall and an Arsenal player on the site on Sunday evening.

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Jeremy

Jonas reacts to Chelsea defeat is the next headline.

Adrian Scott

This team has the talent and should have learnt from last week’s defeat. We have so many potential goal scorers that as long as our defence can hold up we stand a very good chance of winning. Come on ladies, you can do it!

Foggy

Come on you Gunners!

Fun Gunner

I hope your prediction is correct and Pelova does start.
Come on, Arsenal!

Gunner H

It’s time to beat Chelsea today – we have a brilliant squad of players & I feel very optimistic for an Arsenal victory.

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