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Arsenal v Chelsea: Women’s Super League – live

File under ‘tactical battle’. Arsenal were the better side and had the only four shots on target, but they were all comfortable saves for Zecira Musovic. Aside from a few reminders of Lauren James’ rare individual ability, Chelsea have been hopeless going forward. The game, and the atmosphere, have been strangely flat.

45+2 min The last touch of the half is a half-chance for Sam Kerr, who heads Cuthbert’s high, hanging corner not far wide. There was no pace on the ball, and she had to force her way between two defenders, but her hands-on-head reaction suggests that she thinks she should have scored.

43 min Reiten plays a slick one-two with Fleming, but Little tracks her diligently to block the cross.

42 min Nothing much is happening. In terms of old-fashioned entertainment it’s been a really disappointing first half.

39 min James is booked for a cynical foul on Maanum.

39 min Charles has a shot from 20 yards blocked by Foord. This is a decent spell for Chelsea.

38 min The impressive James fizzes a pass into Reiten, whose early shot on the turn is blocked by Williamson.

37 min A corner to Chelsea, their first of the game I think. It’s headed away by Wurtig.

36 min Charles’s cross is headed away by Williamson. The ball goes to back to Charles, who goes over just inside the area after a collision with Foord. Nobody really appeals for a penalty, and life goes on. There’s no VAR in this game.

33 min Walti is given a warning for a foul on James, the one Chelsea player who has caused Arsenal problems.

31 min: Chance for Hurtig! Bright’s clearance hits Maanum, ricochets back off Bright and lands at Maanum’s feet. She turns and threads a lovely short pass to Hurtig, who rams a shot into the side netting from a very tight angle. Foord was waiting for a cutback in the six-yard box.

30 min Maanum’s corner goes straight out of play at the near post.

30 min Bright’s defensive header is hooked back towards goal by Walti, and Buchanan dives to head her shot behind for a corner.

29 min Chelsea are slowly starting to come into the game. James twists Catley’s blood on the right and rifles a low cross that is well cleared at the near post by the off balance Rafaelle.

28 min “It’s not you,” says Joe Pearson, “it’s me.”

Let’s be honest: it’s not you, it’s both of us.

27 min James plays a dangerous pass in behind the Arsenal defence, but Zinsberger hares out of her area to beat Kerr to the ball.

26 min Charles sums up Chelsea’s performance so far by allowing a simple pass to slip under her boot and out for a throw-in.

24 min At the races Chelsea are not. It’s a bit odd.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes issues instructions to Niamh Charles.

23 min “I’ve found it!” says Joe Pearson. “They actually decided to put it on the CBS Sports Network on plain old cable. Hurrah!”

Bye then. What am I, some kind of blogbuddy who you just use to satisfy your grubby football-related needs. I WANT MORE FROM THIS RELATIONSHIP.

21 min Maanum finds a bit of space between the lines and pings a drive straight at Musovic from 25 yards. That’s Arsenal’s fourth or fifth shot on target, though most have been straight at the keeper.

21 min “Listening to this while on my way to Leigh to see United v Liverpool,” writes Torran Turner. “Praying for a draw here. This is a top of the table clash, but don’t forget United are breathing down both of their necks. A draw here and a win for us later sees us level with Arsenal on points, and three points behind Chelsea with a game in hand.”

Yep, they still have an outside chance, and the win at the Emirates was such a big moment for an emerging team. That said, I suspect Marc Skinner would happily take third, and a Champions League place, if you offered it him now.

Here’s how the table will look if this game ends in a draw.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Chelsea Women 11 23 28
2 Arsenal Women 10 20 25
3 Man Utd Women 9 18 22
4 Man City Women 9 11 19
5 West Ham Women 10 -3 15

19 min The tempo has been quite slow, though I suppose that’s to be expected straight after a winter break. Cuthbert tries to enliven proceedings with a long-range blooter that is blocked by her teammate Kerr on the edge of the area. She really caught that.

17 min “Do we have a moment to celebrate Jordan Nobbs – it was a shock to learn that she’d moved on from Arsenal (she needs to get minutes on the pitch to be in contention for the World Cup team),” says Charles Antaki. “It’’ll be hard to see her in another team’s colours, being such a fixture over the years. Strange. It’s true that she was only getting onto the pitch as a sub recently, but still, what a sub.”

I think she’s going to say farewell to the crowd at half-time. That’s a cracking signing for an increasingly impressive Villa side.

15 min That solo run from James aside, Chelsea haven’t got going at all in attack.

13 min More good play from Arsenal. Little and Blackstenius combine to find Maanum, whose rising drive from a tightish angle is comfortably saved by Musovic.

12 min I’m talking absolute nonsense. Guro Reiten is playing just behind Sam Kerr, with Fleming on the left of midfield. As you were.

11 min Arsenal on top on the moment. Foord cuts inside from the left, slithers past Charles and thrashes a right-foot shot from a tight angle that is claimed at the second attempt by Musovic.

