Our Gunners are ready to bounce back after a disappointing start to the Women's Super League season with an away clash against Manchester United this evening.
Fresh from signing a new long-term contract, Jonas Eidevall has taken this week to re-energise the squad ahead of our next stern challenge, as we aim to secure our first away win against United since 2021.
The fixture will also see the debut of our bespoke women's away kit, designed in collaboration with adidas and Stella McCartney.
Last time around
We failed to beat the Red Devils on either occasion last season.
A fantastic volley from Laura Wienroither and a fortunate lob from Frida Maanum looked like they would be enough to grant our Gunners a win in the home leg at Emirates Stadium. However, we were undone by two late goals from United and to make matters worse, Beth Mead’s match-ending injury would later be revealed as a season-ending ACL rupture.
Cut to April 2023 and we headed to Manchester on a great run of form, having beaten Manchester City in the league and knocked out Bayern Munich to book a spot in the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
However, little could prepare us for another devastating ACL injury - this time to Leah Williamson. As our then-captain hobbled off the pitch in the 15th minute, a hush fell over Leigh Sports Village from home and away fans alike.
Already without Kim Little, Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema, our squad showed a great deal of grit and character in the tie and were unfortunate to come away with a 1-0 loss.
A new-look United
Once a thorn in our side who scored against us in both home and away legs against United last season, Alessia Russo is now our number 23. She’ll be looking to make a statement on her return to her former club but Jonas Eidevall made a point to mark Russo’s consistency.
“Alessia is 100 per cent professional. She always trains with a lot of motivation but of course, it gets special when you return to play against a club where you have all your former teammates and former fans.
Following Russo’s departure, the Red Devils had a busy summer transfer window, recruiting the likes of Irene Guerrero, Hinata Miyazawa, Melvine Malard and Geyce to the club.
United took the WSL by storm last season, looking as though they were cruising to the trophy until a stumble against Chelsea allowed the Blues to capitalise. Still, their second-place finish was their best since joining the league in 2019 and Marc Skinner’s side will be determined to prove that last season was just the beginning.
Whether the Red Devils can continue that spectacular form remains to be seen. They survived a scare against Aston Villa’s 10 players in the opening game of the season and required a stoppage-time goal from Rachel Williams to secure three points at Villa Park.
Following tonight’s fixture, United’s challenging start to the campaign continues with a vital UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifier against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
Eidevall confirmed that Beth Mead will not feature in today’s matchday squad, but reiterated that our forward is “very close” to a return to the pitch.
The boss did confirm that Noelle Maritz is fit to play after the Swiss defender didn’t feature against Liverpool last weekend.
Meanwhile, Vivianne Miedema, Leah Williamson, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie remain on the sidelines through injury.
What the managers say
Eidevall on United: "I think it's a team that is very consistent in the way that they are playing, and they are very good football team. We have played some really good and even football matches against them in my two seasons here at Arsenal.
“I was not particularly happy with either one of our performances against them last season, I was definitely not happy with the results. I think we have a lot of motivation going up there to change those things around."
Skinner on us: "I am confident in every game. I am always confident, I believe in this team, I believe in what they can do. I believe that we can beat any opponent on any day, we have proven that. You want to capitalise on that but you also have to be aware of your opponent and what they can do.
“Arsenal have been one of the top teams in the country for many, many years. My players don’t need a psychological edge, they already want to beat every single team that they play. It will be a very difficult game."
Facts and stats
- We have never lost a Friday Women’s Super League fixture, keeping a clean sheet in all five previous games
- Alessia Russo could become the first player to score for both teams in this fixture. Our number 23 has scored on three consecutive occasions during this WSL fixture, with all of these goals coming for her former side
- Our Gunners have never lost four games in a row in the WSL and we have also never started a league season with back-to-back defeats
- Manchester United, meanwhile, have won their last eight league games. Discounting their clashes with Chelsea, United are unbeaten in their last 28 WSL fixtures
- We have won just one of our last seven away games in Manchester. Our last Women’s Super League win in the city came against Manchester United back in November 2021, with Katie McCabe and Vivianne Miedema on the scoresheet
- After scoring four times in just 13 minutes against Everton last May, we have not scored in the Women’s Super League since
How to watch
The action at Leigh Sports Village kicks off at 7.30pm UK time. Supporters in the UK can watch the game live on Sky Sports, with coverage starting at 7pm.
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