This season’s surprise package so far Aston Villa Women face off against league leaders Arsenal at Villa Park on Sunday.
Both sides have enjoyed strong starts to the new Women’s Super League season under their respective new managers. Villa’s Carla Ward has guided them to two wins and a draw so far, while Jonas Eidevall has produced eight straight wins in all competitions for the Gunners.
It will be the biggest test of Villa’s mettle so far as they face the arguable title favourites in their bid to compete at the top of the WSL.
Villa have no new injury concerns heading into their clash with Arsenal. Winger Sophie Haywood has been a long-term absentee following an injury last season, but Villa have an otherwise fully fit squad. Defender Meaghan Sargeant returned from her injury in Villa’s previous game against Brighton, easing Villa’s only other injury concern.
As for the Gunners, they are also boasting a packed, fit squad. Viktoria Schnaderbeck returned following her long-term knee issue during Arsenal’s victory over Tottenham in midweek, further boosting Eidevall’s options. Former Villa star Mana Iwabuchi will also return to her former club, while new signing Tobin Heath could be given her full league debut at Villa Park.
Villa and Arsenal have met just twice in the WSL before, with both games coming last season.
The first match was a 4-0 drubbing by Arsenal, a game which featured a wonder goal from Kate McCabe. The ball came to the Irish international 30 yards from goal and she sent a rocket of a shot flying past Lisa Weiss at her near post. Vivianne Miedema, Jordan Nobbs and Beth Mead also got on the scoresheet as Villa’s relegation worries were compounded.
However, it was a totally different mood during the return fixture in May. It was the final matchday of the 2020/21 season with Villa just needing to equal Birmingham City and Bristol City’s results to secure survival. Arsenal battered Villa, but Weiss held firm this time to claim a 0-0 draw to keep Villa in the league. As a bonus, they leapfrogged their bitter rivals Birmingham to finish 10th.
Ones to watch
Villa’s new star striker Emily Gielnik opened her Villa account against Brighton last week and the Aussie will be looking to notch again at Villa Park. Gielnik has arrived at Villa with much excitement, with fans expecting her to finally be the source of goals that Villa have missed since the departure of Melissa Johnson in 2020.
Arsenal is a squad packed with stars, but arguably none are bigger than Tobin Heath. The American superstar was a somewhat surprise signing for Arsenal this summer following her departure from Manchester United. However, the childhood Gunners fan has settled right in at North London and will be looking to make her first league start on Saturday.
How to watch
The match will be shown live on BBC Two in the UK as well as being available via streaming on the BBC iPlayer. Kick-off is at 5:15 PM BST.