Jonas Eidevall eager for Manchester City game despite Arsenal’s poor WSL form

Jonas Eidevall likes challenges so the Arsenal manager must be looking forward to Sunday’s task in hand. The WSL leaders have suffered a dramatic loss of form since December and face a Manchester City side that are on a six-game winning streak. The Swede, under pressure after a run of one win in five games, promised Arsenal were going “to bring everything” to the game at City’s Academy Stadium.

“Playing matches against Manchester City really excites me,” said Eidevall. “It’s a great football team. I like challenges in football, I like playing against good teams.”

City are definitely a good team at the moment, having scored 25 goals in those six wins, conceding only three, and are clearly capable of damaging Arsenal’s title ambitions. The Gunners are still four points clear at the top of the table but second-placed Chelsea have a game in hand.

Eidevall insisted his players are in good spirits, bolstered by the return of Lia Wälti and Lotte Wubben-Moy from injury and that he can give his trio of January signings – Stina Blackstenius, Laura Wienroither and Rafaelle Souza – their league debuts. “I wouldn’t say that I would experience any problem with the spirit,” Eidevall said of his squad. “We know what we need to do better, we know what we need to develop and I feel we’re all very committed to carrying on with that.”

He pinpointed the attack as key to Arsenal finding form again, hoping that Tobin Heath and Vivianne Miedema can cause City problems. “We only got to see a glimpse of Tobin before she was injured. The way we played at home at Hoffenheim was our best performance [of the season] and she was a big part of that.”

The USA international can contribute in both attack and defence, meaning better support for Miedema. “Viv is perfect with her movement” he explained. “She has real moments of high quality on the left. However, we are playing the ball towards her where there is no space or numerical superiority. On those occasions, we need a much better support structure.”

The Dutch striker’s connection with the centre-back Leah Williamson may once again be tweaked: “Keep the combination play on with the full-backs but if it is not on, we might need her lower on the pitch for central overload.”

Clearly Miedema’s movement is a focal point for both attack and defence, ensuring that Arsenal do not allow City’s most important players to flex their muscles. The high press on opposition defences from the Gunners attack evident during Joe Montemurro’s tenure is still alive and kicking.

It will be an intriguing game, not least so because City’s return to form after a poor start to the season. They are playing at home for the first time in two months and there is a confidence about returning to the Academy Stadium.

Leading their charge is Georgia Stanway, who has scored in five consecutive league games and is staking her claim for a place in the starting XI. The City manager, Gareth Taylor, said: “We want to get her up as high as possible. We’ve seen her enthusiasm and tenacity on the pitch and we’ll need it come Sunday.

“We’re high on confidence at the moment, but we understand the game isn’t won on confidence alone. We want to dominate as much as we can and that comes down to small details.”

Lucy Bronze in action against Aston Villa
The returning Lucy Bronze in action against Aston Villa last weekend. Photograph: Orlagh Malone Gardner/SPP/Shutterstock

Those small details could be anything from playing Stanway further up, the return of Lucy Bronze from injury, or even a change in Arsenal’s attacking methods – all of which Taylor says is likely to make it a “tight game”.

City are without their first-choice keeper, Ellie Roebuck, with Karima Benameur set to play. Taylor, however, is confident his team will benefit from having Bronze – and Steph Houghton – return and that his defence will be up for the challenge. “They give you big presence on the pitch, I think big confidence as well – they are big-game players and we’ve seen that,” he said. “Those players being involved helps the rest of the team. We have a bit more support now in a number of areas.”