Arsenal face Manchester City at Meadow Park in the 5th Round of the FA Cup on Sunday in a make or break game for the Gunners’ season. Last weekend’s defeat at West Ham made a huge dent in their league title bid and with no Champions League football in the second half of the season, the reality is that the domestic cups have a lot riding on them for Arsenal.
Wednesday night’s Conti Cup quarter-final at London City Lionesses being postponed was far from ideal for Jonas Eidevall, who likely would have used the game to mix up his team selection a little and qualification for the Conti Cup semi-final might have lifted the players and supporters a little prior to this crunch clash.
— arseblognews (@arseblognews) February 9, 2024
Arsenal have an excellent record against Gareth Taylor’s team at Meadow Park, beating them all four times that Jonas Eidevall has presided over this fixture. It is a curiosity that this fixture is so often won by the home team with Arsenal not winning at the Academy Stadium since May 2017.
The reality is that these games are almost always tight, nail biting affairs, with the last three of them being won by a one goal margin and last season’s Conti Cup semi-final at the ground requiring extra-time to separate the teams. This is going to be another tight game decided by small margins, most likely, and Arsenal need to ensure those margins go their way.
Katie McCabe returns from a one-match suspension served at the West Ham game on Sunday. Lina Hurtig (back), Laura Wienroither (ACL) and Teyah Goldie (ACL) are out.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger 14.D’Angelo 40.Williams 86.Bouhaddi
DEFENDERS: 2.Fox 3.Wubben-Moy 6.Williamson 7.Catley 15.McCabe 27.Codina 28.Ilestedt
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little 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 THE BOSS
‘These are the games we look forward to the most, it is going to be an exciting challenge for us. We have happy memories of playing City at Meadow Park, we have won them all since I arrived but they have always been quite intense and challenging games, apart from the first one we won 5-0. The games have been decided on small margins and you need to work very hard as a collective to get those.
‘We know and understand that will be the case this Sunday. In football you never know which moment is going to provide the small margin. That is what makes it such an intriguing and fascinating game. If you knew exactly which second to switch onto it it would be easy.
‘But there are hundreds of potential situations that can be game deciding and you need to treat every moment that way, otherwise you are not doing your utmost with the things you can control. That is the challenge and the team that is going to do that best is going to get the result on Sunday.’
LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in November, Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners. Steph Catley opened the scoring in the first half before Chloe Kelly’s second half equaliser. Stina Blackstenius came off the bench to score a late winner that day.
City found their pre-seasons incredibly disrupted in 2021- by injuries- and 2022- by departures. This year, they had a far quieter pre-season, holding onto the players they wanted to hold onto and added Jill Roord to their attack. That increased peace and quiet over the summer has translated onto the pitch where City have established themselves as the main title rivals to Chelsea.
GARETH 💬 (On team news) Kerstin [Casparij] is back training. Outside of that, just Steph [Houghton] with her recent injury and Jill [Roord] pic.twitter.com/QwYuy3lZt1
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 9, 2024
In the Hemp, Shaw and Kelly front three, City have one of the most feared attacks in Europe. Jonas Eidevall described City as ‘the best crossing team in women’s football’ and it’s not difficult to see why. City have completed 45 crosses into the area this season, the most in the WSL. Arsenal have the second most on 32. With Kelly and Hemp out wide and Shaw in the middle, City’s threat is obvious but no less potent for its clarity.
City do have a few contractual issues to sort before the end of the season, with Lauren Hemp’s deal in its final months and boss Gareth Taylor also in the final months of his contract. Roord, who had done so well as City’s box crashing presence, recently obtained an ACL injury. But City have won their last nine games, they are the form team coming into this tie without question.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Lia Walti was voted as Arsenal.com’s Player of the Month for January and rightly so. Walti’s ability to collect the ball from her defenders, snuff out danger in front of the back four and recycle the ball on both feet are well established. However, her creativity on the ball is often underplayed.
Walti is one of Arsenal’s finest exponents of the through ball, which is why her presence was retained during the defeat at West Ham even as the likes of Pelova, Miedema, Foord and Mead were subbed. Her assist for Beth Mead in the recent 2-1 win over Everton on her left foot was an excellent illustration of her ability to find a cutting pass with either foot.
Arsenal will need Walti’s ability in tight spaces as well as her line breaking passing against City. In Yui Hasegawa, City have an excellent proponent of the deep lying playmaker role. Walti has pushed into more of a left central-midfield role in recent seasons. It will be fascinating to see who gets the nod next to Walti between Little, Pelova and Cooney-Cross, but Walti’s position seems to be the undisputed one for now.
PREDICTED LINE UP
Subs: 6.Williamson 11.Miedema 12.Maanum 14.D’Angelo 19.Foord 24.Lacasse 25.Blackstenius 27.Codina 32.Cooney-Cross
HOW TO WATCH
The game takes place at Meadow Park on Sunday at 12.30pm and will be shown live on BBC Two in the UK.
Hopefully you saw our Arsenal Women Arsecast exclusive with Manu Zinsberger on Friday. We will have full match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Sunday afternoon as well as the on the whistle match report and our post-match analysis piece on Monday.