Thursday, July 18, 2024

Southampton Women v Arsenal Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal travel to St. Mary’s Stadium on Thursday evening to take on Marieanne Spacey’s Southampton in the Conti Cup. Spacey is an Arsenal and England legend and probably the most important player as the Gunners established their stranglehold on women’s football in the 1990s. She has since gone on to have a strong coaching career and she will face down Jonas Eidevall from the home dugout on Thursday.

Arsenal and Eidevall will likely look to rotate the team again with a home game against West Ham on Sunday and a few players who could probably do with the minutes. The Saints are competing at the top of the Championship at the moment but given the gap between the WSL and the Championship, Arsenal will be strong favourites for this game.

The Saints have five points from their first two Conti Cup games. In the Conti Cup group stage, when teams draw they hold a penalty shootout with the winner getting an extra point. Southampton drew 1-1 with Bristol City on match day one before winning on penalties before winning at Reading on match day two.

As has become customary for Arsenal away matches, it looks as though we will see a record attendance for a Southampton Women’s game. The Gunners were 3-1 winners at home to Bristol City in match day one, giving them three points so far in the group.

TEAM NEWS


Jen Beattie, Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema will all be assessed ahead of this game having missed the last two due to injury, all were were pictured in training on Tuesday. Leah Williamson, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie are all still recovering from ACL injuries. Sabrina D’Angelo missed the last game due to personal reasons and it’s not yet clear whether she will be available.

Available squad
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 27.Codina, 28.Ilestedt
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little, 11.Miedema, 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: 6.Williamson, 14.D’Angelo, 26.Wienroither, 29.Goldie

A WORD FROM LIA WALTI


“Against Southampton it’s going to be very important game for us, we want to go into the next round and defend our trophy. We take the opponent very seriously and we have seen a lot of good clips of them and the things they are very strong at. At the same time, we want to dominate the game and win it in front of a good crowd and we are looking forward to that.

“It’s an important trophy for us, you could see that last season in the final against Chelsea in front of so many people, at Arsenal we are here to win trophies and we haven’t won as many as we wanted to in recent years. The Conti Cup has always been one we have taken as seriously as any other competition and we want to go into the next round.”

LAST TIME OUT
The two teams have never met before with Southampton being formed in 2017. This ‘official’ iteration of Southampton is, confusingly, not the same Southampton (Girls and Ladies FC) who have won six women’s FA Cups and were defeated by Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup Final at The Valley (I was there!)

THE OPPOSITION
As mentioned above, Southampton’s history is convoluted. This iteration of the Saints were reformed in 2017 after the men’s side withdrew support from Southampton Ladies following the men’s side’s relegation from the Premier League in 2005. Southampton Girls and Ladies soldiered on for 14 years without affiliation with the men’s side until they had to fold in 2019.

The Saints unsuccessfully applied to join the Championship in 2018, so instead they won all 18 of their games in the Southern Region Premier Division and earned promotion to the Women’s National League (the fourth tier, which is regionalised). Southampton earned the unfortunate distinction of being top of the table in both 2019-20 and 2020-21 at the point when the season was cancelled due to covid.

At this point, Southampton successfully applied for dispensation to be promoted to the National League Southern Premier Division, which they were promoted from in 2021-22. They went full-time at this stage and adopted the club’s main stadium, St. Mary’s, as their home ground and they are currently 3rd in the Championship but only one point from the top of the table.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Kathrine Kuhl has been a victim of the strong competition in Arsenal’s midfield this season, which has restricted her minutes. This competition offers a chance for the skilful Dane to shine and it’s an opportunity she took with gusto for the first group game against Bristol City last time out. Kuhl’s deft touch and quick feet mark her out as a potential world star.

Still only 20, she has a World Cup behind her and it is clear she is ready for greater involvement but the midfield picture is crowded with Little, Walti, Pelova, Cooney-Cross and Maanum in the mix and Miedema making her way back to fitness. For this game, Kuhl will get a much needed 90 minutes and if she performs well again, that will build her case for greater inclusion in the WSL.

That is life for a squad player, if you take your chance in the Conti Cup, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will start the next game. But you might get 20 minutes from the bench instead of five. If you make an impact in that 20 minutes, maybe next time you get 30 and so on. It’s a case of chipping away at the coalface and Kuhl will need her pick axe handy on Thursday.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 9.Mead, 10.Little, 11.Miedema, 13.Walti, 19.Foord, 23.Russo, 28.Ilestedt, 40.Williams.

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match is available to watch on the Southampton website. You have to sign up for a free membership to the Saints Player and then pay £2 to watch the game from there.

COMING UP
We will have post-match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Thursday evening. We hope that you saw our long promised long read on the lack of ethnic diversity in the women’s first team squad, as well as our exclusive interview with Saints boss and Arsenal legend Marieanne Spacey, as well as our pre-match chat with Lia Wälti. We will have all the usual build-up to Sunday’s game at home to West Ham United too.

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Dave

Is Mccabe injured? She wasn’t in any of the training pictures?

Gunner H

What an outstanding Line Up and what an outstanding bench!

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