Almost 35,000 Gooners will descend on Emirates Stadium this Sunday as we face our latest challenge in the Barclays Women’s Super League: Aston Villa.
Victory over Carla Ward’s side in front of a roaring home crowd would well and truly kickstart our campaign.
Last time around
Our Gunners faced Aston Villa on three occasions last season, coming away as the victors twice. We came from behind to record a 4-1 win at Villa Park, before beating them 3-0 at Meadow Park on the way to lifting the Conti Cup trophy.
Our most recent league meeting, however, ended in defeat at the end of a long and gruelling season.
"I think that game at Meadow Park was a very odd game for us," said Jonas Eidevall, in his pre-match press conference. "We were totally depleted, as a squad, as a group. We had been fighting so hard. We just didn't have any energy at all.
"I think Villa played a good game, but we're at a totally different stage now with energy and motivation going into this season. I see this being a completely different game."
A disappointing start
Both sides head into Sunday in search of their first win of the season, after uncharacteristic starts to the Women’s Super League.
Despite an impressive fifth place finish last campaign, Carla Ward’s Villans have slumped to back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Liverpool, and will have a point to prove heading into Sunday.
Villa made a number of high profile signings over the summer, securing Dutch national goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar and promising young striker, Ebony Salmon. Former Gunner Anna Patten also made her loan move permanent, joining Arsenal legend Jordan Nobbs in the claret and blue.
On the absentee list, key midfielders Kirsty Hanson (suspension) and Kenza Dali (injury) will both miss the weekend’s action.
What the managers say
Eidevall on Villa: "I've only seen Aston Villa as a competitor for the last two seasons and they've been a very strong side under Carla Ward. They have been developing from a strong foundation.
"I've learned things every time we've played Villa, to be honest. They haven't had the same personnel available in their central midfield as they had for the majority of last season but I see a lot of the same things in a really strong Aston Villa side, as I did last season.
"I expect them to come to the Emirates and believe in their model and their identity. I think it's going to be an exciting game between two teams who really want to play football." - read every word of Jonas' pre-match presser
Ward on us: “They were excellent against Manchester United. I said it in pre-season and I’ll say it again… they’ve got a world-class squad.
"They’ve got a top manager. They can rotate and put a world-class XI on the pitch with whoever they select. And they’re a team who I really enjoy watching play. We’re under no illusions… we’re going to have to be at our best.”
Eidevall confirmed that despite managing a few minor knocks, no one aside from Vivianne Miedema, Leah Williamson, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie has been ruled out for Sunday's game.
As for Beth Mead's return to the pitch, our head coach had this to say: "We have one more training to go. If Beth goes through that training session, she should be 100 per cent ready for squad selection."
He also provided an update on Vivianne Miedema and Leah Williamson's progress, sharing that the next step for Miedema is gaining match fitness through training games.
Williamson, however, is further away from making a return. "Leah’s unfortunately not that close to playing, even if she's progressing very well," he said. "She's out on the pitch, which is really pleasing."
"With Leah, it's always been that there's no way she's going to return before Christmas. She is an after-Christmas player. In terms of what month after Christmas, it's impossible to predict that at the moment."
Facts and stats
- We have beaten Aston Villa four times in six Women's Super League meetings
Villa are one defeat away from opening their WSL season with three straight losses. They have only done this once before, losing to Manchester City, Reading and Everton in the 2020/21 season
- Katie McCabe has five goal involvements in six appearances against Villa in the league. She has scored three times against them, although all away from home
- Lia Walti has seven WSL assists in total but three of these have come for crucial last-minute goal. Most recently, our Swiss midfielder set up Cloe Lacasse for the equaliser against Manchester United last Friday. No player in WSL history has more 90th-minute assists than Walti
- Rachel Daly has been involved in 17 of Aston Villa’s last 24 league goals - excluding own goals. The England forward won last season’s Golden Boot and equalled Vivianne Miedema’s record for most goals scored in a single season (22). Her two WSL goals against us were separated by 11 years - in May 2012 for Notts County and May 2023 for Aston Villa
How to watch
The action at Emirates Stadium kicks off at 2pm UK time. Supporters in the UK can watch the game live on BBC One and iPlayer, with coverage starting 10 minutes before kick-off.