Friday, February 23, 2024

Tottenham Hotspur Women v Arsenal Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Following Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat in Munich, Arsenal dust themselves off for a North London derby in the WSL as they travel to Brisbane Road to play Tottenham. The Gunners have the second leg of that Bayern clash to play at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday but will have to keep their eyes and all their focus on this game.

Last season, they travelled to Spurs following a Champions League away match (albeit with one day fewer in between) and found it difficult to get going, eventually grabbing a 1-1 draw courtesy of a last minute Vivianne Miedema header. A similar result this weekend would almost certainly end Arsenal’s WSL title hopes.

With Manchester City and Chelsea playing one another this weekend this is a good opportunity for Arsenal to put themselves in a better position in the table, as four teams scramble for a mixture of the league title and the three UWCL qualifying spots that are up for grabs. Jonas Eidevall’s side will have a new(ish) face in the squad having added striker and free agent Jodie Taylor last week.

Tottenham recently arrested a slide of nine straight league defeats which saw manager Rehanne Skinner lose her job, they will have had 10 days without a game by the time this match comes around on a bog of a pitch at Brisbane Road. They will look to make those small margins work for them and all but guarantee their WSL survival.

TEAM NEWS


Steph Catley (foot) is out of this game and will be out until at least May. Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema are out (both ACL injuries), Gio returns to the squad as she isn’t registered for the UWCL squad and missed the game in Munich, while 36-year-old new signing Jodie Taylor will feature in the squad for the first time.

Available squad
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, 27.Taylor, 59.Agyemang

A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“You learn from every game but we see they do some things that they are really good at, like how they stretch opponents organisation with the way that they build up. We need to be really good at controlling those spaces and to be humble in our positioning so we can work forward as much as possible. It is about getting all those details right- there is no shortcut for us in a hectic period for us. We need to do our preparation right on a pitch that will not be perfect and against an opponent that will try to make life as difficult as possible.

“The Leicester game (Tottenham’s most recent game) would have been difficult for Vicky (Jepson) because she would not have had much time to prepare. Now they have 10 days to prepare for this game so if she wanted to try something different, I think this is the game where she will do it. We respect the threat of Beth England but we have been coming up against top class 9s recently, like Bunny Shaw, Sam Kerr and Lea Schuller. We need to treat the whole Tottenham team as a threat.”

LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in September at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners thanks to goals from Beth Mead, Rafaelle and a brace from Vivianne Miedema. In the equivalent fixture last season, Miedema rescued a stoppage time point with a header after Rachel Williams gave Spurs a shock lead.

THE OPPOSITION
After a successful 2021-22 which saw Spurs finish in 5th place, their highest ever finish, the house of cards came crashing down for Tottenham and their coach Rehanne Skinner this season. Last season, their success was built on their defence- they only conceded one more goal than Manchester City and Manchester United. However, they scored over 20 fewer goals than both teams.

This season, they lost their defensive solidity (they have already conceded more goals than they did in the whole of the previous campaign) and did not become a greater attacking threat. In January, they bolstered the squad with experienced Chelsea and England striker Beth England, who has four goals in her first five games for the club and took Mana Iwabuchi on loan from Arsenal.

Though England boosted the attack, the defence remained leaky and a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool proved to be the final straw for the Spurs board. Assistant manager and former Liverpool boss Vicky Jepson has taken the reins and calmed relegation fears with a 1-0 victory over bottom of the table Leicester City last week courtesy of a Beth England wondergoal.

Tottenham have elected not to have this fixture at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the second consecutive season. There, Arsenal found the games too easy given the size of the pitch. Last season the match was played on a heavy pitch at the Hive and Tottenham were able to eke out a 1-1 draw. They will have a similar aspiration this time on a very uneven surface at Brisbane Road.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Jodie Taylor was a shock Arsenal signing when her signature was announced last Thursday. The 36-year-old has bags of experience at the highest level and has represented the Gunners once before in 2016-17. However, Taylor has been out of contract since December when her contract at San Diego Wave expired.

Jonas Eidevall was pretty adamant in January that he wanted “a prolific striker” to add to the squad but Arsenal were not able to get that deal done. They could sign Taylor as a free agent and took up that option for the final furlong in the WSL. I imagine her arrival is linked to the prognosis for Steph Catley, who Australia boss Tony Gustavsson says will miss the April international break and be out “for several weeks after”. That means Katie McCabe will be needed at left-back more often, hence, Arsenal wanted to add another forward.

I doubt Taylor will start many games at all but will be used as a substitute, either if and when Arsenal are chasing a goal in a game or else to give Stina Blackstenius a rest for the closing stages of games. Having not played for three months, it’s not even certain she will get on the pitch for this match but her addition is certainly an interesting one.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

Subs: 5.Beattie, 12.Maanum, 13.Walti, 14.D’Angelo, 17.Hurtig, 18.Marckese, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 27.Taylor

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game kicks off at 3pm on Saturday at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road and will be screened live on Sky Showcase in the UK.

COMING UP
We will have match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site shortly after the game on Saturday as well as the usual analysis piece. We will also have the build-up and usual MD-1 video ahead of Wednesday night’s UWCL quarter-final second leg against Bayern Munich.

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Fun Gunner

Thanks, Tim.
I expect Jodie Taylor isn’t ready but we are in desperate need so are hoping…
This will be a horrible game because Sp*rs will make it so. It’s one for experienced players, this one. We’ll still beat them, though. Class will triumph.

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