The Arsenal Women; Unprecedented
The word “unprecedented” has been used an astonishing number of times in 2020, and usually with a negative connection – and understandably so, of course.
However, there was one case where it could have been used positively: women’s football. Europe, and especially the UK, has been seeing a rise in the public’s engagement with women’s football over recent years, the likes of which has not yet been seen on the continent.
The Arsenal Women have always been leaders of the beautiful game in England, right from the days when Vic Akers established an era of dominance with his squads.
Those who followed the team back then will fondly remember the star names that led Arsenal to domestic and European success, players like Rachel Yankey, Kelly Smith, and Alex Scott. Nowadays, although those legends have moved on from their playing careers, Arsenal continues to impress with its new crop of talent as stars from all across Europe are now keenly joining the project.
Midfield maestros like Lia Wälti and Danielle van de Donk being are now household names for to anyone following women’s football in the past few years. And of course, who could forget Vivianne Miedema – the Dutch sensation who, by the age of 23, has already become the top scorer for the Netherlands (men’s or women’s teams) and the winner of the Golden Boot in the Women’s Super League for the past two seasons.
It is not just in attack that the Arsenal impress. In defence, we are fortunate to boast a plethora of talented, versatile players.
Take Katie McCabe, for example. The Ireland international with a famous zinger of a left foot who never seems to tire, and has been utilized on the left side of defence, midfield, and attack regularly. Viktoria (Viki) Schnaderbeck is another who has been successful playing at the centre of defence and in holding midfield.
One of the many special aspects of Arsenal is our ability to combine the various talents of players from abroad with players closer to home.
Jen Beattie, Lisa Evans, and captain Kim Little are all key cogs in the Gunners machine. In fact, Little is widely considered to be amongst the top five Scottish women to ever grace the game. Such is her noticeable impact upon any match where she takes the field.
Our English talents, as well, are the envy of most clubs in the country. Beth Mead, often a part of the front three, has established herself as a key player for both England and Arsenal. Those who have watched her for a while now have also affectionately associated her with the “crot”, due to her uncanny ability to send in crosses that somehow bamboozle defenders and goalkeepers, and find their way into the net.
Jordan Nobbs first broke into the team when the likes of Smith and Scott were still around, and she herself has spent the best part of ten years at the club now. Her sharpness, creativity and clear understanding of what it means to wear the Arsenal crest is a shining example to fans, players and staff alike.
This passion is perhaps only matched by that of 23-year-old Leah Williamson. A Gooner since childhood, she is one who many fans view as the modern symbol of what it means to be Arsenal. A rock-solid centre-back with a keen eye for a long ball, and possibly the most reliable defender in the squad, Williamson is a player that her teammates and coaches know will leave everything on the pitch game after game to defend the honour of the club whose crest she wears.
Seemingly, she is destined to one day become captain at the club – and potentially England as well – if she continues along the trajectory she is currently travelling.
Arsenal has always been a club that has prided itself on giving chances to young players and being able to blend youth with experience to achieve success. Joe Montemurro has continued to uphold that value.
Over the 2019/20 season, he ensured that chances were given to some of our most promising youngsters, such as Ruby Grant and Mel Filis. Young goalkeeper Fran Stenson has gained experience while on loan last season and seems set to be a part of the squad for the upcoming season, while new Swiss signing Malin Gut is a very exciting prospect indeed.
Having already played for the national team with Wälti, their understanding will undoubtedly help her settle into the squad, while her versatility enables her to play as a holding midfielder, a number 8, and a ball-playing centre-back.
Given the fact that Montemurro prefers working with a small squad – compared to some of the other clubs in the WSL – Gut’s ability to play in different positions is likely to see her involved a lot as the squad is rotated for the different competitions in which Arsenal will partake.
Along with the youth has to come a healthy level of experience. Veteran goalkeeper Lydia Williams (another recent summer signing) has had a glittering career so far, and is exactly the person to bring said experience and leadership within the squad.
The same can be said for Aussie defender Steph Catley (who has recently arrived from the USA), while Noelle Maritz – a regular for Switzerland and Wolfsburg since 2013 before joining us this summer – is just entering her prime.
One more player who feels like a new signing is Caitlin Foord, although she did join us in the winter transfer window, she only played twice before the pandemic robbed us of the culmination of the 2019/20 season. Nevertheless, she seems to have taken to the Arsenal project like a fish to water, and has reportedly played a part in convincing Catley and Williams to join us this summer as well.
Women’s football seems to have fallen a bit under the radar by the “higher powers” governing football in England. It is imperative that we as fans make sure that the progress made in the game over recent years is not undone. The few people governing the game have not bothered to consider the impact of the virus on the women’s side of football, which is still growing. This cannot be discounted or ignored.
Arsenal played a part in achieving history already, featuring in a historic North London Derby at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium back in November. In attendance were 38,262 (a record in women’s club football in England) fans, while the Lionesses hosted Germany at Wembley to the tune of a 77,000-strong crowd.
The women’s game was seeing unprecedented growth, so let’s make sure we continue that way. Watch the games on the new FA Player app wherever you are in the world, and if you can, make the trip to Meadow Park in Borehamwood to watch Arsenal’s home games for the new season (beginning on the weekend of Sept. 5th).
Women’s football is on the rise, with Arsenal leading the way. It’s our job as supporters to help them along in these turbulent times. I promise you, the result will be worth it.