Arsenal Ladies face Reading Ladies in the Continental Cup on Thursday night, and here’s what to expect.
Reading lost their top scorer during the transfer window with Fran Kirby moving to Chelsea Ladies for a fee rumoured to be between £50,000 to £80,000, depending on the paper you were reading. They are still scoring for fun and will surely be promoted to WSL 1 at the end of the season.
Last year’s game was the first ever defeat by the Arsenal against a lower division side in the cup. Reading, led by Jayne Ludlow, beat Shelley Kerr’s unbalanced squad and it was the beginning of the end for the Scottish manager. Both sides have moved on with new managers and tactics but it should be a tough game for the Gunners.
Opposition key players
Emma Follis, the right-sided winger, is now the team’s top scorer. Irish playmaker Lois Roche has scored direct free kicks in consecutive weeks. Irish goalkeeper Grace Maloney is the number one choice and has just been called up again for her country’s senior squad. Defender Kylie Davies is a regular for club and country at centre back, Arsenal were interested in signing her back in 2006/07 but it didn’t happen.
Clearly, Reading have players who will test Arsenal all over the pitch.
Both sides have a chance to go through to the quarter-finals. Arsenal are currently in second place behind Chelsea on goal difference. A win would send the Gunners through while a draw would be likely to be enough to qualify as one of the best third-placed team.
A defeat would put Reading level on points with Chelsea and Arsenal with the final game being Millwall away for the Gunners and another chance to go through.
Playing both sides
Lauren Bruton came through the age group at Arsenal made her senior debut at 16 and left due to the lack of first team opportunities.
Lois Roche came through the age group and the Arsenal Academy, where Laura May Walkley played for two seasons. Bianca Bragg and Molly Bartrip also came through the Arsenal Academy, but left due to the lack of first team opportunities.
Meg Ryan came through the age group and captained the Arsenal Ladies reserve team that won the FA WSL development cup.
Helen Ward arrived from Watford and scored a few for the first team, but moved away as she was not getting many games up front.
Who would you have ?
Emma Follis the England U23 right winger would be the perfect addition with her ability to beat players one on one, a profile not available in the current Arsenal squad.
Arsenal: Van Veenendaal; Corredera, Stoney, Rose, Mitchell; Bailey, Janssen, Nobbs; Carter, Sanchon, Ubogagu.
Reading: Moloney; Jane, McGee, Davies, Jones; Roche, Rowe, Bragg; Follis, Ward, Watts.