Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Chelsea Women v Arsenal Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal travel to Chelsea on Friday night in the WSL for the first meeting between these two clubs at Stamford Bridge. For the Gunners, if not quite a must win it is certainly a must not lose for their title ambitions. They enter the game three points behind the home side who also have a vastly superior goal difference to Jonas Eidevall’s side.

Any extension of that gap on Friday evening would realistically mean Arsenal would be looking at 2nd place and trying to avoid the first qualifying round of the Champions League for next season. A victory puts them right into the title mix alongside Chelsea and City and could see all three teams level on points by the end of the weekend.

Chelsea are in the grips of a month where they are scheduled to play eight times and have a Champions League quarter-final away leg at Ajax on Tuesday evening. Unusually for the Blues, they are also suffering something of an injury crisis. Sam Kerr and Millie Bright are long-term absentees, while Mayra Ramirez and Nathalie Bjorn, their effective replacements, are also doubts for this game.

With the game also being held at Stamford Bridge as opposed to Kingsmeadow, where Arsenal have a miserable recent record, might give Arsenal some encouragement. However, games against big opponents have not been as much an issue for Eidevall’s side this season, as we saw in the 4-1 win in the reverse fixture at the Emirates. Chelsea have gone for a more defensively solid model of playing in recent weeks and that is dangerous for Arsenal, as well as Chelsea’s undoubted quality.

TEAM NEWS


Amanda Ilestedt is out after announcing the happy news of her pregnancy earlier this week. Lina Hurtig (back), Vivianne Miedema (knee), Kaylan Marckese and Teyah Goldie (knee) are out while Laura Wienroither is close to a return following her recovery from an ACL injury. Emily Fox, Cloe Lacasse and Sabrina D’Angelo all return to the squad following the conclusion of the Gold Cup.

Available squad
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger 14.D’Angelo 40.Williams 86.Bouhaddi
DEFENDERS: 2.Fox 3.Wubben-Moy 6.Williamson 7.Catley 15.McCabe 27.Codina 62.Reid
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little 12.Maanum 13.Walti 21.Pelova 32.Cooney-Cross 61.Earl
FORWARDS: 9.Mead 19.Foord 23.Russo 24.Lacasse 25.Blackstenius 53.Lia

A WORD FROM THE BOSS
‘It is definitely harder to predict their (Chelsea’s) starting line-up than it was two seasons ago. They have managed a situation with a lot of injuries and unavailable players with having a big squad depth and being able to strengthen at short notice as well, which is a strengthening sign for them too to do that business within a short notice period and are ready to invest in that moment.

‘But it is hard to predict their starting line-up and then it comes to them strengthening relationships with more time together. When you are in that period you might have to focus on more basic principles rather than details. You see a very, very good team focusing on those principles, naturally, because that is where they are with the relationships at the moment. That is just the state of things.’

LAST TIME OUT
The teams met in December at Emirates Stadium and Arsenal ran out 4-1 winners thanks to a brace from Alessia Russo and goals from Beth Mead and Amanda Ilestedt. When this fixture was played last season at Kingsmeadow, Chelsea were 2-0 winners with goals from Guro Reiten and Magda Eriksson.

THE OPPOSITION
Chelsea have been rocked by major injuries this season, with Millie Bright missing for almost the entire campaign so far with a knee injury and Sam Kerr who ruptured her ACL in January. Striker Mia Fishel, who Chelsea bought during the summer as Kerr’s back up, also ruptured her ACL on international duty last month.

Chelsea were active in the January window to amend for these absences, signing Swedish defender Nathalie Bjorn from Everton and Colombian striker Mayra Ramirez from Levante. It has meant that Chelsea have been forced to integrate new players into the team at short notice and they have not looked as fluent as they usually do. However, as Chelsea often do, they are finding ways to win.

They won at Manchester City in the Conti Cup semi-final 1-0 and toughed out a cup tie at Everton 1-0 last weekend. They look more compact and despite their injury troubles, they are in the Conti Cup Final, the FA Cup semi-finals, the Champions League quarter-finals and top the WSL table. In her last few weeks in charge of the club before taking the USWNT job, Emma Hayes still has a quadruple in her sights.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Arsenal are replete with options in central midfield but I am expecting Jonas Eidevall to favour the trio of Lia Walti, Victoria Pelova and Kim Little, with the captain at the tip of that midfield triangle. The form of Walti and Pelova, as well as the partnership between the two, has been one of the finds of the season for Eidevall.

It means Little has often moved into a more advanced midfield position to play as a pressing number 10 and I expect her to assume that role again. If Chelsea lack one element it is probably a ball playing midfielder from deep areas- especially as Nusken will probably be required at centre-half. Manchester City had some joy recently nicking the ball from Erin Cuthbert, who has been playing in the deeper role for Chelsea.

Cuthbert is an elite ball winner and drives well in possession but isn’t always the neatest, tidiest player when collecting the ball from the centre-halves. I expect Arsenal to try to use Little to exploit that. Don’t be surprised if Little drifts right too, Chelsea play with right-footers at left-back (Niamh Charles) and left centre-half (Jess Carter) and I expect Little and Mead to pressure those players onto their weaker feet.

PREDICTED LINE-UPS

Subs: 7.Catley 12.Maanum 14.D’Angelo 24.Lacasse 25.Blackstenius 27.Codina 32.Cooney-Cross 62.Reid 86.Bouhaddi

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place on Friday evening at 7pm at Stamford Bridge, it will be screened live on Sky Sports in the UK.

COMING UP
We will have every word of Jonas Eidevall’s post-match press conference on the site shortly after full-time on Friday, as well as the on the whistle match report from Aidan Gibson. We will have some flavour of player access for the Arsenal Women Arsecast ahead of the Conti Cup Final on March 31st too.

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Stonks

Well if we beat Chelsea and then lose against Aston villa, what’s the point?

Peter Story Teller

With a positive attitude like that you should be a psychology coach! 🙂

Peter Story Teller

Play Cloe from the start. She and Meado will scare their backline witless!

Henkamp

Agree with the Cloe sentiment. She should be starting more games!

sumsang61

COYG’S

Baron

We’ve beaten them already this season. Gave them their heaviest defeat of the season thus far. Beat them again and we’re right back in it.
We can do this.
Good luck to our ladies.
COYGW 💪

Swedish gunner

Lets face it! We have to win this if we want to win the league. If we draw City will run away from us and Chelsea still 3 points ahead and their schedule is pretty good. I think we will have to win at City also because our goaldifference is far behind both teams. Like every other year, its not because of these matches we wont win the league. Its because losses against Spurs, liverpool and West Ham. You cant afford to loose to all three if you want to win the league. We have barely had 2 good matches… Read more »

Henkamp

For real, beating these title rivals and dropping points to the “smaller” teams stings. I still can’t seem to get over how we lost the title to Chelsea a couple of seasons ago because of a loss to BIRMINGHAM!

Peter Story Teller

Yep! Back then if the opposition stopped Viv then they nullified Arsenal. Now we have a different Achillies heel where we can’t beat a team with two rows of five in defence. Teams that try and beat us like the ones at the top of the league leave gaps that we can exploit but the middle order teams park the bus and we are buggered!

Colin Carey

There was talk of starting Russo and Blackstenius together. Seems he may be spoilt for choice

Peter Story Teller

They worked well together last time because Stina holds the centre and Lessi was always available at the back post so you had two chances to score from the same cross. Caitlin has a different instinct to Lessi and doesn’t get into the same positions.

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