Following a dramatic late winner in their opening league fixture against Notts County Ladies, City will be hoping to extend their good start to the season with a win over one of this season’s title favourites, Arsenal Ladies.
City met Arsenal early last season, with the Gunners coming away from the Academy Stadium with the spoils following a 1-0 win. Starting last season so poorly cost City the league, picking up just 5 points out of a possible 15 pre-World Cup. Come the end of the season, City won’t want to look at their early results with the same disappointment, and a win over title-rivals Arsenal will help to avoid this scenario.
Arsenal have strengthened over the summer, bringing in the likes of England’s highest-capped player Fara Williams and talented forward Asisat Oshoala, both from Liverpool, and England striker Jodie Taylor from American team Portland Thorns. It’s clear that Arsenal have strength in depth this season.
Meanwhile, City go into the game with a first team that picks itself. With Jen Beattie being spotted sitting in the stands during the second half against Notts County Ladies, despite being named on the bench, City have just one senior player fit enough to definitely make the bench in back-up goalkeeper Marie Hourihan. Beattie may well be named on the bench again, while presumably carrying an injury, but it’s likely that she’ll only come on if absolutely required. One thing is for certain, however; the return of Georgia Stanway from international duty with England’s U-17s in Serbia can’t come soon enough, and will give City much-needed cover in midfield.
City can beat Arsenal, but will need to show some of the same class as they did in their 3-2 win over the Gunners in the reverse FAWSL fixture last season if they are to do the same this time around. Two of City’s three goalscorers, Bronze and Duggan, are likely to start, so hopefully it’ll be a repeat performance.
With City’s injury worries, Arsenal are favourites going into the game, but if City can be disciplined in defence and keep Arsenal’s swathe of lively attacking players quiet then City have a chance of grabbing the points. If City are to score then slick passing and decisive attacking instinct needs to be shown, both sadly lacking against Notts County. City need to turn up this week and play very well from the first whistle if they are to win, especially with no options to change things from the bench.
Steph Houghton. Houghton’s performance against her former club will be key to the outcome. Must organise the defence well and will probably need to make a few excellent, typically-Steph tackles if City are to keep Arsenal at bay. It’d be excellent if she could come up with another 93rd minute free-kick winner, with most City fans probably willing to endure another awfully-tense nail-biter of a game in exchange for a 1-0 last-minute win.
Asisat Oshoala. The Nigerian forward was crowned 2015’s BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year and looked lively in Arsenal’s opening FAWSL match against Reading on her debut, hitting the post following a lovely lob and scoring after rounding the keeper. She scored against City last season for Liverpool and is definitely one for Houghton’s defence to watch.
KO: 28th March 2016, 3pm, Academy Stadium
Expected City XI:
Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton, McManus, Stokes, Corboz, Scott, Asllani, Duggan, Parris, Ross.
City 1 – 1 Arsenal
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Written by Jill Peacock