Our Arsenal ladies expert takes a look at four up-and-coming stars in the development side.
Currently playing for the Arsenal Ladies development squad (reserves) there are four girls, all born in 1996, who are now starting to make the bench with the first team.
The four will be hoping that next season will be their breakthrough year and that they will be able to follow in the footsteps of Leah Williamson (born in ’97 and eligible to play with the U17 the whole 2014 season) who made the step last season did last year.
Let’s take a closer look at them:
Carla Humphrey ( Forward)
One of the most creative forwards to come through the Arsenal Ladies youth system, she has an eye for the goal and another one for the killer pass.
She was named FA WSL Development League Players’ Player of the Year in 2014 after scoring 22 goals in 20 games.
I am actually surprised that she has not got an official game with the first team yet considering her talent and creativity.
She scored a hat-trick in the U17 National Cup final a couple years ago and though, she has been mainly used as a winger in the U17 and Development League, she would be better utilised as either a second striker or as a playmaker at senior level.
Humphrey does much more damage to the opposition in central areas rather than exiled on the wing.
For the record, she scored a goal in a first team friendly back in July ’13 and with Kelly Smith getting closer to retirement, there is an in-house replacement available.
The coach, Pedro Losa, just needs to give her a chance.
Vyan Sampson ( Defender)
The tall center-back was given her first start in the final 2014 league game against Everton.
Sampson is a strong tackler, reads the game well and could be a cornerstone of the Arsenal Ladies defence for years to come.
Like Humphrey, she needs first-team games to carry on her development as the Development League games are not challenging her enough.
If she does not get chances in the first-half of the season, going on loan to an FA WSL 2 side would probably be an option to look at.
She is definitely a good alternative to Casey Stoney to start alongside Jemma Rose at center-back.
Taome Oliver (Midfield)
Taome is our little Tomas Rosicky with the same ability to go past players with a burst of speed in tight areas.
She is also capable of intricate pass-and-move plays like the Czech maestro.
Oliver is a central attacking midfielder who can also play on the wing but contributes more if placed in a central area 20 to 40 yards from the opposition goal.
She played one first-team game last season in the FA WSL Conti Cup.
At the end of the Development team season in June a loan deal might come into the equation if her first-team opportunities are limited or simply non-existent. Or maybe a move to a University in the USA.
There is a lot of competition in the first team for the attacking midfield positions.
Frances Steele (Midfield)
The Development team Captain.
Steele can play either at number 6 in front of the defence or in the box-to-box number 8 position.
Her versatility allows her to cover at right-back and center-back if needed, but her best position is definitely in midfield.
She has a good short and long passing range, can tackle well and is physically strong.
There are some good players ahead of her in the first team in Bailey, Nobbs and Williamson but if she works hard, she might be able to get a few minutes on the pitch with the first team during the season.
All four of those players ,alongside Leah Williamson, will hope to be part of England’s U19 squad next Summer when the finals are played in Israel.
The top 4 teams there will also qualify for the 2016 U20 World Cup which is expected to take place in Sweden.