This Saturday will see Chelsea take on Arsenal in the Conti Cup final at The City Ground in Nottingham.
Emma Hayes’ side go into the final unbeaten so far this season, however, the Gunners have a wealth of experience under their belt, having reached the final an eight out of a possible nine times.
Chelsea will be looking to secure their first-ever Conti Cup which would keep the possibility of finishing the season with a domestic treble very much alive, whilst Arsenal could bolster their trophy cabinet with a record sixth cup should they win on Saturday.
The Blue’s currently sit second in the league, just one point behind leaders Manchester City who they have a game in hand over. Arsenal, also with a game in hand over City, are third, just three points behind Chelsea.
Chelsea have been victorious in both fixtures against Arsenal this season, winning 2-1 at home and 4-1 away, which will give them great confidence in their ability ahead of this weekend’s final.
Beth England has scored on both occasions against the Gunners this season, and following her impressive goal-scoring performance in their 3-3 draw to Man City last week, the England international will be an integral part to Emma Hayes’ cup final squad.
Earlier this year, the signing of Sam Kerr strengthened Chelsea’s already impressive attack, and the Aussie secured her first goal in a Blue’s shirt against Arsenal in January.
With Sophie Ingle being hailed as “as one of the best players in English top-flight football”, Ann-Katrin Berger pulling off a sensational penalty save against the league leaders last weekend and a glittering team performance thus far this season, it’s difficult to see Chelsea heading back to West London trophy-less.
What Arsenal will look to capitalise on, however, is Chelsea’s not-so-solid backline. Having conceded three against City last weekend, and failing to keep a clean sheet against the Gunners this season, Chelsea’s vulnerability is falling at the back. This, coupled with Arsenal’s experience in the competition, gives Joe Montemurro’s side ammunition to excel on Saturday.
Despite Chelsea’s unbeaten season, it would be naive to call Arsenal the underdogs.
Having made eight out of a possible nine finals, their cup competition experience is second-to-none and the Gunners know not to crack under pressure.
Although their record against Chelsea hasn’t been one to boast about this season, Arsenal had to overcome league leaders Man City to reach the final, and aren’t unfamiliar with scoring an abundance of goals this year, having put 11 past fellow WSL team Bristol City in one game.
Looking at Arsenal’s squad, it’s not the lack of quality that will alarm fans, but the lack of depth in comparison to Hayes’ Chelsea side. The Arsenal boss, Montemurro, is known to use a smaller squad, but this tendency could leave him drawing blanks should he need to call on his bench to help better Arsenal’s performance on Saturday.
The loss of Beth Mead and Lia Walti to injury is an unfortunate one, considering the size of Arsenal’s team, but despite their absence, Arsenal should have a strong enough squad going forward to take advantage of Chelsea’s backline. Vivianne Miedema has made all the headlines this season, whilst Katie McCabe and Lisa Evans have both constantly been finding the back of the net throughout Arsenal’s Conti Cup campaign.
Arsenal look sharp in the middle of the park on paper, with the likes of Jordan Nobbs, Danielle Van de Donk and now new signing Caitlin Foord, and the quality is there. It’ll be the consistency of this Arsenal team that could let them down, and should they concede first, they could well struggle to push on and compete.
With that said, England’s Leah Williamson has impressed all season and will play an integral part in keeping Chelsea’s attack at bay. The 22-year-old can help churn out results, no matter how scrappy, and where consistency may lack in other areas of Arsenal’s squad, it doesn’t where Williamson’s involved.
GMSW Football Team predictions:
What do our football team predict ahead of this weekend’s final?
Courtney: “It has already been revealed that Hayes’ has all her Chelsea players back in training ahead of the final, whereas Arsenal are missing a number of key players. Both sides have shown they’re vulnerable to conceding goals this season. Even for all of Arsenal’s experience in Conti Cup finals, I think Chelsea will prove too strong for Montemurro’s side, winning 4-2.“
Eleanor: “I’m hoping for drama and can see this being a tight one. Chelsea look the stronger team but you can’t deny Arsenal’s experience and record in the cup. Both teams are too good going forward to not score – I think Chelsea will just clinch it 3-2.”
Sam: “I’m going for a 2-1 Arsenal win; their experience will surpass Chelsea – being a Gooner myself I’m confident in my team. Arsenal may have got their tactics wrong when they last played Chelsea, but you could see how that loss affected them. Surely they can’t make the same mistake again?Undeniably it will be a tough game, but us Gooners put pride in the badge we wear. In a Conti-Cup final, there is no holding back – we will give it our all.
So on Saturday when I’ve got my Arsenal shirt on, BT Sports on the TV and a nice cuppa on the side, I know I will be ready to watch the most intense 90 minutes of the year so far.“
Jasmine: “Expect no love lost when these two teams face on Saturday afternoon. After Chelsea drubbed Arsenal 4-1 at Meadow Park in the Women’s Super League, the Gunners will be out for revenge. It’ll be a gritty, close fought match but I think Joe Montemurro has learnt from his mistakes the last time his team faced the Blues and will edge this one. Score: 2-1 to Arsenal.”
Aidan: “I’m expecting a close game, but one that Chelsea will win. I think the way they’ve played this season has been expectional – especially Beth England, who I can see grabbing a goal in the final. Score: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea.’
GMSW’s ones to watch:
Our Women’s Football Lead, Courtney Hill, has recognised Chelsea’s Reiten and Mjelde as her ones to watch for Saturday’s Conti Cup Final, having both had an extensive impact under Emma Hayes.
“Guro Reiten is arguably one of the best signings the league has seen in a long time. Her impact on this Chelsea side is immeasurable. She’s a player who makes everything look effortless from turning defence into attack to assisting and scoring, making her a complete midfielder. Watch out for Norwegian teammate Maren Mjelde, too. Mjelde is a natural-born leader and always seems to pop up in key moments when her side needs her – perhaps one of the most underrated players in the WSL.”
The Conti Cup final kicks off at 5:30pm on Saturday 29th February and will be shown live on BT Sport.