Arsenal go to Manchester City knowing that a draw is be the minimum result needed to keep up with the top of the table with United away to Reading and Chelsea away to Brighton.
The Gunners should have a slight advantage as City had to battle in a midweek Women’s Champions League tie, grabbing a 2-1 away win at Goteborg. Nevertheless, such is the Citizens strength in depth, they actually rested a couple of players in preparation for Sunday’s game against Arsenal.
City have had a slow start to their league season with a new manager coming in. They are already five points behind the leaders, Manchester United. It means they cannot afford to draw the game on Sunday and a defeat would probably mean the end of their title ambitions.
The injury list for the Gunners is quite small which is nice for a change
Lia Wälti, Noelle Maritz and Viktoria Schnaderbeck are the only casualties at the moment meaning Joe Montemurro will have to choose his starting XI from 18 players.
That’s quite a luxury for him and you have to think he will not make a change from the side that played well and beat Birmingham: Williams; Maier, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Gut, Little, Roord; Mead, Miedema, Foord.
Obviously, playing Manchester City is a different proposition.
History is also not on the Gunners’ side with no win at the Academy stadium since 2017 and a poor performance in the recent FA Cup semi-final.
There is no doubt that Arsenal have to control the midfield and get past Walsh and Mewis. This did not happen in the recent FA Cup tie, so the big question is who should play alongside Kim Little in the midfield three?
Should Malin Gut get the nod with Jill Roord in front of the double pivot? Or should a more experienced midfielder like Jordan Nobbs push alongside Jill Roord with Kim Little protecting the defence. The Danielle van de Donk option has been used there with negative results and should be discounted.
Finding the right balance is not easy without Lia Wälti.
Therefore, a tactical switch to 3-4-3 might happen. For example, the team could line-up as Williams; Williamson, Wubben-Moy, Beattie; Nobbs, Little, Roord, McCabe or Catley, Mead Miedema, Foord. The aim would be to occupy the right spaces and find openings in City’s defence as they have certain weakness at centre-back, even if they have solved many problems by playing Alex Greenwood there.
Arsenal will need to be at their best, especially defensively, to come back with three points and push City further away from the title race and the top three places that qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal play Manchester City on Sunday 13 December with a 2.30pm kick-off. The game will be shown live on BT Sport.