Arsenal will kick-off their Women’s Super League season this coming Sunday, as a new era for the women representing the cannon inaugurates under the tutelage of Jonas Eidevall. Renowned investment in women’s team and matches at the Emirates Stadium followed by promised facilities at London Colney speaks a lot about the project Jonas and Vinai are taking stock of.
Jonas Eidevall did get a head start over a prospect to get to know his squad and get the ladies accustomed to his way of football as Arsenal started their campaign with Champions League qualifying which started two-and-a-half weeks before the domestic season. This has not allowed a deeper break to the Gunners, particularly those who were a part of the Olympics in Tokyo.
The Gunners brought in some commendable reinforcements with long-term target Mana Iwabuchi finally joining the North London side which was followed by Nikita ‘lilkeets‘ Parris return to England, Simone Bøye Sorensen in the backline from Bayern Munich, and Frida Maanum from Sweden’s Linköpings. Along with the impressive incomings, Arsenal also managed to keep hold of Vivianne Miedema, the best striker in the world, and a one-year contract extension of Leah Williamson.
The new arrivals have taken no time to settle right in with Iwabuchi’s dynamic “across the front” style of play with an incredible weight of pass and the ability to dribble defenders into oblivion if given time on the ball, she excels in tight areas, using incredible power and guile to split, jockey, and spin defenders regularly. On how the club’s new creative engine has adapted to life in North London, manager Jonas Eidevall said, “It’s always easier to adapt to a new team when you are very intelligent. Mana is adapting so quickly too because all of the other players are really intelligent.” Nikita Parris has also been taking strides from the right flank, although she looks a bit rusty – she’d get back to her best with minutes in legs. A dream forward for any team, Nikita Parris adds a lot of spark to this current Arsenal team. While new manager Jonas Eidevall will bring his dynamic style of play to the club, Parris can certainly ease this process. Frida Maanum has seamlessly made her place in the middle of the park, while Bøye looks right at the heart of the defence.
For Chelsea, their title defence just got a lot tougher considering how the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City have strengthened their squad – but the blues have made some commendable buys as well. Lauren James arrives from Manchester United and will compete for a spot in the attacking trio with Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr, Bethnay England, and Pernille Harder. The Blues also brought in a 22-year-old ball-playing defender from PSV Eindhoven in Aniek Nouwen. Emma Hayes has been selling Nouwen since the word go, “I have no doubt Aniek is one of the best young defenders in the world and has a very bright future.” Chelsea have also extended the stay of Ann-Katrin Berger on a three-year deal with the German goalkeeper being the center of playing from the back. Yet, letting go of Hannah Blundell (to Manchester United) is still questioned by alot of supporters considering she was a main-stay in Chelsea’s defence. Its also to be seen if Jessie Fleming is given her chance after impressing for Canada in their Olympics triumph.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Date: Sunday, 5th of September 2021.
Time: Kick-off at 12:30 BST.
Arsenal will welcome back Jonas Eidevall on the sidelines after he traveled to Sweden to get his family’s visa and Aaron D’Antino took charge of proceedings Slavia Prague. Leah Williamson returned for the Gunners on Tuesday night after having missed the flight to Moscow owing to personal reasons. Viki Schnaderbeck and Malin Gut will still serve the sidelines with knee and ACL injury respectively, alongside Jordan Nobbs, who is out after getting operated on her ankle.
For Chelsea, Maren Mjelde is still recovering from getting operated on her knee injury she sustained in Continental League Cup final.
Keets up far!
A hard worker, tireless runner, and brilliant dribbler – Nikita Parris has shown in her time at Everton, Man City, and Lyon that she can provide an 8/10 performance in every single game. Her flair for dribbling and incredible composure on the ball help her get away from opponents with a lot of ease. Not an out-and-out forward by any definition of the word, Parris likes to come a little deep to collect the ball and link-up play with others. She works as an incredible outlet in build-up play while she also lures defenders out of position.
