Arsenal travel to the King Power Stadium in the WSL on Sunday evening looking to build on a run that has seen them win their last four games in all competitions. Boss Jonas Eidevall has talked up the extent to which his team have slowly developed after a compressed pre-season due to UWCL qualifiers.
A summer which also saw five new arrivals and the loss of their first choice centre-half pairing for the last two seasons. The home victory over Manchester City last weekend was a significant salve for Eidevall’s team after dropping points on the opening day of the season at home to Liverpool.
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Willie Kirk’s Leicester have enjoyed a solid start to the season and look as though they will be nowhere near the relegation battle they have been embroiled in for the last two seasons. Though they too suffered at the hands of Matt Beard’s Liverpool last weekend and Kirk spoke about his team being motivated by the idea of making amends.
The King Power Stadium has been good to Jonas Eidevall’s side over the last two seasons but Leicester have recruited at a level that makes them a very different prospect this year. Eidevall rotated heavily during the midweek Conti Cup victory over Bristol City and several players made their case for greater inclusion in the WSL- it’s the textbook ‘good headache’ for Eidevall ahead of this game.
Kim Little and Lia Walti return to the squad after being rested for the midweek game against Bristol City. Leah Williamson, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie are all out in different stages of their recovery from ACL injuries, Laia Codina is still out with a minor muscle injury.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 14.D’Angelo, 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 28.Ilestedt
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little(c), 12.Maanum, 13.Walti, 15.McCabe, 21.Pelova, 22.Kuhl, 32.Cooney-Cross
FORWARDS: 9.Mead, 11.Miedema, 17.Hurtig, 19.Foord, 23.Russo, 24.Lacasse, 25.Blackstenius
Unavailable: 6.Williamson, 26.Wienroither, 27.Codina, 29.Goldie.
A WORD FROM THE BOSS
“The way they have recruited and the way they have played since January, they are competing in every game, they are a hard team to play. They play with a very high paced, high intensity press.
“The manager, Willie Kirk, has had two transfer windows to bring in the players that fit that style and you can see that more and more. We can expect a really competitive game and Leicester’s development and investment in their squad absolutely shows the development and growth of the league.
“Willie Kirk is a top manager, he has done a really, really good job with Leicester, both in the way he has recruited players to fit his model but also the way he has come up with a way of playing that fits with this group of players. He has played a massive part in making them a really competitive side.”
LAST TIME OUT
The teams last met in the WSL in April when Frida Maanum’s second half pearler was enough for a 1-0 victory at Meadow Park. Last season when the sides met at the King Power last November, Arsenal won 4-0 with goals from Frida Maanum, Caitlin Foord, a gol Olympico from Steph Catley and Stina Blackstenius.
Leicester City took 0 points from the first half of last season, but appointed Willie Kirk, previously their Director of Football, last winter and have recruited very well since then. They steered themselves clear of relegation trouble after Kirk steadied the ship and brought in a lot of quality in January.
Acknowledging Arsenal’s quality 🔝
Willie Kirk’s press conference ahead of #LEIARS 🎙️
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There was anxiety over whether that level of support would continue into the summer when the men’s team was relegated to the Championship last season. However, those fears proved unfounded and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Janina Leitzig’s move was made permanent, Lyon wing-back Janice Cayman was recruited too. Talent like Courtney Nevin, Jutta Rantala (who Arsenal scouted), Canada forward Deanna Rose and German striker Lena Petermann also joined the club.
Leicester haven’t won their last three WSL games though that includes a very creditable draw away at Manchester United and a slender 1-0 defeat at home to Manchester City. They will be keen to get back to winning ways having opened the campaign with victories at home to Everton and away at Bristol City.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Victoria Pelova was a substitute on Thursday evening and only entered the match with five minutes remaining when Kyra Cooney-Cross succumbed to cramp. That shows you that Pelova has been earmarked for this game and the Dutch midfielder is really starting to elbow her way into the current starting eleven, currently ahead of Frida Maanum, though the Norwegian played very well and scored against Bristol City.
Midfield is the most competitive area of the Arsenal squad with Little, Walti, Pelova, Maanum, Cooney-Cross and Kuhl vying for three places. Kathrine Kuhl didn’t even make the bench for the Manchester City game last weekend. Walti and Little are a long established midfield double pivot but for Pelova to muscle her way into the team- for now- shows you how impressive she has been.
Her ability to spin away from pressure is a particular strong point. Catley’s goal against Manchester City and McCabe’s goal against Aston Villa were both similar and both had Pelova at the heart, spinning away from pressure or winning the ball back in the right half space before driving and spreading it to the left. She is becoming a significant player but the competition in midfield is so fierce that she will need to maintain that standard.
PREDICTED LINE UP
Subs: 5.Beattie, 9.Mead, 11.Miedema, 12.Maanum, 14.D’Angelo, 15.McCabe, 22.Kuhl, 25.Blackstenius, 32.Cooney-Cross
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at the King Power Stadium on Sunday at 6.45pm. It will be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK.
We will have match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Sunday evening. We know we say this every week but the article on the lack of ethnic diversity in the first team squad is coming soon, we promise, the last interview we need to do has been delayed a little is all! We have a couple of exclusive interviews in the works too and, in case you missed it, we had an exclusive chat with Beth Mead on Thursday night too.