10 min: Chance for Hurtig! Blackstenius runs at a backpedalling Chelsea defence and slips a lovely reverse pass through to Hurtig in the area. She scuffs her shot on the run and Musovic makes a comfortable save to her left. That was a really good chance.

9 min I got the formations the wrong way round when I listed the teams. Arsenal’s is closer to 4-2-3-1 and Jessie Fleming is playing deeper for Chelsea in a 4-3-3.

8 min “There are a lot of options, Paramount being a streaming service rather than a TV channel, as such,” says Joe Pearson. “But I could watch Sassuolo vs Lazio live right now. They will be carrying the United vs Liverpool game later today.”

That’s really odd. Wonder what the logic is.

6 min A thrilling effort from Lauren James. She robs Rafaelle in her own half, swerves elegantly past Catley and makes for the penalty area. Once there she cuts inside Little, onto her left foot, and drives not far wide from 15 yards.

Chelsea’s Lauren James attempts a shot on goal which flies just the wrong side of the upright.

5 min Cuthbert plays a dreadful square ball just outside the Chelsea area, but she gets away with it when Blackstenius’s chipped cross is claimed by Musovic.

3 min Apparently thousands of fans are still stuck outside the Emirates, which is less than ideal.

Chaotic queues outside the Emirates, a lot of fans will miss kick-off. Everything (bar queues/tickets turnstiles) at women’s matches here always seems to take a lot longer

— Nancy Gillen (@Nancy_Gillen) January 15, 2023

2 min Frida Maanum – who is playing much higher up the field than we expected – hits a speculative cross that is held by Musovic.

1 min Peep peep! After the players take a knee, Chelsea, kicking from left to right as we watch, get the game underway.

“In theory, Paramount+ has the US broadcast rights to the WSL,” says Joe Pearson, “but they apparently don’t think this top of the table clash is worth their notice. Ugh. Help me, Robi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

How odd. What are they showing instead?

The players are in the tunnel and ready for action. Most of them look very relaxed, though the captains Kim Little and Magda Eriksson hav their gamefaces on.

Arsenal players and mascots line up after the players take to their pitch.
Chelsea players huddle as the Arsenal players take their positions ahead of kick-off.

Emma Hayes says Fran Kirby took a knock during Chelsea’s training camp, which is why she’s only on the bench.

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall and Chelsea boss Emma Hayes give their pre-match thoughts ahead of today’s top-of-the-table WSL clash…💭👇

— Sky Sports WSL (@SkySportsWSL) January 15, 2023

The teams in (possible) formation

Arsenal (4-3-3) Zinsberger; Wienroither, Williamson, Rafaelle, Catley; Little, Walti, Maanum; Hurtig, Blackstenius, Foord.
Substitutes: D’Angelo, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Kuhl, McCabe, Maritz, Pelova, Iwabuchi, Queiroz.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Musovic; Charles, Buchanan, Bright, Eriksson; Cuthbert, Ingle; James, Fleming, Reiten; Kerr.
Substitutes: Berger, Carter, Svitkova, Kirby, Perisset, Mjelde, Kaneryd, Abdullina, Cankovic.

Some interesting decisions from both managers. Jonas Eidevall has left out Katie McCabe, with Luna Hurtig preferred in attack. McCabe joins Gio Queiroz, who has been recalled from her loan at Everton, and the new signings Kathrine Kuhl and Victoria Pelova on the bench. Leah Williamson and Kim Little return to the side as expected.

Emma Hayes prefers Zecira Musovic in goal to Ann-Katrin Berger, and Fran Kirby is also among the substitutes. So is Jelena Cankovic, who scored twice when Chelsea beat Reading 3-2 in their last WSL game before the break.


— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 15, 2023

Your Chelsea team today. 💪#CFCW

— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) January 15, 2023

Hello and welcome to live coverage of Arsenal v Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. These teams have been inseparable in the last couple of years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they like each other. Right here, right now, this is the biggest rivalry in English football. Chelsea pipped Arsenal to the title by a point last year; this season Chelsea are three points clear having played a match more.

It’s the first of two meetings that may decide who wins the title, especially as the return game is the penultimate match of the season. Arsenal are without Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead, who are both out for the season with cruciate-ligament injuries, but Leah Williamson and Kim Little should start their first WSL games since the autumn and the exciting signings Kathrine Kuhl and Victoria Pelova may be involved from the bench.

Chelsea have fewer injury concerns, though Pernille Harder is still missing with a hamstring injury, and they looked in ominously good shape before the winter break. Since that surprising defeat to Liverpool on the opening weekend, their record in all competitions is P15 W14 D1 L0 F49 A7. But Arsenal’s form in the same period is almost as good, and in their last game – without Mead, without Miedema – they put nine past an admittedly wretched FC Zurich in the Champions League.

Today’s match is likely to break the record for the highest crowd at a WSL match, and I don’t know what else to tell you. Put simply, this is a Brobdingnagian game.

Kick off 12pm.

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