Women's Super League: Can a resurgent Man City handle a new-look Arsenal?

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Man City have welcomed back Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze in recent weeks; Arsenal have made three new signings in a week with Leah Williamson penning a new deal; watch Man City vs Arsenal in the Women's Super League live on Sky Sports Football from 6.30pm on Sunday; kick-off 6.45pm

Can a resurgent Manchester City handle a new-look Arsenal when the two sides meet in the Women’s Super League this weekend, live on Sky Sports?

It has been 2022 of differing fortunes for the two teams. Arsenal are the current WSL leaders by four points and have lost just one league game this season.

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Meanwhile, Man City have seen their squad decimated by injury. It was a shock early on to see them languishing near the bottom of the table, perhaps even with one eye on the relegation spot.

But recent weeks have seen a marked turnaround for Gareth Taylor and his side, which provides a mother-watering prospect ahead of their match against Arsenal on Sunday evening.

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What’s behind City’s resurgence?

Women's Super League: Can a resurgent Man City handle a new-look Arsenal?

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Image: Lucy Bronze has returned to action for Man City in recent weeks

It’s not the most difficult answer for this one – the return of key players from injury has given Man City the vital boost they have been missing for much of the season so far.

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Perhaps two of the most important players to return have been captain Steph Houghton and right-back Lucy Bronze, who have been sidelined for much of the campaign.

Houghton has been out since suffering the ankle injury ahead of England’s meeting with North Macedonia in September, while Bronze underwent knee surgery in the summer.

Ahead of their return earlier this month, City boss Taylor said: “It’s great to have Steph back, she’s a big influence for us. She’s our leader, our captain. We’ve missed her.

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Highlights of the Women’s Super League game between Aston Villa and Man City

“Lucy is back and wasn’t able to make her comeback before Christmas. It’s a big boost for everyone to see them.”

It can also be said that City’s summer incomings are starting to find their feet. Vicky Losada has scored in her last four games in all competitions, showing all the class she had at Barcelona. Khadija Shaw also scored twice against Bristol City in the midweek Conti Cup win. Midfielder Filippa Angeldal has also featured in 10 of City’s 11 league fixtures this season.

And Arsenal are not the only side to have agreed some important contract extensions. Esme Morgan was the most recent player to pen a new deal, keeping her at the club until the summer of 2025, following Lauren Hemp – who is Morgan’s flatmate – and Houghton in committing their futures to City.

Oh it’s good to be back! 🤩💙@ManCity pic.twitter.com/Gpy6gcxa2Q

— Steph Houghton MBE (@stephhoughton2) January 5, 2022

But heading into the weekend’s match, there are still injury concerns. Morgan herself remains sidelined, along with City’s two first-choice goalkeepers in Ellie Roebuck (calf) and Karen Bardsley (hamstring). Chloe Kelly is also continuing her rehabilitation from an ACL injury, while summer singings Hayley Raso and Alanna Kennedy are on Asia Cup duty with Australia.

However, City are unbeaten in six matches across all competitions since their Manchester derby defeat to Manchester United in November. They have scored 25 goals and conceded just three, starting to rediscover the devastating form that has seen them become real title contenders.

Arsenal set to show off new signings

Ready to represent The Arsenal ❤️

🇸🇪 @SBlackstenius
🇦🇹 Laura Wienroither
🇧🇷 @Rafaelleleone pic.twitter.com/101Yyk80Wd

— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 19, 2022

But City won’t quite face the same Arsenal side that won 5-0 in the reverse fixture in September. This week alone, Arsenal have signed three new players, and Leah Williamson also agreed a new contract.

Let’s start with the new faces. Rafaelle Souza is likely to be a short-term solution at centre-back, joining after the expiry on her contract at Chinese side Changchun Zhuoyue. The move represents her first time at a European club and the first Brazilian to play for Arsenal Women.

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Sports journalist Flo Lloyd Hughes discusses Arsenal Women’s defensive signings from this transfer window – Rafaelle Souza and Laura Wienroither – on Good Morning Transfers

Anna Patten has already been allowed to leave on loan, although is expected to return next season to challenge for those centre-back spots along with Lotte Wubben-Moy.

Patten had been helping to deputise at right-back along with Noelle Maritz, although it is not naturally her best position. In helping to solve that issue, Arsenal landed the signing of Laura Wienroither from Hoffenheim and Eidevall sees her as a right-back.

“I see her primarily as a right full-back… She is very, very solid and mature in her decision making. I really think we can improve her attacking game in our environment to develop her even further.

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Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their first WSL defeat of the season last time out when they were beaten 1-0 by Birmingham

“I think it had been a limiting factor for us in the autumn that we had one natural right-back. We have lots of players that can play there but they play it a little bit different.

“I think that also didn’t bring out the best in Noelle Maritz because she had to pace herself during the tight schedule. So hopefully we can push her harder now and push harder in every position and that we understand that if you are tired, someone else can come in and play and do the same job. That was very much needed for us.”

Manchester City Women
Arsenal Women

Sunday 23rd January 6:00pm Kick off 6:45pm

Women's Super League: Can a resurgent Man City handle a new-look Arsenal?
Women's Super League: Can a resurgent Man City handle a new-look Arsenal?

