Reading FC Women look to bounce back from defeat at the hands of champions Chelsea last week, when they undertake another huge test in the shape of Arsenal.
The Royals fell to a quintet of goals from former Reading player Fran Kirby and a late strike from Ji So-yun in an unfortunate start to the new year last weekend against The Blues.
Reading never seemed to get out of the starting blocks and lacked the quality that they had shown in previous matches, leading up to their final game of 2020; a solid 3-1 win against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Current form sees Reading in 6th place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table, having played the most games in league competition so far this season. Arsenal sit in 3rd position, 4 points off Manchester United at the top of the table.
The Gunners started the campaign in scintillating form with five straight victories scoring a remarkable 29 goals in the process. Since then though, Joe Montemurro’s side’s last five outings have yielded just 7 points. Crucially the Gunners have dropped valuable points against the other high riding sides. Firstly, they went down 1-0 at Manchester United, conceding in the 83rd minute. Their next outing was even more dramatic when Beth Mead put them 1-0 up at home to Chelsea with just four minutes left on the clock. The Blues, however, equalised in the final minute courtesy of an own goal from Lotte Wubben-Moy. Then at Manchester City, it was going to plan when Vivianne Miedema put Arsenal ahead early on. City though equalised with a Sam Mewis goal and then snatched the winner deep into added time through Caroline Weir. Miedema is the current leading scorer in the WSL with eleven goals. Jill Roord meanwhile has seven against her name and Caitlin Foord has six.
Following on from the January signing of Caitlin Foord, there was a distinct Australian theme to Arsenal's summer recruitment as two new arrivals, Steph Catley and Lydia Williams – both teammates of Foord in the Matildas’ 2019 World Cup squad – joined the side. 26-year-old Catley usually plays at left-back and has some 82 caps for her national side. Meanwhile 32-year-old Williams is a much-experienced goalkeeper who was previously with Melbourne City. Another new face is 20-year-old midfielder Malin Gut who has already made 10 appearances for the Switzerland national side. Defender Noelle Maritz had seven years with Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga and is another Swiss international with over 80 caps against her name. Finally, defender Lotte Wubben-Moy was playing college soccer for North Carolina Tar Heels in the States from 2017 to 2019. She has represented England at levels up to Under-21.
The most recent meeting was on the opening day of the current season when the Royals came up against a rampant Arsenal side at Meadow Park. A superb attacking display by the home side resulted in their 6-1 victory, with the Royals’ consolation being a debut goal from Danielle Carter. Last season’s only league meeting came at Adams Park in December with the Gunners winning 3-0 with a goal from Kim Little and a brace from Vivianne Miedema. A much closer meeting was at Boreham Wood a month later when the sides met in the Quarter Final of the Conti Cup. A tight contest was only settled by a late Kim Little strike in the 86th minute. Arsenal went on to reach the final where they were defeated 2-1 by Chelsea. In 2018-19 the Gunners completed the WSL double over Reading, winning 6-0 at Meadow Park and then 3-0 at Adams Park. Royals’ last success over the North Londoners came in 2017-18 at Meadow Park in a Continental Cup group fixture. Two goals from Fara Williams that included a sensational strike from the centre spot sealed a 2-1 win for Kelly Chambers’ side. The teams then met later in the season at Adams Park in the semi-final of the same competition. Goals from Brooke Chaplen and Lauren Bruton saw the Royals leading 2-1 only for late goals from Miedema and Jordan Nobbs to enable the visitors to snatch the tie 3-2. In the WSL that season, the contest at Adams Park was drawn 0-0, with Arsenal winning 3-1 at Meadow Park.
A few words
Royals manager Kelly Chambers has been giving her thoughts on such a tough test coming hot on the heels of such a disappointing loss at the hands of Chelsea at Madejski last weekend. “The girls went into this week knowing that we had to do better following the Chelsea result,” Chambers said.
“It’s good that we are going straight from the loss against Chelsea into another big opponent in Arsenal. If we were playing someone around us in the league then maybe mentality would be a bit different, but stepping into the game against Arsenal, the girls know we have to up our game and be at our best to compete with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. We showed it when we played both Man City and Man United, the performances were good.”
Reading FC Women v Arsenal Women | Sunday 17th January | Madejski Stadium | 2pm | Watch live on the FA Player