Friday, May 24, 2024

Manchester City Women v Arsenal Preview

THE LOWDOWN
Arsenal travel to Manchester City on Sunday afternoon in the WSL with the home side looking to take a giant step towards their first league title in eight years. Chelsea’s 4-3 defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday evening means Gareth Taylor’s side needs four points from their remaining two games to confirm the title, they also have a superior goal difference to Chelsea by eight goals.

However, Chelsea have a home game against already relegated Bristol City on Sunday evening where they can potentially make that goal difference gap up if City slip to the Gunners. For Arsenal, Chelsea’s defeat on Wednesday night keeps very faint hopes of 2nd place alive. If they win at City, they go above Chelsea in 2nd though Emma Hayes’ side will have two games in hand.

Eidevall admitted in his pre-match press conference that ‘a point does absolutely nothing for us’ so while the Gunners will be cruising for the win, City might regard a point as a good result with their final game away at Aston Villa to seal the title. They will have to play their final two games without star striker Bunny Shaw, who was crowned the Football Writers’ Player of the Year for the WSL on Friday.

In truth, Arsenal have little to play for but pride and Eidevall also suggested his team will take the integrity of the league very seriously and compete as well as possible. The Swede also hinted that his team can take inspiration from City, who finished 4th last season but kept faith with the coach and the core playing staff ahead of potentially winning the league this season.

TEAM NEWS


Jonas Eidevall confirmed that Vivianne Miedema will miss this game due to needing ‘small treatment’ on her knee. Leah Williamson is fit after being subbed at half-time during the 1-1 draw with Everton last weekend, Lotte Wubben-Moy should return from a foot injury. Sabrina D’Angelo will also return to the squad. Lia Walti (knee), Lina Hurtig (personal reasons), Kaylan Marckese (ACL) and Amanda Ilestedt (maternity leave) are out. Michelle Agyemang should be able to join the squad having finished her dual registration loan at Watford.

AVAILABLE SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger 14.D’Angelo 40.Williams
DEFENDERS: 2.Fox 3.Wubben-Moy 6.Williamson 7.Catley 15.McCabe 26.Wienroither 27.Codina 29.Goldie 62.Reid
MIDFIELDERS: 10.Little 12.Maanum 21.Pelova 32.Cooney-Cross
FORWARDS: 9.Mead 19.Foord 23.Russo 24.Lacasse 25.Blackstenius 53.Lia 59.Agyemang

A WORD FROM THE BOSS
‘Our mindset is to win. Let’s be honest, one point gives us absolutely nothing with regards to where we are in the league table. The only thing that can potentially give us something is to win. That is our aim and that is what we will do our very best to try to do.

‘(Bunny Shaw’s absence) changes the way they play, their main attacking threat when she is playing is to cross the ball to her and they have been very effective with that. They still cross the ball a lot but they cross in different ways when she is playing, so it changes the way they play. They are, first and foremost, a very good football team and they have shown through the season they can function with her and they can function without her.

‘It is going to be a very different game between us compared to City v Bristol. We are prepared for a very good City side, we haven’t won at the Academy Stadium for a long time and we want to do our very, very best to change that piece of history. Every position matters in the league and if we can finish 2nd, that is better than finishing 3rd, so we need to keep our focus.’

LAST TIME OUT
When the teams met in the reverse fixture in the league in November, Arsenal were 2-1 winners. Steph Catley’s early goal was equalised by Chloe Kelly before Stina Blackstenius scored a late winner. Though City defeated the Gunners 1-0 in the FA Cup in February with a goal from Laia Alexaindri. In this fixture last season, Kelly and Hemp were on the score sheet before a late consolation from Rafaelle saw Arsenal fall to a 2-1 defeat.

THE OPPOSITION
City had the best ‘expected’ goal difference in the WSL last season and were unfortunate to finish 4th. This season, without Europe and with a settled squad, City have put themselves in the driving seat to win a first league title since 2016. They gave boss Gareth Taylor a new contract at the end of last season despite finishing 4th and without silverware. But with a settled squad and coaching staff, City have thrived.

Taylor was initially given a one-year deal which has subsequently been extended by a further three years. Star winger Lauren Hemp was also persuaded to sign a new contract despite interest from Barcelona and Arsenal. In Bunny Shaw, City have one of the deadliest strikers in Europe but the Jamaican will be missing for this game after breaking her foot in the recent victory over West Ham.

Without Shaw, City will play a much more fluid front three of Hemp, Kelly and Mary Fowler. It remains to be seen how City deal with the expectation and pressure of the final two games given they are now heavy favourites for the title. But it would represent a big surprise if they did not manage to get over the line now, especially given their strong goal difference.

PLAYER TO WATCH


Signed from North Carolina Courage in January, American right-back Emily Fox has been a huge bright spot on the second half of the season for the Gunners. Her athleticism, as well as her comfort playing as an overlapping full-back, but also rolling inside into more central positions has given Arsenal a new dimension.

With Leah Williamson and Beth Mead also returning from injury during the campaign, Arsenal’s right-side is beginning to take shape again after some disruption earlier in the season. In the Conti Cup Final, Fox did a fine defensive job on Lauren James, who played on the left for Chelsea. In Lauren Hemp, Fox’s athleticism and defensive capabilities will be tested again to their fullest.

The ‘holy trinity’ of Williamson, Mead and Fox on Arsenal’s right is going to be very important, both with and without the ball. Arsenal have played against a lot of deep block teams recently and, in those games, Fox has popped up in more central positions and taken a lot of shots on goal. City certainly won’t play in a deep block so it will be interesting to see how her role evolves to meet that challenge.

PREDICTED LINE UPS

Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy 12.Maanum 14.D’Angelo 24.Lacasse 26.Wienroither 27.Codina 32.Cooney-Cross 40.Williams 59.Agyemang

HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The match takes place at City’s Joie Stadium and kicks off at 2.15pm on Sunday, it will be screened live on BBC Two in the UK.

COMING UP
We will have every word of Jonas Eidevall’s post-match press conference on the site around 60-90 minutes after full-time, as well as the on the whistle match report from Aidan Gibson. We will also have the usual match analysis piece on the site on Monday.

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Stonks

Feels great knowing that Chelsea won’t win any trophy this year. Their coach can fuck off, with her annoying rants…

Gunner H

Feels amazing & a welcome surprise, but swearing is uncool Mr Stonks.

Amor pelo futebol feminino

Is this Manchester City women’s first WSL title? holy trinity hahaha, I hope Stina breaks through, it’s a style of play that favors her a lot

Fun Gunner

It would be their second. But it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

Fun Gunner

It would be very us to rinse City having drawn with Everton….

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