Arsenal welcome Reading to Meadow Park on Sunday evening in the WSL looking to continue their recent resurgence in form. In the last few games, there are signs that the attack, so long suffering the twin loss of Miedema and Mead, is starting to show signs of cohesion. Stina Blackstenius has scored in each of her last two games while Caitlin Foord was also on the score sheet on Wednesday evening.
The Gunners had an incredibly bright first half against Liverpool on Wednesday evening and the visitors were probably fortunate to only be 2-0 down at the break. Matt Beard’s side made a triple substitution at the break and stemmed the flow, while Arsenal were also managing a touch of fatigue after Sunday’s Conti Cup heroics.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) March 10, 2023
Following this game, Jonas Eidevall’s team will have a nine day break before facing Bayern Munich away in the Champions League at the Allianz Arena but the coach will be demanding full focus on Kelly Chambers’ Reading side, who have only lost by the odd goal in encounters with Manchester United, Chelsea and the reverse fixture with Arsenal this season.
With Manchester United, who are six points ahead of Arsenal having played a game more, playing at Chelsea, who are five points ahead of the Gunners, playing earlier in the day, the team will have the opportunity to make ground on one or both of those teams in this game. In his pre-match press conference, Jonas Eidevall insisted his team would ignore the outcome of that game, focusing instead on things they can control.
Lina Hurtig and Sabrina D’Angelo are expected to return to the squad after short-term injuries, however, Steph Catley is out. The Australian was in a boot and on crutches at the game on Wednesday night with Jonas Eidevall describing it as “a non-contact foot injury” but there is no public information about the scope of her prognosis. Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead are both our with ACL injuries.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 14.D’Angelo, 18.Marckese
DEFENDERS: 2.Rafaelle, 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 6.Williamson, 15.McCabe, 16.Maritz, 26.Wienroither
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little, 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl
FORWARDS:, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 25.Blackstenius, 59.Agyemang
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“They are a very versatile team who can play football in many different ways and in many different formations. They find ways and find solutions throughout seasons, which is a recipe for success for them when I see them in this league. We need to be very well prepared and expect a tough opponent. If we play our best; I am confident we can beat them.”
LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in October at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, Arsenal were 1-0 victors thanks to Stina Blackstenius’ first-half goal.
Reading are the only club remaining in the WSL not backed by a men’s Premier League side and they deserve immense credit for this. Many (I) had them as relegation candidates at the beginning of the season but despite a small squad and a high turnover, Kelly Chambers continues to keep this Royals side highly motivated and competitive.
Few teams have found an easy opponent in Reading this season, even if they haven’t always had the results they have wanted. Against Chelsea and United they played a kind of 4132 formation which collapsed very much into a 541 off the ball. Watch out for Belgian midfielder Justine Vanhaevermaet, who is likely to play that hybrid centre-half / central midfielder role and due to her size and physicality, will probably stay close to Frida Maanum.
Reading are a team who defends on the front foot, they average 15.4 interceptions per 90 minutes in the WSL- only Spurs (15.5) average more. Only Arsenal, Aston Villa and Manchester City have more ball recoveries per 90. While they will seek to frustrate Arsenal, they probably won’t do it by sitting off entirely, they will compete for every ball and look to make life uncomfortable in every single pass.
🎙️ Chambers spoke to the media ahead of this Sunday's #BarclaysWSL clash against Arsenal
💬 "No matter what Arsenal throw at us, we have to make sure we are at our best. Which, in the moment we’re in right now, confidence is good, so who knows what we can achieve on Sunday…"
— Reading FC Women (@ReadingFCWomen) March 10, 2023
PLAYER TO WATCH
With Katie McCabe now required at left-back and Lina Hurtig still feeling her way back to fitness, I would expect Victoria Pelova to keep her place on the right hand side of attack. Arsenal have focused on getting the right-sided attacker closer to Blackstenius in recent games. McCabe was essentially a makeshift centre-forward at times in the Conti Cup Final.
As you can see from the Statsbomb passing network from Wednesday night, Pelova played very much in that right half-space. Given her creative abilities, she dropped a little deeper than the rest of the front four in an attempt to try to find the runs of Maanum, Blackstenius and Foord. If Pelova can draw Reading’s defenders, who like to come and meet the ball, out of shape and find one of her attacking colleagues, Arsenal could find space in behind.
On Wednesday, Eidevall was effusive in his praise of her, “She is a versatile player, we are very happy to have her here. She showed today she can play as a wide forward, she can play as a six, as she did in the second half. When we have a squad with numbers like we have now, it is important to us that she is already at such a high level that she is ready to come in and step up and take important roles for the team. We are delighted for her.”
Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 14.D’Angelo, 17.Hurtig, 18.Marckese, 20.Gio, 22.Kuhl, 26.Wienroither, 59.Agyemang.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game kicks off at 6.45pm on Sunday evening at Meadow Park and will be screened live on Sky Sports Football in the UK.
We will have match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Sunday evening. We will also have a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast on Tuesday and we will try to do something preview-y for the Bayern Munich Champions League tie in audio form too.