by Andrew Crawshaw
Unlike February when we only played 3 matches, March has a far busier schedule seeing us play in three competitions, the WSL, the 2022 FA Cup and the 2022 Champions League where we are the sole remaining English club.
I have added a column to indicate where we are playing our home matches as two are moved to the Emirates from our normal home of Borehamwood
Our matches are:-
|Hone||Away||Date / time||Competition||Ground|
|Arsenal||v||Reading||02 March – 19:15||WSL||Borehamwood|
|Arsenal||v||Birmingham||06 March – 12:00||WSL||Borehamwood|
|Brighton||v||Arsenal||13 March – 18:45||WSL|
|Arsenal||v||Coventry||20 March – TBA||2022 FA Cup||Borehamwood|
|Arsenal||v||Wolfsburg||23 March – 20:00||Champions League||Emirates|
|Spurs||v||Arsenal||26 March- 14:15||WSL||Emirates|
|Wolfsburg||v||Arsenal||31 March – 20:00||Champions League|
I would rather see our FA Cup quarter final against Coventry played a day earlier on the Saturday to give us an extra day preparation for the home tie against Wolfsburg but I doubt that the FA/broadcasters will accommodate any such request. And if you are planning on going to the Birmingham game on Sunday please do note that it is a 12:00 kick-off time.
Arsenal v Reading Wednesday evening 02 March 19:15
Reading are solidly in mid-table and their continuation in the WSL is all but guaranteed. We played them in September in the reverse fixture at the Madejski Stadium and ran out 4 – 0 winners thanks to a Beattie header from a McCabe corner, a composed finish from Mead with her weaker left foot for the second. Mead then provided a pass for Miedema to make it three and repeated the process at the start of the second half for Viv to get a rare headed goal.
I would like to think that we will be able to repeat the performance at home but I’m not sure that we are playing nearly well enough at the moment. We have lost out early season swagger and are making far too many basic errors, misplacing passes and frequently looking flustered on the ball when pressed.
Despite these qualms I am confident that we will have too much firepower for Reading and will win the game. My prediction 3 – 0 or more if we are at our best.
Nöelle Maritz, Leah Williamson, Rafaelle, Steph Catley
Lia Wälti, Kim Little, Mana Iwabuchi
Caitlin Foord, Viv Miedema, Nikita Parris
Subs – Lydia Williams, Jen Beattie, Boye Sørensen, Frida Maanum, Stina Blackstenius, Jordan Nobbs, Tobin Heath, Katie McCabe, Beth Mead
Arsenal v Birmingham Sunday Lunchtime 06 March 12:00
Birmingham are bottom of the WSL and odds-on to be relegated. So far they have drawn one and won won – against Arsenal in the most inept performance from us in years.
You know how sometimes it looked as though Giroud had swallowed a ‘stupid pill’ which made him incapable of all but the simplest movements and tasks. Well in this game I think the whole team had found the residual stock and had each taken one. It honestly looked as though we were the relegation bound team and Birmingham were the top of the league. A truly catastrophic game and if we fail to win the league this season the points we dropped in this game will be a major factor.
I would expect us comfortably to swat Birmingham aside in this game and we could easily score a hatful of goals. Birmingham will almost certainly park a bus behind a train in front of their goal and we will need extra midfield guile to create clear cut scoring opportunities. This could well be a game for Jordan Nobbs and Mana Iwabuchi to play as a double pivot behind our strike force and I wouldn’t be unduly surprised with a back three with Leah playing in a slightly more advanced role in front of two conventional centre backs.
If we don’t get an early goal or two it could well turn out to be a frustrating game and I hope the referee is eagle-eyed and willing to call fouls on our players in their penalty box.
Brighton v Arsenal Sunday 13 March 18:45
A late kickoff as the game is scheduled to be broadcast live (full details nearer the time)
Brighton, are another team in the mid-table pack currently in 8th place with 6 wins and 8 losses from 15 matches. We have already played them twice this year (both at Borehamwood) winning 3 – 0 in the 2021 FA Cup and 2 – 1 in the WSL. The WSL match saw us go bind following the award of a dubious free-kick which resulted in Zinsberger being beaten by a header. We rallied in the second half and Beth Mead first equalled the record for most assists in the WSL then scored a belter for our second. We had further opportunities to extend our lead but, in the end had to settle for the 2 – 1 win.
This is a match that we should win comfortably we score an average of two and a half goals a game, Brighton score 1, we concede a goal every 2 matches, Brighton one and a half a game. My score prediction would be a win by 2 or three goals to 1.
2022 FA CUP Quarter Final Arsenal v Coventry
At the end of 2021, it looked like Coventry were going to fold and they were docked 10 points and now are bottom of the table with -3 points. In the League, they have only won once all season and have four draws and 10 losses. On paper, this looks like the sort of game where we could play a complete reserve side and still expect a comfortable win, but it is a cup tie and strange things can happen. Nonetheless if we play professionally and with respect, Viv could easily go for a 10 goal involvement again.
This is not a game to wager a lot of money on an Arsenal win but I expect you could get goods on a Coventry win (but would probably lose your bet),
The last week of the month sees us back in Champions League action with a home WSL match against Spurs sandwiched between our Wolfsburg matches. Full previews of these games much nearer the time.