Arsenal Women open their WSL campaign at home to Liverpool with more than 50,000 spectators expected at Emirates Stadium. After the disappointment of exiting the Champions League in the first qualifying round on penalties earlier this month, it’s imperative that Jonas Eidevall’s team get their domestic campaign off to a good start.
The Gunners did the double over Matt Beard’s team last season and can certainly outmatch the visitors in terms of squad depth and overall talent, but Liverpool are an incredibly hard working and direct team who beat Chelsea on the opening day of last season.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) September 29, 2023
For Arsenal, preparation has been interrupted by the ludicrous scheduling which same a pair of UEFA Nations League matches last week, with the majority of players away with their national teams just days before the kickoff of the domestic season. However, Arsenal have little choice but to roll with the punches and will be fully expected to start with a victory on Sunday.
The Gunners will boast some new signings in their team too, with Kyra Cooney-Cross and Laia Codina in line to make their club debuts. They are also boosted by the news that Katie McCabe has extended her Arsenal contract and with close to a sellout crowd behind them, Eidevall’s team ought to be in good shape to take the three points, even if Liverpool won’t make it easy for them.
Noelle Maritz will have a late fitness test after picking up a knock on international duty. Lotte Wubben-Moy was in full training on Friday after missing England’s recent international matches with a slight muscle strain. Kyra Cooney-Cross and Laia Codina are in line for their debuts, while Beth Mead may be able to play her first minutes for the team since her ACL injury last November.
Vivianne Miedema is close to returning to full training after her ACL injury, but Leah Williamson, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie continue their recoveries from ACL injuries incurred in recent months. Leah Williamson started running outside for the first time since her injury on Friday.
Goalkeepers: 1.Zinsberger, 14.D’Angelo, 40.Williams
Defenders: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 27.Codina, 28.Ilestedt
Midfielders: 10.Little, 12.Maanum, 15.McCabe, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl, 32.Cooney-Cross, 53.Lia
Forwards: 9.Mead, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 23.Russo, 24.Lacasse, 25.Blackstenius
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
‘It is a new season and everything is possible when you start a new season. Most people celebrate the start of a New Year, here we celebrate the start of a new season and we say ‘happy new season’ to each other. We want to bring all our energy, quality and passion on the pitch again. I expect this to be the most competitive WSL season, a lot of teams are investing and bringing in quality players.
‘Liverpool is a very competitive side, they have been playing a very competitive schedule in pre-season against a lot of top teams and their performances have been good in these games, so we are playing against a tough opponent. Today we did our ninth training session as a whole squad in four months, tomorrow (Saturday) will be our 10th. That is where we are coming from.
‘We need to bring all our energy onto the pitch to be able to go fully. We know we come up against a tough opponent with not a lot of time together, so we need to cherish these moments together and get the basics right on Sunday. I have, never, in my life gone into a game thinking it was going to be easy. My only mentality is you prepare absolutely 100% for your opponent and do your very best every time.’
LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in March at Meadow Park, Arsenal were 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Stina Blackstenius and Caitlin Foord. In the reverse fixture last season, Arsenal also won 2-0 with goals from Lia Walti and Frida Maanum.
Matt Beard’s side finished 7th in the WSL last season having been promoted back to the top flight at the second time of asking in 2022. WSL title winners in 2013 and 2014, the Reds fell into turmoil due to under investment in their women’s team, who were relegated to the second tier in 2020. But under the stewardship of experienced coach Matt Beard, who signed a new contract this week, the signs of progress are good.
📍 AXA Melwood Training Centre
It’s time to go Inside Training ahead of our #BarclaysWSL opener 🙌
— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) September 29, 2023
The women’s team have moved into Liverpool’s old Melwood training complex which, confusingly, the club originally sold while the women’s team trained at Tranmere Rovers’ training HQ. The club re-purchased the land again earlier this year so that their women’s team could enjoy better training facilities. They did very well to not figure in the relegation battle whatsoever last season as a newly promoted side.
Liverpool are a hard working and direct team that like to get crosses into the box and often opt for a hard working, player to player approach in their marking system, it remains to be seen whether they attempt that at a bigger pitch like the Emirates. They also switch reasonably comfortably between a back four and a back five, often in-game and I would expect them to see them switch during the game at some point on Sunday, depending on the game state.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Spanish centre-half Laia Codina is in line for her debut this weekend having missed the Champions League qualifiers in Sweden. Codina was a starring member of Spain’s World Cup winning team this summer and the 23-year-old is stepping out of the shadows of Mapi Leon at Barcelona.
However, she has large shoes to fill with Rafaelle’s summer departure to Orlando Pride. With Leah Williamson unavailable for the first half of the season at the very least, Codina is out of the frying pan and into the fire in North London. Her recovery pace and her one-on-one defending skills are key reasons why Jonas Eidevall brought her to the club.
She is 23, so she is young but by no means a youngster, she has won the World Cup and the Champions League so her credentials are excellent. How Jonas Eidevall uses Codina, Wubben-Moy, Beattie and Ilestedt throughout the season is going to be fascinating to observe but, as a left-sided (if not left-footed) centre-half, you’ve the feeling Codina will have to become a key figure and quickly.
Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 9.Mead, 14.D’Angelo, 17.Hurtig, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl, 25.Blackstenius, 32.Cooney-Cross
We will have full quotes from Jonas Eidevall’s press conference on the site on Sunday afternoon, a vlog from Sunday as well as the usual analysis piece with graphics from Miedemastuff on the site on Monday. Also, don’t forget to sign up to our free weekly Arsenal Women newsletter here.