This week’s matchup features a pair of top four teams that have had very different runs as of late. Manchester City have been on fire. Since coming back from the holiday break, they have three wins in three matches. In those matches, the Citizens have scored 18 and conceded only once.
Arsenal, on the other hand, is still looking to get going since the break. This is the big test for the Gunners. They have played only one match since December 20th, that being a lackluster draw against Reading. Will Arsenal be able to bring up a quality performance against a City side that thoroughly dominated the last time these teams met?
The return of Aoife Mannion from injury and the signing of Abby Dahlkemper from the NWSL make an already terrific City side even better. Gareth Taylor’s squad is playing excellent football right now and is extremely fun to watch. At this point, the only problem for the Blues is an embarrassment of riches. The last three league matches have featured ten different goal scorers for City, and that without standout Sam Mewis, who has been home in the U.S. playing for the national team. Caroline Weir has been nothing short of amazing lately, and scored the winner against the Gunners the last time these teams met.
City is coming into form at just the right time. Following Sunday’s match, they head into the Manchester Derby against top of the table Manchester United on Friday. Wins in both of these matches would put the Citizens atop the table with Chelsea. With key injured players returning, great new signings, and a squad that is firing on all cylinders, City is looking unstoppable right now.
Arsenal has their work cut out for them. The team has to put in a better effort than they did against Reading, and they have to put out a massive work rate to combat the effects of the long layoff. This week will be the story of Arsenal’s season. Following Sunday’s tilt with City, the Gunners face off against Chelsea on Wednesday, February 10th. Chelsea has had the better of it against Arsenal recently, but the Gunners were the stronger side by far the last time they met. Indeed, only a very late deflected own-goal gave Chelsea the draw.
Arsenal needs to get back to that form. Their match again Aston Villa being postponed last week was the worst thing that could have happened to the Gunners – they needed to get some minutes in the bank. Manager Joe Montemurro has been trying to find his best line-up, but it has eluded him in the past few matches.
The Gunners have the talent to beat any team in the league, but they have recently not been able to play as the well-oiled machine they were in the beginning of the season. The team made but one move during the recent signing period, a sign that they are confident with their current roster.
Looking for some changes to the starting 11 that faced Reading, Montemurro will value experience and expect to see that reflected on the pitch. Captain Kim Little’s tremendous vision and knowledge will be key for both the Arsenal attack & defence, while Caitlin Foord is absolutely vital to an attack that was held to just two shots when last they faced City.
Lydia Williams (GK)
Leah Williamson, Katie McCabe, Jen Beattie, Leonie Maier
Kim Little, Lia Walti, Malin Gut
Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema, Caitlin Foord
Manchester City 4-3-3:
Ellie Roebuck (GK)
Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Abby Dahlkemper, Alex Greenwood
Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir
Chloe Kelly, Ellen White, Lauren Hemp
Ones to watch
The way City is playing, any woman wearing a blue kit is one to watch. Their back line may be the best final four on the planet right now. Dahlkemper’s debut last week showed how well she can control a game; Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton have been playing at the top of their game.
Houghton became the first player in WSL history to record 150 appearances and continue to be one of the most deadly players in the world on a free kick. Alex Greenwood has been solid at left back to finish their back line. Look for Weir to continue her run of tremendous attacking football.City also hope to have Janine Beckie back, providing another spark on the offensive side of the ball.
For Arsenal, Vivianne Miedema is always one to watch. The WSL’s all-time leading scorer, she is a threat every moment she is on the pitch. Miedema scored the Gunners only goal against City in the 2-1 loss last time out; she has 12 goals on the season to lead the league.
Captain Little will be of utmost import to keeping her squad focused and controlling the midfield. Foord has been very consistent for Arsenal, contributing six goals and five assists this season. She, Miedema, and Beth Mead are an awesome offensive force when they are on the same page. If Leah Williamson can feed the Arsenal forwards that wonderful long ball that she is capable of, those forwards can do some damage.
City took the three points with a 2-1 win at Academy Stadium that was not as close as the final score would suggest. Miedema scored on Arsenal’s first shot of the match in the third minute.
The Gunners recorded just one other shot for the rest of the match. City’s defence was outstanding and stopped every attack. Meanwhile, their press forced giveaways throughout, and Mewis scored the equalizer at 30 minutes. Despite being outplayed, losing the possession battle, and conceding several corners, the Gunners still looked to salvage a draw. Unfortunately for them, with less than a minute to go in injury time, Weir blasted home the winner on a bad clear. Can the Gunners get revenge on Sunday?
How to watch
Sunday’s match will be played at Arsenal’s Meadow Park, with kickoff scheduled at 14:30. The match can be viewed internationally on the FA Player. The match is also available on the following platforms:
United Kingdom: BTSport.com, BT Sport App, BT Sport 1
USA, Germany & Italy: Atafootball.com
Canada: Sportsnet World Now, Sportsnet Now, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet West
Iceland: Viaplay Iceland
Ireland: BTSport.com, BT Sport App, BT Sport 1
Israel: Sport 1