Thursday, April 25, 2024

Aston Villa Women v Arsenal Preview

Arsenal travel to Villa Park on Sunday evening in the WSL as Jonas Eidevall’s team aim to lick their wounds and get back to winning ways in the West Midlands. Last weekend’s tame defeat at Stamford Bridge has certainly taken the Gunners out of the title race and now they must focus to maintaining the distance to Manchester United in 4th and not turning the final weeks of the season into a race to preserve Champions League qualification.

Eidevall was philosophical in his Friday press conference, admitting that his team had been inconsistent this season and suggesting this game would be a good barometer for his team given the different formations Aston Villa have been able to adopt this season. Carla Ward’s side were recently swotted aside 4-0 in the Conti Cup semi-final at Meadow Park.

Arsenal raced into a four goal lead by half-time in that game and Villa moved to a back three in the second half, a system they retained in their recent league win away at Everton. It seems Arsenal will face a much more cautious and solid Aston Villa than the one they gleefully tore into in the first half at Meadow Park a couple of weeks ago.

In reality, there might even be a small sense that Arsenal might start to look towards next season a little in these final weeks of the league season and fans will want to see some sign of cohesion that has been lacking for large parts of this campaign. Mo players has possibly led to mo problems this season and that is a challenge that Eidevall and Arsenal are going to have to manage having decided that a big squad was necessary for a club like Arsenal.


According to @Abseits on Twitter, Lia Walti is out for the season. Arseblog News have not been able to directly corroborate this just yet however, we have found this account to be beyond reproach when it comes to information on Swiss players and teams. Vivianne Miedema (knee) is also out, while Laura Wienroither is close to returning from an ACL injury but might not quite make this match day squad. Amanda Ilestedt (pregnancy) is unavailable, as are Lina Hurtig (back), Teyah Goldie (ACL) and Kaylan Marckese (ACL).

Available squad
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger 14.D’Angelo 40.Williams 86.Bouhaddi
DEFENDERS: 2.Fox 3.Wubben-Moy 6.Williamson 7.Catley 27.Codina 62.Reid
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little 12.Maanum 15.McCabe 21.Pelova 32.Cooney-Cross
FORWARDS: 9.Mead 19.Foord 23.Russo 24.Lacasse 25.Blackstenius 53.Lia

‘In the Conti Cup semi-final they had a back four in the first half and a back three in the second half they were consistent playing that against Everton. How will they start, how will they finish against us? I think it is likely they will play with a back three but we need to prep for both. If you want to be consistent as a team and perform consistently as a team it comes down to situations, situations, situations.

‘What I mean by that is, whatever situation we face, do we have a clear idea and picture of how we solve that? They are a back three? We know how to play against that. They are a back four? We know how to play against that. They are a low block? We know how to play against that. They are pressing high? We know how to play against that.

‘It comes back to that team maturity, do we as a team and as a collective have a clear idea of what we are playing against and how we play against that? If you have that, you perform consistently. But the moment you don’t have the same idea about the situation, that is where inconsistency starts coming into the performances and that comes into not being mature enough as a team to be consistent. That is why this game is a good challenge because it is a team that can play different formations which really highlights how mature we are as a team.’

The teams met a little under two weeks ago in the Conti Cup semi-final and Arsenal won 4-0 thanks to a hat-trick from Stina Blackstenius and a goal from Frida Maanum. In the reverse fixture in the WSL, Arsenal went 1-0 down to a Maz Pacheco goal and turned the game around with stoppage time goals from Katie McCabe and Alessia Russo.

Arsenal faced an accommodating Villa side in the first half of the recent Conti Cup Final. The Gunners attacked the space in behind Maz Pacheco in the first half to great effect. In the second half, Villa switched to a back three, a system they retained for the 2-1 win at Everton last weekend.

Noelle Maritz was cup tied for that game but will be available on Sunday and that gives Villa the extra defender they need to play that system. Carla Ward’s side have been ravaged by injury this season and really only have three midfielders to finish the season and they have been playing defenders like Rachel Corsie and Lucy Parker in midfield at different points this season.

Like Arsenal, Aston Villa haven’t had the season they wanted and possibly expected. They will also be without Arsenal target Daphne van Domselaar in goal but they will also have former Gunners Anna Patten, Noelle Maritz and Jordan Nobbs in their team on Sunday. Since their promotion back to the WSL, Arsenal have won at Villa 4-0, 4-0 and 4-1 but I would not expect this game to follow that pattern.


With Lia Walti and Vivianne Miedema out, it is a chance for Kyra Cooney-Cross to get more game time. But it is also a good opportunity for Frida Maanum to have a consistent run in the team and rediscover the form that made her player of the season for 2022-23.

Without Walti, I will wager that Little will be wanted in the midfield double pivot since she has experience playing as a number six. That opens up an opportunity for Maanum to play in the advanced role that she made her own last season and to build a relationship with Alessia Russo upfront.

It is widely acknowledged that Maanum and Blackstenius have a strong relationship as a 10 and a 9 but that doesn’t mean Maanum cannot build a similarly strong relationship with Russo. With Little having played as a 10 this season, Arsenal might even be able to show some flexibility and swap Little and Maanum in the advanced position to lend unpredictability to Arsenal’s build-up and attack.


7.Catley 14.D’Angelo 19.Foord 21.Pelova 25.Blackstenius 27.Codina 53.Lia 62.Reid 86.Bouhaddi

The game takes place at Villa Park on Sunday evening at 6.45pm. It will be screened line on Sky Sports in the UK.

We will have full post match quotes from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Sunday evening. We will also have an Arsenal Women Arsecast looking ahead to the Conti Cup Final next week and on Friday, we will have an interview with Beth Mead on the site.

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Fun Gunner

That’s awful about Lia Wälti. Any idea about what sort of injury it is? Lucky that we have so many good midfielders, but we always miss Lia.
Russo, Blackstenius, Lacasse/Mead would be nice to see as a front line.
I hope they are fully focused on Aston Villa tomorrow, not thinking about the Conti Cup and revenge.
Good luck, girls! Go get yourselves a morale-boosting win


Why no hotel on Easter holidays and now delaying the game by 45 minutes? What’s going on at Arsenal, have there been a change of staff? Two games now and there’s been mistakes affecting the KO time. Not good preparation for games for the players.

Peter Story Teller

It’s not even Easter until next weekend!

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