Arsenal kick-off season at home to Reading
- Credit: PA
Arsenal Women kick off their new 2020-21 FA Women’s Super League season tomorrow (Sunday) at Meadow Park against Reading.
The match will be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic and current government regulations.
The Gunners finished third last season while the Royals ended the curtailed campaign in fifth.
Arsenal will go into the game with a competitive match already in their system as they were beaten 2-1 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on August 22.
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Arsenal will be without Katie McCabe for the opener as she has a suspension that will be carried over from last season.
Joe Montemurro could hand league debuts to Steph Catley, Malin Gut and Noelle Maritz but fellow summer signing Lydia Williams is unavailable due to an ankle injury picked up in pre-season.
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Centre-back Jennifer Beattie is being monitored by Montemurro as she picked up a recurring back injury in the game against PSG limping off early in the second half to be replaced by Viktoria Schnaderbeck.
For Reading Danielle Carter and Emma Mitchell who left Meadow Park this summer make an instant return to Arsenal as they could be handed their debuts for Kelly Chambers side.
The Royals have also signed New Zealand International goalkeeper Erin Nayler, Deanna Cooper from Chelsea and Welsh captain Jess Fishlock.
Fishlock is a signing with major calibre as she helped Lyon win the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2018-19 before moving to OL Reign in the USA.
The Royals could play a 4-2-3-1 formation that Kelly Chambers deployed against the top teams last season.
As for Arsenal they could also play a 4-2-3-1 like they started with against PSG with the spine of the team being unchanged.
Leah Williamson and Jennifer Beattie if fit start at centre back with Lia Wälti anchoring the midfield as Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs partner one another in midfield with Vivianne Miedema leading the line.
What’s been said?
Joe Montemurro “The WSL is becoming probably the best league in the world with the attraction of both players and the commercial value of the league so definitely a league where you want to be the best you can be.
“We try to make a statement every time we step out on the field as Arsenal.
“We try to play our style of football and try to make sure we represent the club in the best way possible and give our fans the joy they deserve and football the standard it deserves.
“It’s all about mentality, to be competitive in any league you need to win and make sure you maintain a level of consistency through the games you are expected to win.
“Reading are a very, very, good team, there are a lot of good teams so it’s going to be even more important this year because there are five or six teams that could unlock you and could surprise you.”
Kelly Chambers said: “It’s exciting to get going again. “It’s surreal to think that just a few months ago we weren’t even talking about returning and now we’re in full flow.
“In terms of getting the season kick-started, what a way to start away to Arsenal! But I think that with the signings that we have brought in our squad is definitely strengthened and the characters that we have brought in are true professionals and second-to-none.
“I’m excited to watch them step out onto the pitch for the first game.
“The signings are a statement from the club, we’re always in a position where we’re developing every year and it’s getting to that point now where we’re thinking ‘when are we going to break that top 3?’
“Bringing the likes of Jess, Dan, Mitch and Deanna they’ve all come from top, top clubs, and their experience at playing at this level is going to be great for everybody.
“They’ve settled in like they’ve been here for years which is great and hopefully they can show that on the pitch on Sunday.
“For us we’ve always had big ambitions. We want to win trophies, and if that’s in a cup fantastic.
“We need to set our sights on that, we’ve been close in previous seasons and now, for us, we definitely want to pick up a trophy and compete higher up in the league, especially with that third place in the league going into the Champions League. It makes the whole league competitive.”
When they last met:
Arsenal met Reading twice last season once in the league and once in the Continetal Cup.
The League game at Adams Park ended in a 3-0 victory for the Gunners with Vivianne Miedema scoring twice with a superb Kim Little team goal in between.
In the Continetal Cup it was a well fought contest with Little scoring a late winner to send Joe Montemurro’s troops into the semi-final of the tournament.
Arsenal have scored a total of 21 goals in the last eight league meetings between the sides.
Should Reading win this weekend it will be their first win over Arsenal in WSL history Arsenal have won 7 of their meetings in the division and they’ve drawn once.
Potential match winners:
Vivianne Miedema - Miedema was the leading goalscorer in England and the Champions League last season.
The Netherlands international wracked up 16 goals in the WSL and also registered 8 assists.
She scored twice against the Royals last season chipping the ball over Grace Maloney on both occasions.
Caitlin Foord- Australian international might be used as an impact substitute on Sunday afternoon but she could be the match winner in this game.
She’s quick and direct and could use that to her advantage in getting in behind the Royals defence.
Foord netted on her debut against Lewes before impressing a week later in the Continetal Cup final against Chelsea however with the Coronavirus pandemic she only played twice since arriving in January.
She came on against PSG and nearly had an impact crossing low for Miedema but her effort was well saved by Christiane Endler in the French sides goal.
Danielle Carter - Carter joined the Gunners from the Leyton Orient Centre of Excellence in 2009 and went on to make 184 appearances for the club, scoring 60 goals. She could make her debut for the Royals back at Arsenal this weekend. If she remains fit and will be a huge asset to them this season.
Fara Williams- England’s most capped player with 172 caps ,Fara Williams is another former Arsenal player in the Reading team. She switches the play so well and is a real danger from set-pieces.
Last season Williams played all 14 of their league games contributing to 1217 minutes she scored five league goals and registered six assists.
She also created 96 chances and made 572 passes 40 of those being key passes.
How you can watch?
The match is being broadcast live on the BBC Red Button on Sunday September 6 at 12.30, overseas viewers can also watch the game on NBC Sports.
NBC Sports will show 50 live Women’s Super League games during the 2020-21 season the US network revealed on Wednesday.