This afternoon’s 2:30pm kick-off in the FA Women’s Super League sees high-flying Arsenal travel to Adams Park to take on a Reading side who currently sit in sixth place, after what has been a somewhat inconsistent first half of the season for The Royals.
Arsenal enter the weekend leading the pack at the top of the FA Women’s Super League table on goal difference, after their 11-1 demolition job over Bristol City.
Joe Montemurro’s side are level on points with Manchester City and just three points ahead of previous leaders Chelsea, the only team to whom they have dropped points against so far this season in a 2-1 away loss.
After capitalising on the postponement of Chelsea’s game against Everton, which was originally scheduled to take place last weekend, The Gunners will be looking to cement their lead this afternoon with Chelsea and Manchester City playing one another earlier in the day.
Whilst The Gunners have only recorded one loss since the season began, Reading’s start to the season has been rather more varied. They have seen big wins against the likes of Everton and West Ham United coupled with some more surprising results, including a shock 3-3 draw with strugglers Bristol City and a loss to league newcomers Manchester United. In their most recent game, they needed a last minute Remi Allen equaliser to snatch a point from Brighton & Hove Albion, in what was a disappointing showing. It capped off a mixed month for The Royals, who will be looking to get back to winning ways as soon as possible, though facing off against the reigning FA Women’s Super League champions may not be the easiest place to start.
As we approach this weekend’s fixture, Arsenal will still be without Danielle Carter and Tabea Kemme, both in the midst of recovery from long-term knee injuries, whilst Katrine Veje is still a doubt after picking up a foot injury on international duty with Denmark. Elsewhere Katie McCabe missed the Bristol City fixture through illness but should make a welcome return this weekend, having enjoyed an excellent season so far. Kim Little was given a well-deserved rest last weekend, so we can expect to see the skipper back in the starting line-up this afternoon as well.
Reading are still missing captain and Wales international midfielder Natasha Harding, who suffered a hamstring injury that will sideline her until the New Year. However, Kelly Chambers’ side will certainly be boosted by the return of Jo Potter, who got her first minutes of the season in last week’s draw with Brighton & Hove Albion. It was Potter’s first appearance since fracturing her eye socket in April and the midfielder should continue her return to the side this weekend. In what has become somewhat of a usual occurrence for Arsenal in the FA Women’s Super League, Reading could field multiple ex-Arsenal players this afternoon, including vice-captain Fara Williams as well as summer signing Angharad James, who joined Arsenal aged 16, spending two years with the club. Ex-Arsenal academy players Molly Bartrip and Lauren Bruton could also feature for The Royals.
Montemurro’s Arsenal team will have momentum on their side coming into this game. They are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, a run that was capped off last weekend with their record-breaking 11-1 thrashing of Bristol City. It was a performance that manager Montemurro described as “brave” and he highlighted the “collective contribution” when we spoke to him post-match, a ruthless and simply sublime showing which saw every member of the Arsenal team play their part, but none more so than Vivianne Miedema. The striker scored six goals, the FA Women’s Super League’s first double hat-trick, and assisted four more, producing what is likely to go down as the finest individual performance the division has ever seen. Despite this, in her post-match interview last Sunday, Miedema was very honest, telling us that whilst she “feels a bit closer [to full fitness]” she is still not there yet and “can’t wait for the Christmas holidays”.
Montemurro described this afternoon’s match-up as a “big, big game” whilst Miedema called it a “must-win” so it is evident that they do not see the fixture as an easy three points in the slightest. Reading’s attack has been clinical so far this season but their defence has often been their downfall, having not managed to keep a clean sheet in the league since the opening day. This weekend they’ll come up against the many potent attacking forces which The Gunners have to offer, so this may be a recipe for a high scoring fixture, one that Miedema agreed would be “a tough away game” despite Arsenal’s good form. However, Arsenal’s defensive pairing of Leah Williamson and Jen Beattie, aided by their goalkeeper, November Player of the Month nominee Manuela Zinsberger, have done well to keep even the strongest team’s at bay in recent times.
Kelly Chambers’ side will certainly be expecting a tough 90 minutes as they prepare for a visit of a team capable of the very best.
By Lauren Coffman (@laurenjsport)