Arsenal will host Manchester United on Friday in a revenge match as they try to bank some vital points in their bid to keep their top four status.
It’s been a slippery season for the Gunners who have been wracked with injuries. They have fallen way behind the pack as Chelsea and Manchester City dominate the title chase, with Man United also ahead of them in the Women’s Super League table.
The reverse fixture was to finish a 0-0 draw before Ella Toone struck in the dying embers of the match to seal the victory for the Reds. This time round, Arsenal will be eager to rectify their mistakes and build on their recent back-to-back 4-0 wins.
Former Gunners captain and England international Faye White spoke with GiveMeSport Women about the hiccups her old side has faced this season. She admitted that Arsenal have struggled to match the physicality of the top sides in the WSL, which in turn has seen them fall short of the mark.
“It’s the only part of the game that they’ve lacked in this season,” White said. “Sometimes you just have to win a game plain ugly but I think they want to play it Arsenal’s way all the time – it just hasn’t quite worked.”
Battle for Champions League
Arsenal are six points behind their upcoming rivals, who could secure Champions League football in just their second ever top flight season. But there’s still time for Joe Montemurro to kick into another gear and muscle United out of the top three. This mission starts on Friday – with a game in hand, the Gunners could close the gap to just three points and really heap the pressure on the WSL newcomers.
“They’re [Arsenal] going to have to have fire in their belly,” White continued. “They’re going to have to say ‘right, we need to get revenge because we shouldn’t have lost that other game’.”
The North Londoners have won just two of their last five fixtures, which is very out of character for a side known for their huge winning results. After drawing against Reading in their first match of 2021, the Gunners lost two games on the bounce before finally finding their form and beating Aston Villa and Birmingham comfortably.
With eight goals scored in those two fixtures alone, Arsenal are in great shape to rock Man United’s boat. White picked out the two members of Montemurro’s squad who she thinks will play key roles in pushing for the win over the Red Devils.
“Players like Vivianne Miedema – you know that she can perform and score some great goals. I think Katie McCabe is quite an influential player as well, a lot of the game always goes through her and she’s quite a big character in the squad as well.”
Indeed, between the duo, they contributed three goals and three assists across their last two wins. In addition to their attacking threat, Caitlin Foord has also been a force to be reckoned with. The Matildas star has nine goals and five assists in the WSL so far, putting her fourth in the league’s list of top scorers, ahead of the likes of Ellen White and Pernille Harder.
The midfielder will be eager to continue to assert her attacking dominance at Meadow Park on Friday.
Man United threat
Whilst Arsenal are the more established team, with three WSL titles and 14 FA Cups to boot, Man United have already shown that they can put them to the sword.
Armed with talent like Christen Press and joint 2020/21 club top scorers Toone and Leah Galton, the Reds have a good chance of making it a 100 percent success rate over the Gunners this season. White picked out some of United’s personnel who could give Arsenal a tough time when they meet this time round.
“Jackie Groenen is a player who is consistently starting for them and dictates their midfield,” she commented. “It’s hard to highlight just one of their backline but the Turners and Ona Batlle have been very consistent.
“Toone has had a good season as well for such a young player. There’s a few I could mention really but both teams have got a number of players who should be able to impact the game and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
This season BT Sport is showing more Barclays FA Women’s Super League matches than ever before. Watch Arsenal v Man Utd on BT Sport 2 from 6pm on Friday 19th March.