One of her facets is also being unfazed in possession in tight spaces due to her technical ability on the ball. Her movement off the ball is swift and slick, while she can finish off the ball in the back of the net with a single chance. There have been times when she has been unnecessarily unselfish in front of goal but the 27-year-old has become a much more potent forward at Lyon. She knows how and when to press the ball, while she does not hesitate to get into challenges as well. A creative and lethal striker, Nikita Parris will only get better at Arsenal under new manager Jonas Eidevall.
One of the things Arsenal have increased under Jonas is the number of crosses and passes into the final third while creating an overload on the former. Steph Catley, Katie McCabe, and Mana Iwabuchi form themselves on the left with the latter making late runs in the box as Miedema towers up in the middle with Nikita Parris taking up the far post. Parris has been deployed on the right flank and she makes those late runs off far. This has been a trend since Arsenal’s win against Okzhetpes where she nearly scored a couple from a similar position. She did notch one against Slavia Prague heading in a cross from that right. It’d be interesting to see these movements and how Emma’s Chelsea cope with them.
MUST READ: Lyon’s star forward Nikita Parris joins Arsenal: First words as a Gunner; What can she bring to this Arsenal team?
Counters & Presses!
Arsenal and Chelsea met in the pre-season fixture at the Emirates last month where the hosts got better of the royal Blues with a late winner from Freya Jupp. One of the inclination from that fixture is two of three goals came on counters after the attacking team won possession high up the pitch owing to high & intense pressing. This could again turn out to be the case tomorrow considering how Jonas Eidevall and Emma Hayes believe in keeping the ball and pressing high off the ball. While Chelsea have been doing this under Emma for long time, it’d be interesting to see how the Gunners go about it under Jonas.
Kim is the central figure for the women in reds and whites who can influence the game offensively as well as defensively. She just announced her time with the Scotland Women’s team after fourteen years and 140 caps for the senior side. Her experience comes critical in deciding the pace of the game and how it’s unfazed. Little as a midfielder supports the attack and also combines well with them while entering the opponent’s penalty area every now & then and occupies free space helping the team in outnumbering the defence. We talked about the crossing above, and Kim takes upon herself to makes those late runs and get on the end of em’. Although the arrival of Iwabuchi means she has to get accustomed to using the spaces smartly considering how similarly Mana operates on crosses. Kim, on passes, has always been that Jorginho-esque player passing in webs, and that will prove prized on possession.
We also talked about h0w presses and counters could end up playing decider, and Kim is influential on both bases. Taking up smart positions without possession and trying to tactically diffuse counters. Even though Kim likes to drift high, she quickly takes up her natural position after doing considerable damage in the final third which is crucial to make sure Chelsea have little to no space if they win the ball.
Like Arsenal, Chelsea also boasts an abundance of offensive players viz. Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr, and Lauren James but just like Kim, Ji So-Yun can influence the game with his prowess from the middle of the park. Unlike Little, Ji doesn’t pass around a lot though she’s apt with the ball at her feet and isn’t as involved defensively as her counterpart. So-Yun likes to press and force mistakes while getting better of second and loose balls in the opponent’s half. She’s a paragon of Emma Hayes’ ideologies, pressing with all intensity and till the end of opponents’ opportunities. Ji carries herself deep into the press which has been clinical for Chelsea to win the ball high up the pitch.
With Jonas looking to establish a majority in possession on the front foot, Ji So-Yun will come decisive in winning the balls high up the pitch and catching Arsenal off just like she has done in plethora last season. While her passing abilities means the Gunners have to make sure she’s not give space to pick players out. Ji’s intent to pass every ball into an expected goal threat makes her a menace to Manu Zinsberger’s goal.
ARSENAL: Zinsberger, Maritz, Williamson, Beattie, Catley, Maanum, Little, Iwabuchi, Parris, Miedema, McCabe
CHELSEA: Berger, Carter, Bright, Eriksson, Charles, Leupolz, Cuthbert, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr