Arsenal will be looking for another win on the board against Reading on Sunday. The Gunners beat title rivals, Chelsea, last week and followed that up with a win in the Champions League against Slavia Prague. The team are currently on a fourteen-match winning streak, which includes a goal-scoring tally of 55.
Reading lost to Manchester United in the opening game of the season and will be hoping to instantly bounce back by putting points on the board. With midtable rivals Tottenham and Everton to follow, Kelly Chambers could do a lot worse than playing defensive and targeting a draw.
Jonas Eidevall may give Vivianne Miedema a rest against Reading, as the striker scored her 100th Arsenal goal on Thursday, and has played the last few matches for the Gunners. Nikita Parris hasn’t really hit the mark playing on the right-wing so it’s very possible that Parris may start centrally.
Reading have lacked ambition in the transfer window, with teams such as Everton, West Ham, and Leicester all looking to push on this season, whilst Tottenham and Birmingham have opted for WSL experience, it’s very possible that Reading may regress this season.
Joining the WSL in 2016, Reading were pushing forward in terms of their squad and as recently as 2019, were finishing points away from a Champions League spot. Despite finishing 8th in their opening season, they quickly progressed upwards, moving to 6th in 2017 and 4th in the first WSL winter season. A drop down to fifth was expected, especially to a historic WSL club like Birmingham who had finished 3rd place in the opening WSL season.
Now viewed as the best of the rest, Reading comfortably secured a fifth-place finish, finishing behind Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Falling behind Everton and Brighton last season was a sting, and a good transfer window was needed to challenge the Big 3, who had collected double their points tally over the course of the season.
However, Reading had a transfer window which was outperformed by newly-promoted Leicester, bringing in recently relegated Bristol duo Gemma Evans and Faye Bryson, youth prospect Deanne Rose and (their only good signing of the window, in my opinion) former Liverpool goal machine Natasha Dowie, and even that was a cover for losing Danielle Carter. Not replacing players such as Fara Williams, Jess Fishlock and the aging Natasha Harding could result in Championship football for the Royals. If they really want to compete, then shock victories against teams like Arsenal are essential.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Date: Sunday, 12th of September 2021.
Time: Kick-off at 14:00 BST.
Arsenal will be without Caitlin Foord after she suffered a slight quad strain before the Chelsea game, and with that injury usually taking 2 to 3 weeks to recover from, she should be back in time for the Manchester City match on the 26th. Viki Schnaderbeck and Malin Gut will continue to serve the sidelines with knee and ACL injuries respectively, alongside Jordan Nobbs, who is still out after getting an operation on her ankle. The team will also be without Tobin Heath, as she’d join the Gunners after her USWNT duties.
A tough day at the office for Reading?
I suspect that Arsenal might celebrate their UWCL qualification by putting a statement out against Reading. With the likes of Mead, Parris, Miedema, Little, McCabe, and Iwabuchi available, I have a feeling that the scoreline may not stay in the single digits. The last time the two teams faced was a 1-1 draw, but if you look at the fixture prior to that; a 6-1 thumping in September 2020 with a Jill Roord hat trick, it’s clear that Arsenal don’t take any prisoners. Sadly, a Jill Roord hat trick will not be on the cards on Sunday, as the 24-year-old joined Wolfsburg this summer. But with an array of attacking talent, there’s a likelihood that there could be more on display.
With Jonas Eidevall preferring to play Mana Iwabuchi as a 10, and Mead, Parris, and McCabe as wide forwards, in attacking play there are usually 4 players, with either Iwabuchi and Maanum dropping deeper. Reading may try and counteract this by playing a deep line, and have the central midfielders fight against the quick wide forwards, which leaves them to play a simple ball centrally or to cross into the box from deep, in which case Reading’s two center backs should be able to deal with the approaching midfielder and Arsenal’s striker. However, this would only work if Reading plays two holding midfielders and a central midfielder, somebody with outstanding speed and dribbling ability on the wings (which they lack), or a player who can take longshots, and this is where my key player comes in.
The leader in the midfield, Brooke Chaplen has scored an outstanding 16 goals in 32 games for the Royals and has a knack for a long shot. And not just because of the shot against Manchester United last week. Often popping up in the right areas, Chaplen has scored 25 WSL goals to date, has played over 16 years of football and over 100 games of top-flight football. Chaplen missed much of last season due to illness, and also signed a new contract with Reading in June 2021. She plays as a central midfielder and has represented England at U-19, U-20, and U-23’s, but never at senior level. Rachel had previously played for Everton, Portsmouth, Chelsea, and Sunderland.
Arsenal’s star striker, Vivianne Miedema scored her 100th goal for Arsenal on Thursday and also scored a hattrick on the night. Her future at the club is unknown, and whether she’ll commit to a contract will be an issue for the summer. Viv isn’t just a traditional number 9, as she often holds up play for teammates. However, she can and often does go for goals herself. A brilliant footballer, you can never understand how good she truly is if you haven’t seen her play.
Truly stepping up when others aren’t there, her 110 goals in 100 games has most people gobsmacked. And if not, then her 61 WSL goals in 68 games will have you shut right up. However, stats don’t tell the full story with her. She truly is a sublime footballer.
Arsenal W predicted XI: Zinsberger, Maritz, Williamson, Beattie, Catley, Little, Maanum, Iwabuchi, Mead, Miedema, Parris.
Reading W predicted XI: Monoley, Mitchell, Cooper, Evans, Bryson, Rowe, Peplow, Chaplen, Eikeland, Dowie, Harding.
Arsenal 5-1 Reading