The City and England captain was forced to withdraw from England duty with an Achilles injury, missing the Lionesses’ victories over Luxembourg and North Macedonia, and will not be available to face her former Club this weekend.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Head Coach Gareth Taylor confirmed the centre-back is set for a spell on the sidelines, adding to an already-lengthy injury list.
Taylor also shared an update on Alex Greenwood, who was forced off in England’s midweek win, plus Hayley Raso, who missed international duty with a shoulder injury, and Esme Morgan, who was stretchered off against Tottenham Hotspur with a lower leg fracture.
“Unfortunately, Steph had to return from camp,” he said. “She’s in a boot currently with an Achilles issue.
“We don’t know the timeframe but it won’t be especially short. We hope that it will not be very long.
“It was disappointing but we’re still currently assessing Alex. She had an issue as well. It’s not ideal.
“From the previous game, it looks like we’ve lost three players with Esme (Morgan), Steph and maybe Alex.
“Esme’s got a really bright future in front of her and we value her at the Club. She’s probably one of the players you don’t want to lose – we only have a few in the group capable of playing in a number of positions.
“Having an Esme is vital. Her surgery was successful, she’s full of spirit and looking forward to returning. We’ve just got to be patient with that.
“Raso is still struggling a bit as well. Hopefully, that won’t be too much longer but Caz is back and looking quite good.
“Keira is getting a little closer, although Sunday might be too soon. Hopefully, she won’t be too far away.
“There is some good news.”
With key players unavailable for the trip, the stars may align for the youngster to make her debut and Taylor asserts she will be ready for the challenge if needed.
“For Vicky, it probably seems a lifetime ago when she was at Arsenal but there’ll be some feeling for her,” he declared.
“Ruby, she’s experienced being out on loan so wasn’t with them a lot but she’s been great in how she’s operated with us.
“She’s really aggressive in how she’s gone about things and she’s knocking on the door. If she gets the opportunity, she’ll be ready and I think it’s good for young players to have time to grow and develop.
“Having Ruby around the more senior players we have in the set-up, I think she’s moving in the right direction.”
With two league wins from two and success in the Champions League qualifying rounds, Arsenal have started the season brightly, while City suffered rare back-to-back defeats before the international break.
While much of the pre-match discussion has pitted Arsenal as favourites, especially given City’s injury problems, Taylor asserts his side have ‘nothing to fear’ and have their sights set on nothing less than three points.
“They played two already and won both,” he added. “They’re yet to play at home (at Meadow Park).
“They’ve had a change of manager (Jonas Eidevall) but they’ve retained quite a few of their players from the previous season so there’s not too much disruption.
“He’s in a good position and they’ve made a decent start but we know the season’s long and Europe can drain the resources.
“It’s a tough but good game for us to have. Against Arsenal last season, we were successful in terms of result and the way we performed.
“That’s the encouraging part for us. We’re a bit light in certain areas but I see it as a really good challenge for us.
“I think people might look at it as a good time to play us but for us, it’s the wounded animal – that’s what I want to see from my players: fight determination…
“Sometimes, it’s not pretty but we need to do that to the opposition as well. It’s a good opportunity for us to show what we’re about. We’re looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s important we stay in the hunt and we need to go out and impose ourselves on the opposition.
“We always go out to try and win. I’ve never played to draw.
“That’s not me being foolish and there’ll be moments when it looks more like a draw that we’ll need to make sure we secure that – of course, our game management is important – but the plan is to go out and win the game.
“There’s nothing to fear. Arsenal are a good team but we are as well. A draw wouldn’t be a disaster but we go out to try and win if we can.”