Arsenal return to action for Women’s Champions League qualifiers in Sweden on Wednesday as they face Linkoping. The winner of this game will face the winner of Paris FC v FC Kryvbas at the same venue on Saturday afternoon to play for the chance to go through to the playoff round. The Gunners have to pull back together quickly after the World Cup.
Seven players were involved in World Cup matches in Australia just over a fortnight ago, those players had a week off and were straight back into training for these qualifying ties. Linkoping meanwhile, had only two players at the World Cup and have played a couple of league games since the tournament finished.
✈️ We’ve taken off and touched down in Linköping 👋 pic.twitter.com/Yj8KA44hQW
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) September 5, 2023
Arsenal are left with little choice but to hurry their 16 World Cup players back given the importance of these games. The Gunners are, of course, boosted by their four summer recruits, Alessia Russo, Cloe Lacasse, Amanda Ilestedt and Laia Codina, while Beth Mead is in the final stages of her rehabilitation from an ACL injury and will form part of the travelling squad.
Arsenal will be all too aware that Manchester City have fallen in the qualifiers twice before, with the UWCL still a 16 team competition, the qualifiers are tough and Jonas Eidevall will not expect an easy game on either occasion and the team will have to negotiate these games a little undercooked as a unit. It is lamentable that FIFA and UEFA could put together such a harsh calendar for the players but Arsenal can only control what happens on the pitch now.
Beth Mead is named in the travelling squad for the first time in 10 months after rupturing her ACL in November though she will not be part of the match day squad on Wednesday. Vivianne Miedema, Laura Wienroither and Leah Williamson are still out with ACL injuries. Gio is in the squad as her loan to Atletico Madrid appears to be on the rocks.
Russo, Lacasse, Codina and Ilestedt are in line for their debuts while Rafaelle, Jodie Taylor and Anna Patten left the club this summer with Kaylan Marckese out on loan at Bristol City. Kim Little returns from a hamstring injury and Lia Wälti recovered from an ankle injury during the summer. Teyah Goldie is out again with an ACL injury.
UPDATE: It appears Laia Codina has not travelled with the squad
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 14.D’Angelo, 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 28.Ilestedt
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little, 12.Maanum, 13.Walti, 15.McCabe, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl
FORWARDS:, 9.Mead, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 23.Russo, 24.Lacasse, 25.Blackstenius
Unavailable: 6.Williamson, 11. Miedema, 26.Wienroither, 29.Goldie.
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
We knew it was going to be a short turnaround for some players but we did not know for how many players it was going to be so we had many different plans about when players would come back from the World Cup. We come into a situation where we have eight players who have had a very limited time off.
Everyone was back in training last Monday. Our plan is to manage each one of those eight players individually during the season because I don’t think they are getting necessary time off. But we can’t give them all time off at the same time so it needs to be managed individually.
LAST TIME OUT
The teams met in the 2011 competition, with Arsenal going through on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw. In the first leg at Meadow Park, Ellen White equalised after a first half striker from Linda Sallstrom. The second leg saw a 2-2 draw with Sallstrom and Kosavore Asllani twice giving Linkoping the lead only to fall to equalisers by Rachel Yankey and Katie Chapman.
Linkoping have strengthened their squad over the last week with the signings of Philippines international defender Angela Beard from Western United and Norwegian international defender Malin Johnsen Brenn from Como in Italy. Linkoping have experienced some overhaul during the summer break, previous captain Olga Ahtinen joined Spurs. Linkoping currently sit second in the Damallsvenskan table three points behind leaders Hacken. Hacken have a game in hand and secured a 0-0 draw at Linkoping last week.
While it probably wasn’t the result Linkoping wanted it would have served as a very high level tune-up for a game against Arsenal. Prior to that, they were 5-2 winners away at Brommapojkarna. Stina Blackstenius, Lina Hurtig and Frida Maanum have all played for Linkoping and Maanum’s partner, Emma Lennartsson, captains them.
PLAYER TO WATCH
While the signing of Alessia Russo took the lion’s share of the headlines over the summer, the procurement of 30-year-old Canadian winger Cloe Lacasse gives Arsenal some contingency at wide forward while Beth Mead gradually gets back up to speed during the first months of the season. Arsenal tried very hard to land Lacasse in January and were confident of acquiring her in the winter.
They finally got their player this summer from Benfica. For Lacasse, the big move has come late in her career. When Mead was injured last season, Eidevall had to reconfigure the team with McCabe playing as an inverted right winger or Pelova playing as more of a wide 10. Lacasse is a much closer analogue to Mead and Foord and capable of playing on both flanks.
When I spoke to scout and analyst Marc Lamberts about Lacasse on the Arsenal Women Arsecast over the summer, he described her as one of the best counter attacking forwards in Europe. Injuries to Beth Mead and Lina Hurtig hurt Arsenal’s potential to create different problems for teams from the bench too and Lacasse’s arrival gives Eidevall a greater arsenal of options in his forward line.
Subs: 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 14.D’Angelo, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 22.Kuhl, 23.Russo, 27.Codina, 40.Williams
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game will be streamed live on Arsenal.com for viewers in UK and Ireland. Details of where you can watch it elsewhere below.
— 🌹 (Roos) (@roossch91) September 5, 2023
We will be in Sweden this week covering both games and will have all the quotes and reaction from Jonas Eidevall. We are hopeful of getting some kind of exclusive interview while we are in Sweden too. As well as that, we will have plenty of build-up to the beginning of the WSL season on October 1. A reminder that the WSL transfer deadline falls on Thursday 14 September and we’ll be across that too.