Going forward, there had been plenty of speculation surrounding Sweden international Stina Blackstenius and a move to the WSL. Manchester United Women had been interested, but Arsenal beat their rivals to the 25-year-old striker.

Her arrival does also raise questions over the future of Vivianne Miedema. While there is, of course, nothing wrong with have striking options, Miedema’s contract expires at the end of the season.

The Telegraph’s Tom Garry recently reported that Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are targeting the striker’s signature, although she is willing to stay if the club can meet her ambitions. There will be a hope among Arsenal fans that these recent arrivals are going some way to convince Miedema to pen a new contract.

She’s one of our own, she’s one of our own…@LeahcWilliamson’s Arsenal journey continues ❤️ pic.twitter.com/mqt3NG5PCD

— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 12, 2022

One player who has put pen to paper on a new deal is Williamson, which could prove to be the Gunners’ most shrewd piece of business this season. Eidevall said of her: “As well as being a key player for us right now, she is also an integral part of our plans for the future – a player for us to build Arsenal around.”

The centre-back has spent her entire career at Arsenal, but has proven to be indispensable this season. She ranks top in the squad for clearances completed (17), possession won in the defensive third (22) and second for headed clearance (6).

Another interesting area of note is the age of these players. Wienroither is 23, Blackstenius is 25 years old and Williamson is still only 24 despite all of her achievements. Souza will bring her wealth of experience at the age of 30 to the Arsenal defence and has plenty to pass on to the younger generation coming through in the squad.

View from the Man City camp

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Sports journalist Flo Lloyd-Hughes updates on Manchester City signings from this transfer window on Good Morning Transfers

Man City manager Gareth Taylor: “It’s another game for us. Some teams are in better form than others. We struggled earlier in the season.

“It’s set up nicely, but the process remains the same. We focus on one game at a time. And after that we look to the next one.

“We expect a hard game, a tight game. We want to dominate as much as we can. We have to get the small details right. They had early success, scoring goals, high energy, and they have good attacking players like us.

“We’re looking forward to it. We are on our home patch again. It’s nice to be back at the CFA and now we want to get going on Sunday and that challenge in front of us.”

Man City vs Arsenal – Opta stats

Manchester City have won their last four home WSL matches against Arsenal, scoring 11 goals across these victories. Their last home defeat against the Gunners was back in May 2017, a 1-0 defeat.

Following a 5-0 win against Man City earlier this season, Arsenal are looking to complete a WSL double over them for the first time. That 5-0 win was Man City’s heaviest ever WSL defeat.

After scoring 11 goals in their first seven WSL matches this season, Man City have netted 17 in their last four matches, winning all four and conceding just twice across them.

Arsenal sit top of the WSL currently with 25 points from their 10 matches so far under Jonas Eidevall (W8 D1 L1). Although they lost 2-0 at Birmingham last time out, Eidevall equaled the record for most points won in a manager’s first 10 WSL games, with Shelley Kerr also winning 25 in her first 10 in 2013 as Arsenal manager.

Man City right-back Lucy Bronze: “I think we’re all excited that we’re playing at home against Arsenal. We know that we play well at home with the style that we like to play.

“We’ve got a lot of players back fit and the team’s ticking well at the minute. Arsenal are probably struggling compared to the form they had the last time we played each other – they were flying and were the team to beat and were doing so well.

“Since then, they’ve edged through the Champions League but they struggled and then also lost to Birmingham but you can take all that out the equation because ultimately, when both teams step on the pitch, it doesn’t matter about the last result and how much they beat us by or how many times we’ve beaten them before – it’s just about the two teams going head to head there in that moment.

“We’re quite confident and we know we just need to keep picking up three points and pulling ourselves up the league table slowly but Arsenal are going to be desperate to get points out of the game because they’ll want to keep that top spot.

“It’s a big game for both teams and hopefully, it’ll be a good game.”

View from the Arsenal camp

Women's Super League: Can a resurgent Man City handle a new-look Arsenal?

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall: “I wouldn’t say I have experienced any problem with the spirit [in the Arsenal squad]. We know what we need to do better, we know what we need to develop and I feel we are all very committed to carrying on with that.

“It’s the only way I know and the only way to go forward. The new players have been great additions to the squad as well.

“What’s more important when you’re playing a team likely City is you have to be really good in possession and out of possession. Then how long you will spend in the different phases is always very hard to predict beforehand. It’s not going to be part of our DNA to sit off and give city the initiative and let them have the ball.

“The game will be about control, in possession and out of it. But both teams that strive for a lot of control and the team that is doing the best job is the team that will win on Sunday.

“They’ve definitely been playing very well lately. Big credit to the players and to the coaching staff that kept on believing and developing during a tough time result wise for them. That takes courage and bravery to do so and they’ve done that very well – maybe they’ve been given too little credit for that.

“But I don’t think if it’s a good time or a bad time [to play Man City]. I like challenges in football, I like playing against the best teams and I want to play against strong teams as possible because it’s challenging and helps you be the best version of yourself.

“Playing against Man City really excites me. They’re a great football team, so are we, and we’re going to bring everything on Sunday and make it as good as possible.”

Women's Super League: Can a resurgent Man City handle a new-look Arsenal?

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