Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Reading Women v Arsenal Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal conclude their Conti Cup group stage campaign with a trip to Reading on Wednesday night. If Arsenal win, they will qualify for the quarter-finals as group winners. As holders and with no Champions League football, making it into the final stages of this tournament is imperative for Jonas Eidevall’s side.

Especially as they have been handed a tricky FA Cup 5th round tie against Manchester City on February 11. In the first two games since the winter break, Eidevall has prioritised continuity as the coaching staff have tried to implement some new ideas during the four week Christmas break.

The Gunners went for a strong line-up against Watford and made no changes for the WSL game against Everton on Saturday and that was no coincidence. However, this game will likely see the manager ring the changes and introduce players back into the fold who have not played many competitive minutes over the last month.

Reading’s financial troubles mean they are 10th in the Championship table and not entirely safe from relegation, though they do have games in hand on bottom side Watford. Logically, Arsenal ought to be able to rotate for this game and book their place in the quarter-finals.

TEAM NEWS


Leah Williamson could be in contention for the match day squad for the first time in just over nine months since rupturing her ACL last April. If not for this game, then Sunday’s WSL match against Liverpool as she has been in full training for a while. Kim Little (foot) and Lina Hurtig (back) are unavailable, as are Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie (both ACL).

Available squad
Goalkeepers: 1.Zinsberger 14.D’Angelo 40.Williams
Defenders: 2.Fox 3.Wubben-Moy 5.Beattie 6.Williamson 7.Catley 15.McCabe 27.Codina 28.Ilestedt
Midfielders: 12.Maanum 13.Walti 21.Pelova 32.Cooney-Cross 53.Lia
Forwards: 9.Mead 11.Miedema 19.Foord 23.Russo 24.Lacasse 25.Blackstenius

A WORD FROM AMANDA ILESTEDT


‘This group is very, very special in a way that there is a lot of unity. You can tell already that a lot of players here played together for such a long time. Coming into this group was easy because everyone is so unified and it feels like a team.

‘I don’t know that it’s that common at this level that it’s so clear. That’s one of the reasons we can achieve great things together with this team spirit. We have world class players too and that’s a strong combination. Obviously it’s tough but we are aiming for very big things this season.’

LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met at the Madejski in the WSL last season, a first half strike from Stina Blackstenius was enough to separate the sides. At Meadow Park in March, Eidevall’s side were 4-0 winners with goals from Kim Little, Frida Maanum, an own goal from Emma Mukandi and a goal from Leah Williamson.

HIGHLIGHTS | Reading vs Arsenal (0-1) | WSL | Blackstenius settles it! – YouTube

THE OPPOSITION
Reading Women were once a stalwart of the WSL and an example of a club punching above their weight to be a competitive top tier side. That has changed in recent years under their current ownership with the club in a perilous financial situation, having repeatedly deferred salary payments over the last 12 months.

The pinch has very much been felt on the women’s side with a collection of top players leaving, few arriving and, last season, they were relegated from the WSL. Over the summer, the club took the cost cutting decision to make the women’s team semi-professional, which led to a further exodus of talent.

Reading are now skirting with the Championship relegation battle having formerly boasted talent such as Fara Williams, Mary Earps and Fran Kirby. Midfielder Sanne Troelsgaard Nielsen also left the club by mutual consent earlier this month as the club’s financial issues continue to bite. There are nascent reports of a club takeover in the coming weeks as the fans continue to protest bitterly against owner Xiu Li Dai.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Cloe Lacasse has only played 19 minutes of Arsenal’s last three WSL games, coming on in stoppage time of the last two. She will surely start this game and with Lina Hurtig injured again and Gio heading to Spain on loan, Lacasse’s ability to operate on both flanks will come in handy for Arsenal in the second half of the season.

Preferably Eidevall wants four wide players for the two spots but Hurtig’s injury issues and the fact that McCabe has been needed at right-back has restricted Eidevall to three players for two positions. Lacasse has not been a starter recently but I think her ability to cover both flanks will see that situation change in the coming weeks, though she will be away at the Gold Cup in February.

This game will be useful for the Canadian in terms of getting that match sharpness and providing challenge and support for Foord and Mead. Both of the aforementioned were on the score sheet against Everton and Lacasse will be very keen to make her point in Berkshire on Wednesday evening.

PREDICTED LINE UP

Subs: 1.Zinsberger, 3.Wubben-Moy, 6.Williamson, 9.Mead, 11.Miedema, 19.Foord, 21.Pelova, 23.Russo, 28.Ilestedt

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game kicks off at 7pm on Wednesday at Reading’s Select Car Leasing Stadium. The match will be streamed live on Arsenal.com.

COMING UP
We will have a full transcript of Jonas Eidevall’s post-match press conference on the site around an hour after the final whistle. We will also have a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast out for you in the coming days.

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WayBackWhen

Good game to get some “minutes” in for a few players.

I know that given everything that happened last year, Gary Lewin and his team will be monitoring “load” closely (and just observing from my screen, what do I know?). However, it makes me shift in my seat uneasily at the thought of Katie starting again. I hope it’s only for 45 if she does.

MartynJ

On the subject of shifting uneasily in one’s seat, it’ll be interesting to see how many players Reading have available… Remember, if you’re going to the game, take your own food.

Fun Gunner

😂

Daniel

You’d think we could give her a break tonight, Steph catley is available at left back, then you could play Foord ahead of her and let Katie start from the bench

Tim stillman

Yeah I think we’ll see some game sharing tonight, Katie and Caitlin to share this game on the left most likely.

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