Arsenal Women have tough away title decider at Manchester City on Saturday in their second game of the season.
City won the League last time round, with the spring series only an eight-game League rather than 18. They finished unbeaten with a 13-3-0 record and had a 6-1-1 record in the Spring Series. They have a strong squad and all their players have been capped at international level (15 senior players, one u23, three u19 and one u17)
With such a strong squad, they had a quiet summer transfer window with three players coming in and the same number leaving. In came Claire Emslie from Bristol, Mie Jans from Brondby and Pauline Bremmer from Lyon while Kosovare Asslani went home to Linkopings, Toni Duggan made her well-publicised move to FC Barcelona and Lucy Bronze went to European Champions, Olympique Lyonnais.
City are, therefore, strong candidates to retain the League title with solid players in every position. The spine of the team is really strong with Karen Bardsley, Stephanie Houghton, Keira Walsh and Jill Scott. In the winter transfer window, they will also add the powerful Danish striker, Nadia Nadim, bringing more variety and firepower to their attack.
It is quite hard to pinpoint many weakness within their team.
Bardsley can be suspect from time-to-time with her handling and kicking but, in general, is well protected by her back four. McManus sometimes makes some mistakes, while the City passmap goes through Walsh and Bristol showed in the Spring Series how to target and block her gameplan, to the extent that she was subbed at half-time by Nick Cushing.
It looks like everyone is back except the two long terms injuries, Kim Little and Vyan Sampson. Louise Quinn is suspended following her red card against Birmingham. With Anna Miedema, who is expected to be back to full fitness, there will be a lot of interesting choices to be made.
Also impossible to predict with Pedro Losa, I am going to try my best. The system should be 4-3-3 as usual.
In goal, Sari Van Veenendaal is back from injury and the Euro winner will start
In defence I would expect Emma Mitchell to come in to the back four as the Heather O’Reilly at left-back experiment failed. Against strong forwards it could be a total disaster. So I think Jessica Samuelsson, Josephine Henning, Dominique Janssen, Emma Mitchell should start.
The midfield three is settled and should see Leah Williamson, Jordan Nobbs and Danielle Van De Donk in their usual 6,8,10 roles.
Up front, Danielle Carter should start along with Heather O’Reilly. Bethany Mead was superb against Birmingham and dropping her would be harsh.
Then, there is a choice between Jodie Taylor and Anna Miedema in the centre forward role.
Lisa Evans also made a good impact as a sub and therefore could be a contender for a start. I would go for O’Reilly, Taylor and Carter as the front three.
Final predicted XI:
Van Veenendaal; Samuelsson, Henning, Janssen, Mitchell; Williamson, Nobbs, Van De donk; O’Reilly, Taylor, Carter Subs : Moorhouse, Scott, Rose, Hinds, Evans, Mead, Miedema.
Lauren James, who turned 16 on Friday, looks like she could also be involved with the squad as she posted a picture of herself on the team bus to Manchester.