Welcome to 2023, welcome back FA WSL, and welcome back to the title race. Chelsea’s first match of the year is a massive top of the table clash with second place Arsenal, at Emirates Stadium.
Chelsea currently sit atop the WSL table due to Arsenal having a game in hand. A Chelsea win would remove Arsenal’s ability to draw level on points by claiming three points from that game in hand. Of course conversely, if Arsenal win, then that game could catapult them to the top of the table, and leave Chelsea hoping for another slip up somewhere down the line.
Through ten and nine league games played, respectively, Chelsea and Arsenal have already shown themselves as the cream of the crop, but also not without flaw. Chelsea’s opening match was a shock loss to freshly promoted Liverpool, and Manchester United defeated Arsenal with a second-half stoppage time winner from former Chelsea academy player Alessia Russo.
Date / Time: Sunday, January 15, 12.00 BST; 7:00am EST; 5:30pm IST
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London, UK
Referee: Emily Heaslip
Forecast: 45°F/7°C; Mostly cloudy
3 things to watch
1) Race to recapture form – Arsenal last match was a 9-1 win on December 21 versus FC Zurich in the Champions league, while Chelsea’s was an impressive 3-0 win over PSG on December 22. It’s been nearly a month since either team stepped onto a pitch competitively. Whoever can find post-break form will have the upper edge.
2) Emma Hayes’ surprise – Whenever manager Emma Hayes has a period of time to train the team, she typically adds some new wrinkle or interesting tactic. The team returned to training in January at a warm-weather camp held in Spain. One surprise there was the return (and new contract) of midfielder Melanie Leupolz from maternity leave. Another surprise was Sophie Ingle taking the top spot on the podium during kart racing. Now, keep an eye out for a third surprise versus Arsenal, courtesy of Emma Hayes.
3) Arsenal’s new signings – The Gunners have been busy during the January window. While Chelsea welcomed back Leupolz, Arsenal said goodbye to club legend Jordan Nobbs and Mana Iwabuchi isn’t far behind. In their place they brought in 23-year-old Victoria Pelova from Ajax and 19-year-old Kathrine Kühl from FC Nordsjælland. Both are incredibly talented young players, but are stepping in midseason during a tight title race, and soon to be four simultaneous competitions. If either get a chance versus Chelsea, they’ll be eager to instantly ingratiate themselves to the expected 35,000+ at Emirates Stadium.