Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Chelsea vs Arsenal: Can Gunners beat title chance odds in Women’s Super League season-defining fixture, live on Sky? -Dlight News

The business end of the season carries plenty of jeopardy for Arsenal. Jonas Eidevall’s side have the chance to defend their Conti Cup crown against Chelsea at the end of March but the honour they really crave – the Women’s Super League title – remains Chelsea’s to lose.

Arsenal have the quality to beat the regularly infallible Blues in a straight shootout.

The Gunners have already demonstrated their ability to outclass Emma Hayes’ side in a one-off 90 minutes with a 4-1 demolition at Emirates Stadium back in December. The contest was as one-sided as it has ever been.

Chelsea-Arsenal is the most played fixture in WSL history, with the head-to-head record perfectly balanced at 10 wins apiece.

Friday 15th March 6:30pm

Kick off 7:00pm

For Arsenal to tip this year’s title race in their favour they are going to have to edge ahead in the head-to-head battle, because nothing less than victory at Stamford Bridge on Friday will keep them realistically in the running.

Eidevall knows his side have to go after the win. Naturally, that is Arsenal’s usual modus operandi, but there is very little room for error.

Any slip-up effectively rules them out of contention, given they already have a three-point deficit to make up on both Chelsea and second-placed Manchester City – who will also have a watchful eye on Friday’s proceedings.

Opta’s season predictor gives Eidevall a 3.3 per cent chance of winning his first WSL title and that feels unfairly harsh. Barely a ghost of a chance, albeit a lot hinges on Friday’s outcome.

Arsenal blew Chelsea away in the league three months ago. Tactically Eidevall got it spot on, as Arsenal’s energy married perfectly with the electricity of a spicy Emirates crowd. It was a performance full of power, awareness and class – one that got fans purring over its prospective title potential.

The intangible feeling that surrounded the Gunners at that point was best summed up by Eidevall himself: “This is the best we have played… we have shown potential this season but not really played at that level”. And the level he is referring to was quite breathtaking.

Not since Chelsea conceded four against Barcelona in the 2021 Champions League final have they been forced to swallow quite such a bitter pill.

“We were bullied,” Hayes summarised. She also used the term “struggled” four times in her post-match address. It marked Chelsea’s heaviest league defeat in five years.

Rampaging Russo

Alessio Russo has netted four goals in five appearances against Chelsea in the WSL, including two in Arsenal’s 4-1 win earlier this season.

The idea that Arsenal put themselves in the title race driving seat that day has since become redundant, however. They now stand rank outsiders. And yet, with recent history as counsel, one win against the right opponent has the power to alter the narrative entirely. Reinvigorate the race.

The double jeopardy of Arsenal’s gain, should they win on Friday, acting as detriment to Chelsea’s standing is also worthy of statement. The cliched six-pointer. Chelsea’s 33-game unbeaten run on home turf was ended in their most recent meeting with fellow title contenders Man City. It can be done.

Moreover, Arsenal have created their own problems by falling below expectation in games against non-title rivals this term – a week after storming past Chelsea they lost to Tottenham – but, crucially, have played their best football when dialling into the emotion of games that ultimately define them. A charged crowd seems to help with that, too.

Arsenal’s steady building of an active and engaged fanbase is the envy of the WSL, but the desire and expectation to deliver on the pitch has heightened as a result.

“When you’re able to perform consistently, it’s about being able to perform in an emotional state,” Eidevall said after beating Aston Villa in their respective Conti Cup semi-final last week.

The ‘all or nothing’ nature of the game appeared to incentivise the Meadow Park crowd and that quickly filtered into Arsenal’s psyche – they scored four first-half goals.

A carbon copy of what happened when they sank Chelsea at the Emirates, scoring three times in a pulsating first 45 minutes. Similar motivation should power the Gunners’ bid this time around.

Only by creating the same ‘win or bust’ mentality in such a determining fixture can Arsenal hope to redress their title chances and keep hopes of WSL glory – their first since 2019 – fully alive.

Watch Chelsea host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Friday, live on Sky Sports Football from 6.30pm; kick-off 7pm

Key WSL fixtures

March 15: Chelsea vs Arsenal, kick-off 7pm, live on Sky Sports

March 23: Man City vs Man Utd, kick-off 12.30pm

May 5: Man City vs Arsenal, kick-off 1pm

May 18: Man Utd vs Chelsea, kick-off 3pm

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