Sunday, May 19, 2024

Arsenal v Watford Women Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal Women emerge from the winter break with an FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Watford who currently prop up the Championship. The visitors will have three familiar faces in the form of Laila Harbert, Katie Reid and Michelle Agyemang, who are all on loan from Arsenal and whom Arsenal have agreed to allow to play in this tie.

The first half of the Gunners season was bookended by disappointing 1-0 defeats to Liverpool and Tottenham but they did manage to defeat Manchester City and Chelsea and draw away at Manchester United in between. With no Champions League in the second half of the season, Arsenal have a bigger than usual focus on the domestic cup competitions.

Arsenal have already been busy in the January transfer window, Noelle Maritz has joined Aston Villa with USWNT right-back Emily Fox joining from North Carolina Courage. Kathrine Kuhl will join Everton on loan while former Lyon goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi is set to join on a short term loan in February to cover for Sabrina D’Angelo’s presence at the Gold Cup with Canada.

Arsenal are also buoyed by the news that Leah Williamson has joined full team training and is only a few weeks away from a return to the pitch. This game offers a presentable opportunity for Arsenal to progress to round five given that Watford are bottom of the Championship and with the need to focus on domestic trophies, this game ought to be seen as a potential kickstarter for the second half of Arsenal’s season.

TEAM NEWS


Kim Little (foot) and Lina Hurtig (back) will miss this tie, Eidevall, suggested Little’s issue is small but that Hurtig’s might take a little longer to clear. Kathrine Kuhl won’t play as she seals a loan move to Everton while Emily Fox is in line to make her debut following her move from North Carolina Courage.

Noelle Maritz has left the club for Aston Villa. Leah Williamson and Laura Wienroither are still not available after ACL injuries at the end of last season. Kaylan Marckese has returned to the club from her loan spell at Bristol City after suffering an ACL injury.

Available squad
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger 14.D’Angelo 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 2.Fox 3.Wubben-Moy 5.Beattie 7.Catley 27.Codina 28.Ilestedt
MIDFIELDERS: 12.Maanum 13.Walti 15.McCabe 21.Pelova 32.Cooney Cross 53.Lia
FORWARDS: 9.Mead 11.Miedema 19.Foord 23.Russo 24.Lacasse 25.Blackstenius

A WORD FROM THE BOSS
‘We want to compete in all competitions that we’re playing in, so this [game] is really important for us. There is no reason for us not to prioritise these games; sometimes I have ideas about how you could schedule things differently, but FA Cup games are scheduled in a way where you can easily make them a priority. There’s no excuse for not being able to field your best teams in these competitions.

‘I think [Watford] have been true to their style of play, they are brave and they’re keeping their heads up high. I think they know that some of the injuries they have had has been quite hard on them and they probably could have had a couple of more points in the Championship as well, so I think they keep believing.

‘They knew this was not going to be an easy season from a result perspective in the Championship but I think they go in with a lot of belief into the last half of the season, and I think they can rightfully do so.’

LAST TIME OUT
The teams last met in November 2017 in the Conti Cup group stage at Gaywood Park. Arsenal ran out 6-0 winners that evening thanks to a brace from Jodie Taylor and goals from Emma Mitchell, Dominique Janssen, Dan Carter and Danielle van de Donk.

THE OPPOSITION

Watford currently prop up the Championship table, they were relegated from the second tier in heartbreaking fashion in 2021-22 after conceding a 96th minute goal to Coventry United to condemn them to relegation. Watford were promoted from the third tier and back into the Championship at the first time of asking.

However, they still have one of the lowest budgets in the Championship and currently sit bottom of the table, though they have suffered with injuries, including a knee injury to Arsenal loanee Michelle Agyemang that saw her miss most of the first half of the season.

There is plenty of Arsenal ‘DNA’ at Watford, as well as current Gunners loanees Michelle Agyemang, Laila Harbert and Katie Reid, their General Manager is former Gunner Helen Ward (nee Bleazzard), Ellie Head, Flo Fyfe, Kalani Peart and Melis Mehmet are also former Arsenal trainees.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Emily Fox is in line to make her debut for the club at right-back. Fox was signed from North Carolina Courage and is the USA’s starting right fullback-back currently, even though she can play on the left side of defence too. Fox is quick, comfortable on the ball and very strong in one on one situations.

US internationals don’t often come to the WSL other than on short term deals at certain points of the international cycle when there are no summer tournaments. Maybe Emma Hayes’ incoming stint as USWNT boss changes some of that but it also demonstrates the increasing financial power of the WSL and perhaps says something about American players’ willingness to experience different leagues to increase their exposure to other styles of football.

England’s starting midfield now has Georgia Stanway of Bayern Munich and Keira Walsh of Barcelona. For Arsenal, it is clear they wanted a full-back explosive going forward and excellent in transitions, with an ability to play inside due to Fox’s comfort on her left foot. Fox will be the Gunners’ landmark signing of the January transfer window.

PREDICTED LINE UP

Subs: 1.Zinsberger, 3.Wubben-Moy, 9.Mead, 12.Maanum, 13.Walti, 19.Foord, 23.Russo, 28.Ilested, 40.Williams, 53.Lia

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place on Sunday at 1pm at Meadow Park, it will be shown live on the FA Player app, which is free of charge, you just need to register an account here.

COMING UP
Going forward, we will have match reports on the site shortly after the final whistle to add to our coverage, we will also have a full transcript of Jonas Eidevall’s post-match press conference on the site on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, January might be podcast lite due to a bit of a laryngitis niggle…

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Fun Gunner

Great development that we will have Arseblog match reports – thanks in advance to all concerned.

I do hope that is the starting line-up. I want to see Cooney-Cross and Pelova together as much as possible and most of the others need games.

Go and smash it tomorrow, ladies!

Noddy 81

Watching KCC & VP again is always something to look forward to + we get to see how Fox fits in + see how Viv is recovering…lots to look fo to!

Ricky

As far as I know, Gio is eligible to play in the FA Cup as she is a “registered player” of Arsenal under the rule of the competition.

Colin

This second half of the season will see Alessia Russo hitting the target. Can sense it !

Paula

I think Jonas will still start Russo for 9 to test the link up between her and Viv.

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