Arsenal travel to Crawley on Wednesday evening to take on Brighton in a rearranged game with implications at both ends of the WSL table. Manchester City’s surprise defeat at Liverpool on Sunday means that the Gunners will be in the driving seat for the final UWCL qualification spot if they beat Mel Phillips’ revitalised Seagulls.
At one point, Brighton looked like favourites for relegation until the appointment of Mel Phillips last month, since which they have taken seven points out of 12 available and ran Manchester United very close in the FA Cup semi-final. Even the two games Brighton have lost from Phillips’ five in charge have been by the odd goal. This is certainly a very different Brighton side to the one Arsenal would have faced in the originally scheduled game back in January.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) May 6, 2023
City’s defeat at Liverpool means Jonas Eidevall’s side are three points behind them with two games in hand and Arsenal have a superior goal difference by five. City travel to Manchester United the same weekend that Arsenal travel to Chelsea. The race is hotting up and the Gunners have the chance to leapfrog City with a win.
However, the injury crisis continues to deepen, with Lina Hurtig again ruled out, Steph Catley hobbling out of the Leicester game only 17 minutes after coming on as a sub and Stina Blackstenius requiring an ice pack on her calf after being substituted in that game. It really does feel like that Arsenal have to somehow get through the final four games with as many fit players as they can possibly muster.
Jonas Eidevall was tight lipped on whether Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley and Lina Hurtig will be fit to play against Brighton on Wednesday. Foord has been out for five weeks with a hamstring injury, Hurtig missed the game against Leicester and Steph Catley hobbled out of that game shortly after coming on as a sub. Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema and Laura Wienroither are all out with ACL injuries, Kim Little is out with a hamstring injury.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 14.D’Angelo, 18.Marckese, 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 2.Rafaelle, 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 16.Maritz, 29.Goldie, 62.Reid
MIDFIELDERS: 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 15.McCabe, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl, 60.Harbert, 61.Earl
FORWARDS:, 20.Gio, 25.Blackstenius, 27.Taylor, 59.Agyemang
Unavailable: 6.Williamson, 9.Mead, 10.Little, 11. Miedema, 26.Wienroither
Fitness tests: 7.Catley, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
‘They have a new coach and they brought in some new players in the January transfer window, they have really started to get some momentum and consistency now. It is a very different team to the one we played in September and that we would have played in January.
‘We played her (Mel Phillips’) London City Lionesses team last year, you could tell when we played them that it was a group that played with a clear philosophy and great team spirit. I think it is clear she is instilling these things in Brighton as well. This is a tough challenge for us, it’s an away game against a tough opponent.
‘They have a nice structure to the way they play, they have been playing good attacking football. They have played good football for the most part of the season but they had a problem conceding goals but you can really see they have put an emphasis on that lately, they look more organised, they concede fewer goal scoring opportunities and I think it was huge for them to keep a clean sheet against West Ham (on Sunday). We need to expect to play a team who are going to put a lot of pride in their defending but also have some self-confidence in that, but who are also very dangerous on the counter-attack.’
LAST TIME OUT
Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners when the teams met on the opening day of the season at Meadow Park, with goals from Kim Little, Stina Blackstenius and a brace from Beth Mead. In this fixture last season, it was 3-0 to Arsenal at Crawley with a Stina Blackstenius brace and a goal from Beth Mead.
Brighton rather sleepwalked into the relegation battle. In October, they made the decision to part ways with their long-term Head Coach Hope Powell. They, understandably, took their time over appointing a replacement because they wanted to get it right. They brought in former Bayern coach Jens Scheuer who left after barely two months amid claims that the players did not respond to his training methods.
In the meantime, Leicester City’s revival under Willie Kirk meant Brighton’s WSL survival could no longer be taken for granted. They appointed highly rated Mel Phillips, who had only just left Championship side London City Lionesses to join NWSL side Angel City. The call of the top job at Brighton proved to be a big pull and she has almost certainly steered the Seagulls to safety in double quick time.
Much like her London City Lionesses, who were very much on course for promotion prior to her departure mid-season, Brighton look compact and direct under Phillips. They aim to play in the opponents’ half and keep them under pressure, as they demonstrated in her first game in charge away at Manchester United. Arsenal will have to fight for the three points in Sussex.
“Defending is 100% about mentality, resilience and communication. I couldn’t be prouder of the group for the clean sheet." 🙌
— Brighton & Hove Albion Women (@BHAFCWomen) May 8, 2023
PLAYER TO WATCH
“She is so good in front of their defending line, the power, her touch, the way she engages defenders. If you don’t step to her she shoots. Then it becomes a really hard task for the defending team, if you give her space she shoots. If you step up to her, it creates space and frees another player. That is exactly the type of decision we want to force from the opponent.”
So said Jonas Eidevall after Maanum’s match winning display against Leicester on Friday night. The Norwegian scored a trademark curler from the edge of the area to take the three points in a tough game. Obviously, it is a fight now. We know that,” Maanum told Arseblog News following the match. We know the injuries we have and the squad we have. The girls are amazing and every day in training we all just work as hard as we can and try to maximise everything we have right now.”
When games are tight and tough, you need your attacking players to step up, sometimes with a moment of individual brilliance as Maanum did on Friday. The Norwegian will surely challenge in the Player of the Season vote and as a stitched together squad negotiate their final four matches and they may well need a few more individual interventions before the season’s end- Maanum is one of the players most capable of doing that.
Subs: 14.D’Angelo, 18.Marckese, 20.Gio, 27.Taylor, 29.Goldie, 59.Agyemang, 62.Reid.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place at Crawley Town’s Broadfield Stadium on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm. The game will be screened live on Sky Sports Football in the UK.
We will have post-match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Wednesday evening.