Will Manchester City's defence and Arsenal's attack cancel each other out in the Women's Super League?

Arsenal pipped Manchester City to the WSL title last season and beat them 1-0 on the final day (PA Images)
11:37am, Sun 27 Oct 2019
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For the second straight WSL weekend, two heavyweights of the division face off as defending champions Arsenal host the FA Cup winners Manchester City.  

After their defeat to Chelsea away from home on the last matchday, Arsenal will be looking to bounce back to winning ways and the form that saw them dominate the opening month of the season.

But in City they come up against the only team in the league with a 100% record but perhaps even more impressively, the only side yet to concede a goal in the league.

With the match looking likely to be another key indicator for the destination of the WSL title, we look at what makes City’s defence so strong and whether they can thwart Arsenal’s vaunted attack.

They defend by being attacking

The perception of defensive football can at times be that you allow the opposition to come into your half and through a good structure and low defensive block, you stop your opponents from having any chances of substance.

But City do not subscribe to this notion. On countless occasions this season, admittedly against opposition they were expected to beat, the team from Manchester has defended primarily through their attackers pressing the opposition and regaining possession of the ball in an instant.

As can be seen in the picture below, in City’s 2-0 win away at Reading, four players swarm around the Reading player who is about to be in possession of the ball. She will have almost nowhere to go other than a long ball across the other side of the pitch.

Man City have the tendency to defend from the front with their strikers and midfielders (FA Player)

City obviously regained possession in that moment and they did for the majority of the match and have done that for their other three matches in the league. It is likely they will continue to do that against the Gunners, but will it work?

Arsenal do not have only one way of attacking

Despite their last league match not going to plan, Arsenal are still a very threatening side against any in Europe, and that is largely down to the number of options their attacking players have in the opposition half.

As can be seen in the picture below, which was in their 4-0 demolition of Brighton & Hove Albion at home, the Gunners have a number of players deep in the Brighton half and all of them are ready for the ball to be passed to them.

Arsenal often have numerous options when going forward against their opposition (FA Player)

This variety of attack made it very difficult for Brighton to cope, in terms of tracking attacking players. Arsenal also showcased that ability early on against Chelsea, especially with crosses into the box which caused difficulties for the Blues.

They will, in all likelihood, attack City with a similar strategy through their wingers or midfielders on either flank, but the key thing will be whether they are allowed time and space on the ball to have those variety of options.

This game is a classic case of a great defence versus a great attack and rather than one coming out on top against the other, they may just cancel each other out.