Arsenal travel to Crawley on Sunday afternoon for a sold out WSL clash against Brighton & Hove Albion. It is the first time that Brighton have sold Broadfield Stadium for a WSL match and it means that all four of the Gunners’ WSL away matches so far are going to attract record WSL crowds for the respective stadiums.
For Jonas Eidevall and his team, they will be looking to build on a run of five consecutive victories in all competitions. Eidevall will have another selection headache even with a handful of minor injuries and primary among those selection dilemmas will be in midfield where Lia Walti, Victoria Pelova, Kyra Cooney Cross, Kathrine Kuhl and Frida Maanum compete for three positions.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) November 17, 2023
The form of Victoria Pelova, in particular, makes the Dutch midfielder next to impossible to leave out and Eidevall was full of praise for the 24-year-old pre-match, calling her “a nice example and a role model for younger players to look up to, to see how you can manage those one-v-one situations.” After Sunday’s breathless 6-2 victory over Leicester having been 2-0 down, Arsenal have earned a label as the comeback queens of the WSL- now they will want to focus on controlling games from the outset and not needing to come from behind.
A repeat of May’s 4-0 win over Brighton with all the goals scored before half-time would suit Eidevall’s team very nicely but that is very unlikely. This is a different Brighton team now, with more time under their new coach Mel Phillips and a strong summer of recruitment. Arsenal are in for another tough away encounter on Sunday.
Jonas Eidevall said that Jen Beattie, Kim Little, Vivianne Miedema, Lia Wälti and Laia Codina all face late checks after missing the weekend victory at Leicester. Codina and Wälti were pictured in full training on Friday which might give us some clues over how those situations are developing. Leah Williamson, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie are out as they continue recovery from ACL injuries.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 14.D’Angelo, 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 3.Wubben-Moy, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 27.Codina, 28.Ilestedt
MIDFIELDERS: 12.Maanum, 13.Walti, 15.McCabe, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl, 32.Cooney-Cross, 53.Lia
FORWARDS:, 9.Mead, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 23.Russo, 24.Lacasse, 25.Blackstenius
Unavailable: 5.Beattie, 6.Williamson, 10.Little, 11.Miedema, 26.Wienroither, 29.Goldie
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
‘If you go into the WSL this season and you’re complacent towards any game, I think you must have been sleeping and not watching any games from the last season. That time has way passed – this is the most competitive WSL season there has ever been. That will show in every game. If you’re not ready for that, you’re not going to be ready for the season.
‘I’m not going to have that talk in front of every game because that’s also saying that some games are tougher than others and ‘now we need to be 100 per cent, but for this game, maybe we only need to be 90 or 95 per cent and still get away with it’. No. We cannot have that mindset. We need to be 100 per cent all the time. It’s a 22-match league – it’s not a big ask to be 100 per cent for each one of those games. That has to be the standard we set.
‘They’re a well-organised side. They’re really resilient. You can see that they’ve been playing tough games against Chelsea, Man United and City lately, but it’s a group of players that never gives in. They keep working hard. They keep collaborating. They keep believing and sticking to their ideas. So I think you can see it’s a really well-built group, they have a good connection with their coach and those teams are always very hard to play against.’
LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in May at the Broadfield Stadium Arsenal were 4-0 winners thanks to a pair of early Stina Blackstenius goals and further first half strikes from Frida Maanum and Victoria Pelova.
The fixture list did not smile on Mel Phillip’s side in the early autumn. They took a first half lead away at Chelsea before succumbing to a 4-2 defeat but followed that up with a 2-2 draw at home to Manchester United (United equalised in stoppage time) before earning a shock 1-0 win away at Manchester City last weekend. Anyone expecting an easy game for Arsenal needs to disabuse themselves of that notion very quickly.
Brighton parted company with long-term coach Hope Powell at the beginning of last season. They took their time before falling on a successor but their dalliance with German coach Jens Scheuer was brief and he was relieved of his duties in the spring. In came American coach Mel Phillips and since then, the Seagulls have stabilised.
— Brighton & Hove Albion Women (@BHAFCWomen) November 16, 2023
They also had an impressive summer recruitment wise, attracting former Wolfsburg and Manchester City striker Pauline Bremer and Portuguese attacking midfielder Tatiana Pinto, as well as former Arsenal, Barcelona and Manchester City midfielder Vicky Losada. But it’s 22-year-old Norwegian striker Elisabeth Terland who really looks to be the jewel in the Seagulls crown. Brighton have also announced plans to build a bespoke stadium for the women’s team, they are very much a team and a club on the up.
PLAYER TO WATCH
During the last two WSL games, Katie McCabe has started at right-back ahead of Noelle Maritz. Some of this is, I believe, because Jonas Eidevall simply wants McCabe and Steph Catley on the pitch and if you are playing a back four and you are stacked with wide attacking options, this is simply the best way to do it.
However, McCabe has also been inverting into midfield a lot and providing a buttress alongside the double pivot. Inverting from the right opens up passing lanes into central areas of the pitch and allows Arsenal to switch play to the left very quickly if they need to. In a possession sense, McCabe inverting makes a lot of sense.
Leicester exposed a potential defensive weakness of the system with Hannah Cain attacking Arsenal’s right and taking advantage of the way McCabe’s body position is slightly awkward when running back towards her own goal on the right side. Eidevall will continue to try to balance the upsides of having McCabe in his team and inverting into midfield and the potential defensive downsides.
Subs: 9.Mead, 12.Maanum, 14.D’Angelo, 16.Maritz, 17.Hurtig, 22.Kuhl, 25.Blackstenius, 27.Codina, 53.Lia
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place at Broadfield Stadium on Sunday at 2pm. It is live on Sky Sports in the UK.
We will have Jonas Eidevall’s post-match reaction on the site on Sunday shortly after the game, as well as the usual analysis piece on Monday. On Monday afternoon we will have a long-read on the lack of ethnic diversity in the first team squad featuring interviews with some Arsenal fans from Black and Mixed Race backgrounds, as well as broadcaster and Everton fan Marva Kreel (Everton also have no WOC in their first team squad), former player Anita Asante and Arsenal Women Academy Director James Honeyman. On Wednesday we will have an exclusive interview with Southampton manager and Gunners legend Marieanne Spacey ahead of Arsenal’s trip to St. Mary’s in the Conti Cup on Thursday.