Anita Asante will lead Aston Villa against a confident Arsenal side

Aston Villa
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Anita Asante of Aston Villa Women during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester City Women and Aston Villa Women at Manchester City Football Academy on January 17, 2021 in Manchester, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

This week has turned from good to bad for Aston Villa. Recently, their impressive performance in the WSL was rewarded with a draw against Manchester United. However, as Remi Allen tore her ACL in the game, the side lost one of their key players.

Next up for Aston Villa is a clash with Arsenal. Ahead of the game, manager Carla Ward spoke to the media.

Team news: Aston Villa vs Arsenal

The boss was visibly gutted about the season-ending injury. “Horrible news for Remi”, Ward said. “She’s been absolutely sensational this season. I think quite arguably one of the best plays that we’ve had all season. So, that’s a massive loss.”

“It’s been a really tough few days”, the manager continued. “She only got the news probably 48 hours ago. Wednesday night she got the news, which was tough. She’s just trying to keep herself in good spirits, it’s tough.”

“She’s had an unbelievable season and to end [it] in this way, obviously, it’s been difficult for her. So, she’s naturally gutted.”

Also, Ward confirmed that Chloe Arthur and Jill Scott will not make the trip to London on Sunday. However, Hannah Hampton is back in the squad. To make up for the absentees, the manager called up several Academy players.

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Aston Villa’s approach to Arsenal

Having secured their spot for the next season of the WSL, Aston Villa have nothing to lose in their next games. Ward said her team will approach the match against the Gunners “with freedom, [and] with no fear.” She views it as an “opportunity to go and express yourself against one of the best teams in the country.”

The boss added: “We’re not going there to make up the numbers. We’ll go in there to play a game of football and hopefully get something from it.”

However, she expects a confident opponent. “But for us, it’s an opportunity just to get on the board (…). And, quite honestly, there’s no pressure on us (…), so we’ll go and enjoy ourselves.”

Honouring a legend of the game

Another Villa player who made the headlines this week is Anita Asante. The defender announced her retirement from professional football at the end of the season.

“Legend, honestly, absolute legend”, Ward said when asked about her. “I don’t really think she gets there the credit, that she (…), that her career deserves. She’s probably one of the most decorated footballers that this country’s ever seen.”

The manager went on the praise Asante: “One of the best people I’ve ever worked with. Humble, honest, helps the younger players, helps senior players, has helped me massively. (…) She is an outstanding human being.”

“I’m going to be given her the armband for the remaining two games” announced the boss. “It’ll be a pleasure to, to enjoy those moments.”

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How to follow

The clash between Aston Villa and Arsenal kicks off on Sunday at 2:15 PM GMT. British fans can follow the game on BBC. For the international audience, it will be available to watch on the FA Player.

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