Arsenal Ladies used to be the standard bearer in women’s football for more than a decade before being overtaken by the likes of Liverpool, then City and Chelsea. With the club now properly backing up the team, it might be time to deliver in 2016.
The Ladies now have their own hub at London Colney’s training ground and the recruitment drive has seen the arrival of four and probably five new players who are fully capped by their country. They come from England, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and soon Nigeria.
The Ladies are now fully integrated with the club and can now be considered as full-time professionals like their main FA WSL competitors. Therefore, there is no doubt that the pressure will be on for the club to finish in the top two places in the League and qualify for the Champions League. Competing in the top clubs’ competition has been in Arsenal’s DNA for years and years. Players and fans have missed attending the European afternoons at Borehamwood and away travels.
There is no doubt that the 2016 squad is probably one of the best that the club ever had, since the 2006/07 season that ended up in a sextuple and unbeaten season. This is clear in terms of quality and quantity with 22 players available to pick from for manager Pedro Losa. 19 of them have been capped at senior level for their respective country and the three remaining players have been capped at England u23 and England u19 level.
It will be probably one of the biggest problems for the manager to keep everyone happy in the squad. With 22 players available, it means seven unhappy players every game as they have to sit on the bench and an extra four not even included in the matchday squad having to watch the game from the stands. Man management will be as important as having quality training sessions this upcoming season.
There will certainly be a lot of competition for places in the squad and it will be healthy as every player will have to fight every day in training to get the shirt. But the FA WSL is a short season with only 16 leagues games plus a maximum of four ties in the FA Women’s Cup and the same number of games in the FA WSL Continental Cup.
Unless the manager introduces regular squad rotation, a good number of players will see between one and eight games overall during the season and it is not a good number for an international player.
So 2016 will be a season of hope for the Arsenal Ladies with a title challenge as the main target after finishing third last season.