Friday, March 1, 2024

Manchester United Women v Arsenal Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal travel to table topping Manchester United on Wednesday evening at Leigh Sports Village. The match could not be more finely balanced, the Gunners trail United by three points but have a game in hand. A victory for Jonas Eidevall’s team likely establishes them as the main challengers to Chelsea at the top of the WSL.

However, defeat for the Gunners would put a gap between the two teams that would be difficult to bridge at this stage of the season. It is another massive game in a series of massive games for Arsenal that has seen them beat Chelsea in the Conti Cup Final, beat Manchester City in the WSL and eliminate Bayern Munich from the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

While Arsenal have the momentum, United have a far cleaner bill of health with none of their absolute first-choice players unavailable, while Arsenal will travel to the Northwest without Beth Mead, Kim Little, Vivianne Miedema, Katie McCabe, Lina Hurtig and Caitlin Foord. United qualified for the FA Cup Final on Saturday while Arsenal play Wolfsburg in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Sunday.

It’s a tough game to call and Arsenal’s recent record against Marc Skinner’s team is not favourable. The last three games against United have been played at home and Arsenal have lost two and drawn one of those. The reverse fixture in November saw Arsenal concede two late goals from a winning position added a little more to that pain.

TEAM NEWS


Katie McCabe serves a one-match suspension for this game after reaching five yellow cards for the campaign. Caitlin Foord is out due to a hamstring injury though there is hope she will be able to return to the squad for the Wolfsburg game on Sunday. Lia Wälti is available while Steph Catley returns from a foot injury and will be in the squad. Kim Little (hamstring), Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema (both ACLs) are out for the season, Lina Hurtig is out with a foot injury.

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, 29.Goldie
MIDFIELDERS: 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl
FORWARDS:, 20.Gio, 25.Blackstenius, 27.Taylor, 59.Agyemang

A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“They work very hard, they are very solid defensively and have a clear idea of how they play. I expect that again. We need to deal with that. Consistency and continuity is very important when you want to be successful.

“When you prepare for United, you know 10 of the 11 players who are going to play then sometimes they change in one of the wide forward positions, otherwise they always pick the same 10 players. If that is what they prefer it is very well done to keep those 10 players always available and always fit to play.”

LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in the reverse fixture in November, United were 3-2 winners at Emirates Stadium. United took the lead through Ella Toone, second half goals from Frida Maanum and Laura Wienroither established the lead for Arsenal but late goals from Millie Turner and Alessia Russo game United the points. In this fixture last season, Arsenal were 2-0 winners at Leigh Sports Village with a goal from Vivianne Miedema and a Katie McCabe penalty.

Manchester United Women VS Arsenal Women 21 11 2021 WSL 2122 HIGHLIGHTS GOALS – YouTube

THE OPPOSITION
Manchester United have produced their strongest season to date in the WSL since their promotion to the top flight in 2019. They have missed out on Champions League qualification on the final day of the season in each of the last two seasons. Falling short at the final hurdle has been a theme for United but here we are in mid-April and they remain top of the league, albeit Chelsea would go top if they win their game in hand.

Their victory at the Emirates in November gave the team real belief that they could, at the very least, qualify for the UWCL and they have led the table for the second half of the season. Skinner’s side have benefitted from a relatively clean bill of health with their back five and midfield double pivot as regular as clockwork in the starting line-up.

Much of the focus is on the star attacking duo of Alessia Russo- who has scored headers in each of her last three appearances against Arsenal- but Leah Galton is just as dangerous from the left wing. While United’s back four of Batlle, Turner, Le Tissier and Blundell with Zelem and Ladd ahead of them is a very stable unit and United are a difficult team to score against too.

PLAYER TO WATCH
While it is true that Russo has scored headers against Arsenal in three consecutive games against Arsenal, what is also true is that Rafaelle was not on the pitch for any of them. The Brazilian has been injured for all three of the Gunners’ games against Marc Skinner’s side since arriving at the club last January.

Rafaelle is one of the most aerially dominant centre-halves in the world- she is in the 98th percentile for aerial duels among WSL defenders. Her presence for this game will be key for Eidevall’s side who have been undone by United on setpieces in clutch games too often in recent encounters. To that end, I am also expecting Sabrina D’Angelo to start in goal.

 

The Canadian is quicker off her line to claim crosses than Zinsberger, she was played in the recent home victory over Manchester City- no club in the WSL plays as many crosses as City and D’Angelo got the nod. I would expect her and Rafaelle to form a big part of how Arsenal anticipate dealing with United’s potent setpiece threat.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

Subs: 1.Zinsberger, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 18.Marckese, 22.Kuhl, 27.Taylor, 59.Agyemang.

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Leigh Sports Village at 7.15pm on Wednesday evening and will be broadcast live on the BBC in the UK.

COMING UP
We will have the usual match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, we will have a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast featuring exclusive interviews with Jen Beattie, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Victoria Pelova.

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Ringoxiii

Great news to have Wälti back!

Sammy Nelsons Arse

And Steph

Daniel

Extra important with Katie suspended, still seems mad we have probably 2 of the best left backs in the game in our squad

MartynJ

I’d forgotten that Rafa has never played against Man Utd. Also curiously – aside from 20 minutes or so in the Conti Cup last season, Leah W hasn’t played against them since November 2020 – she’s missed 4 WSL games in a row through injury.

Goonersince55

The United player who has impressed me this season has been Leah Galton. How Laura deals with her is going to be very important. We will also have to defend well against Batlle on the right but I have a lot of faith in Noëlle. I hope I’m not proved wrong but I’m less worried about the Toone-Russo combination. They got very little change out of Australia’s defence and I believe having Rafa and Leah in the team should be able to limit that threat (is this the first time we’ve had both available to face United?)

Gunner H

Agree with all of the above – but let’s not underestimate Toone & Russo – Kim could cover them all plus Zelem on her own pretty much, with help from Lia of course – so our midfielders such as Frida must hold the middle whilst Russo can explode if she gets half a chance, so must be continuously watched.

Collibosher

Great to see Steph “Left foot like Messi” back in the squad. If she can’t yet play for 90min, I’d like to see her on for part of the game, especially if we can get some free kicks around ManU’s box.

Little Cubby

Unfortunately l don’t think it is a tough one to call, it will take a bit of a miracle to win this game. We have several key players out while they have all of there’s available. Luck definitely hasn’t favoured us again this season. They have had plenty of it. 😐
Hope lm wrong 🤞

Little Cubby

Their’s*

MartynJ

Alternatively, they have the same team available that narrowly beat Brighton at the weekend, whereas we have most of the players who beat Bayern Munich and Man City…

Little Cubby

Fair point but unfortunately…. I was right 😔

Fun Gunner

I know how you feel, Little Cubby – I felt the same before the Conti Cup Final, the away game at Bayern (not the subsequent home match) and the match v Man City. And look what the girls did! I’m beginning to think I should have had more faith… 🙂
I’m more concerned that we won’t score, than that we will concede.

Little Cubby

Yes l felt the same in all those games and as you say the girls did so well but the squad is getting thinner and thinner and now we’ve lost Leah too, unfortunately l was right this time😕 l just don’t know how any team can be SO unlucky with injuries. If we’d had all our key players available for the whole season like Manure did we’d have won the WSL lm sure of it

verstellung

Yikes…what a thin bench.

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