Arsenal travel to Leigh Sports Village on Friday evening to face Manchester United in an early crunch WSL encounter. The fixture has extra spice because it marks Alessia Russo’s first game back on her old hunting ground since leaving United for the Gunners this summer. More importantly, for Jonas Eidevall’s side, they need to get on the board after Sunday’s shock defeat at home to Liverpool.
United started their season with a late winner at Villa Park and for that to become a six-point deficit, even at this early stage of the season, would severely dent Arsenal’s title hopes. It may be too early for a must win game; but this is certainly a must not lose. Arsenal were very below par against Liverpool, by Eidevall’s own admission https://arseblog.news/2023/10/long-term-vision-shared-jonas-eidevall-new-arsenal-contract/.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) October 5, 2023
Arsenal also have unfinished business with United after losing twice to Marc Skinner’s side last season. In fact, they haven’t beaten them since winning at Leigh Sports Village in November 2021. In both of the encounters between the teams last season, Arsenal were at their absolute weakest in terms of injuries and suspensions and pick up ACL injuries in both games.
While much of the focus of the wider world and the home crowd will be on Russo, Arsenal simply have to greatly improve on their rusty, cobweb strewn performance against Liverpool last weekend and their squad will be many, many times stronger than it was on either of the occasions that these teams played last season and they have to show it.
Jonas Eidevall says Beth Mead is not quite ready to be in the match day squad but is “close” after her ACL injury in November. He says that Noelle Maritz, fit enough only to be an unused sub at the weekend, is fit to play. Leah Williamson, Vivianne Miedema, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie all miss out with ACL injuries.
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, 13.Walti, 15.McCabe, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl, 32.Cooney-Cross
FORWARDS:, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 20.Gio, 23.Russo, 24.Lacasse, 25.Blackstenius
Unavailable: 6.Williamson, 9.Mead, 11. Miedema, 26.Wienroither, 29.Goldie
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
I think it’s a team that is very consistent in the way that they are playing, and they are very good football team. Manchester United, I think we have played some really good and even football matches against them in my two seasons here at Arsenal. I was not particularly happy with either one of our performances against them last season, I was definitely not happy with the results. I think we have a lot of motivation going up there and change those things around.
(Post Liverpool there was…) A very mature reaction. I think a lot of accountability, a lot of ownership. A team that really wants to show another version of itself, that we are so aware of that we are something else than what we showed last Sunday, but we also know that words are cheap and action is what counts. That’s what training has been about and that’s what Friday is about.
LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in April at LSV, United were 1-0 winners thanks to a goal from Alessia Russo. Russo also scored the winner when the teams met at the Emirates last November as United won 3-2.
United finished 2nd last season, having been pipped to the title by Chelsea on the final day of the season and lost the FA Cup Final to the same opposition. While both of those facts would have been difficult to stomach for United fans and staff, it did represent serious progress and their best ever season since their reformation in 2018.
— Manchester United Women (@ManUtdWomen) October 4, 2023
Marc Skinner’s side have to negotiate a tough two-legged qualifier against Paris Saint Germain on 11 and 18 October to seal their passage to the Champions League group stage for the first time. Arsenal have failed to beat United in any of the last four meetings between the clubs. They responded well in the market to losing Russo to Arsenal.
They brought in Brazilian forward Geyse from Barcelona who gives them pace and skill upfront, as well as Everton defender Gabby George, who was a very smart pick-up from Everton that went some way to assuaging the loss of Ona Batlle to Barcelona. United developed a knack for late winners last season, a theme that continued in their opening game away at Aston Villa where supersub Rachel Williams gave them a last gasp victory.
PLAYER TO WATCH
All eyes will be on Alessia Russo for this match with her return to LSV. Hot receptions for returning players are not something we see a lot in women’s football but Russo is sure to be booed at the very least. I doubt that will phase her too much but every spare camera inside LSV will be trained on her throughout the game.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) October 5, 2023
Eidevall spoke in glowing terms pre-match about Russo’s unique all-round qualities and she demonstrated that in the ill-fated 3-3 draw with Paris FC in Sweden, scoring with long and close range efforts. Eidevall has also spoken about her potential as a more regular goal scorer, she notched a respectable 10 WSL goals for United last season.
However, that was short of the totals of 22 and 20 scored by Rachel Daly and Bunny Shaw respectively. Russo’s role will be as a facilitator as well as a goal scorer but there is also no doubt that her former United teammates will be keen for her not to have the impact she usually has on this fixture- she scored for United against Arsenal the last four times these teams have met.
Subs: 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 14.D’Angelo, 17.Hurtig, 22.Kuhl, 24.Lacasse, 25.Blackstenius, 27.Codina, 32.Cooney-Cross
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at Leigh Sports Village at 7.30pm on Friday, it will be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK.
We will have match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Friday evening, we will also put out a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast next week.
Article image by David Price at Arsenal FC.