Carla Ward: Aston Villa are ‘thin on the ground’ ahead of Arsenal

Aston Villa manager Carla Ward looks on during a match
Aston Villa manager Carla Ward during the Barclays Women's Super League match vs Liverpool on March 03, 2024 (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

A ‘thin on the ground’ Aston Villa will face Arsenal this weekend at Villa Park in what Carla Ward believes is the ‘worst time’ to play Jonas Eidevall’s side.

Off the back of a devastating loss to Chelsea, third in the league Arsenal will look to regain their winning status with the title race looking to slip out of their hands.

More injury concerns for Aston Villa

After an important win against Everton last week, the chance of finishing within the top six in the Women’s Super League for Aston Villa grew closer. However, despite the momentum Villa would have wanted to take from their last result, the West Midlands side has once again become stricken with both injuries and illness.

Earlier this week, news surrounding Daphne van Domselaar switched from transfer talks to hip surgery. The Netherlands international underwent a successful operation to fix the injury that she suffered before Villa’s last game against Arsenal in the Continental Cup semi-final. The No.1 will remain out for the rest of the season as she partakes in rehabilitation.

Ward confirmed that her side have still got a ‘fair amount out in terms of injuries’ but also has had a couple of players unable to train all week through illness. This leaves Villa’s manager with a couple of major doubts ahead of the game this weekend. For Ward though, this is nothing new.

“Nothing changes really, we’re still very, very thin on the ground,” Ward confirmed in her latest press conference.

Embed from Getty Images

A challenge in Arsenal

In the last time of meeting between the two sides, four goals were put past the Villans before the end of the first half. The result ended Aston Villa’s League Cup campaign in the semi-finals. However, the reverse fixture to this weekend’s match saw a better performance from Villa despite the scoreline.

Two last-minute goals at the Emirates from Katie McCabe and Alessia Russo for Arsenal stole the win away from Villa in the WSL during injury time. This was after Maz Pacheco’s goal in the first half separated the two sides for the full 90.

“Look, I think that hurt us. I think the first half was unacceptable. I think the girls will take that and use that going into the weekend,” Ward reflected.

Despite Villa perhaps taking with them that extra motivation after both losses to Arsenal this season, the claret and blue boss feels like now is the ‘worst time’ to face the Gunners. This comes after the Gunners’ loss to Chelsea last week.

Embed from Getty Images

“It’s the worst time to play them because they’re going to be hurting after that,” Ward continued. “I think that they’re going to want to react, they’re going to have to show a reaction and obviously, we have to face that.

“They’re always tough to play against, but playing them after the manner of their defeat last week, it’s not going to be an easy day by any stretch.”

Top six still within reach

Despite the challenge, Ward believes that if Villa can finish inside the top six, it will be a huge achievement at this point for the club. The desire to ‘finish strong’ is what will ‘give the girls enough motivation to go out there and deliver’.

“I think the one thing we’ve shown is, when there’s bad moments or the backs against a wall that we’ll dig in, we’ll stick together, we look after each other and I think it’ll be no different this weekend. Yes, we’ll be light on the ground again, of course… the girls will stick together. They’ll roll their sleeves up and they’ll be ready.”

MORE from Her Football Hub: