The Arsenal Ladies Development team season is played from September to May and they have played the grand total of zero games.
It seems the FA WSL cannot get any scheduling right, be it for the first or the reserves team.
To clarify my point made about the number of games played so far – the Arsenal Ladies Development team have already played a game according to the FA Website, it lists four games:
- 25/09 H to London Bees (Away Walkover)
- 02/10 A Millwall P-P
- 09/10 H Reading P-P
- 06/11 H Millwal FA WSL Development League Cup preliminary Round P-P
Now if we look at the playing squad registered, the Development League is a u20 League although there has been no official communication from the FA on that matter, we have the following players registered:
- Tinaya Alexander,
- Chloe Brunton-Wilde,
- Shannon Cooke,
- Rianna Dean,
- Charlotte Devlin*,
- Anne-Marie Filbey,
- Taylor Hinds,
- Laura Hooper,
- Amelia Houhgton-Boyle,
- Lucy Parker,
- Anna Patten,
- Kalani Peart,
- Ciara Ritchie-Williams,
- Sian Rogers,
- Lotte Wubben-Moy
That’s 15 players registered, with Charlotte Devlin already on a first team contract, but likely to play with the Development team. There are also two u20 first team players who are eligible, but do not play for the development team in Chloe Kelly and Leah Williamson.
Many of those dev team games were postponed because we had five players at the u17 World Cup when the Development League started on the 25th September as England travelled very early to be prepared for the weather in Jordan.
The tournament was played from 30th September to 21st October, with England defeated on 13th October and some other team players in the squad were back on the pitch three days later with their club.
It is actually quite surprising that the opening game of the season, at home to Bees, is an away walkover while the other games are postponed, as the situation in term of personnel has been the same for all the games.
You have to remember that Arsenal could have kept those five players at home to play in those development team games rather than letting them play at the u17 World Cup. The club certainly did this in the past, refusing to release certain players for the u19 finals in Israel a couple of seasons ago.
In the grand scheme of things, playing u17 World Cup games is better for the player’s development than a development league game and withdrawing them might have also affected the players future in regard to squad selection at u19, Next Gen or Senior level.
What makes a mockery of the League is the fact that in the table you have such a disparity in the number of games played by the teams so far:
- Watford and Brighton five games played so far
- London Bees, Bristol City, Oxford United, Yeovil Town, Reading Women four games played
- Chelsea Ladies three games played
- Millwall Lionesses two games played
- Arsenal Ladies one game ‘played’ (in reality none as previously explained)
When you think that pre-season started around August, the team has only played friendlies over the last three months, which is bad.
Although the blame mainly lays at the FA’s door, part of the problem also comes from Arsenal as the FA WSL rules specify that there is a 40-player squad limit for the first and development teams together. As we know the first team squad is so big that it automatically means the development team’s squad size has to shrink.
With games also postponed due to bad weather during the winter, there is every chance that a fixture pile-up will happen in the second half of the season after the Christmas break. Luckily enough, Herts Uni, where the Development team games are being played, has a 3G pitch alongside the main pitch used, so that games can still be played in atrocious weather.
Let’s hope that the team can have as successful a 2016/17 season as the previous one when they won the League and Cup double, but the real aim is to have some of the girls integrated to the first team come the beginning of the next first team season in September 2017.