For this week’s player profile, I chose one of my favourite current squad players, Carla Humphrey.
The midfielder/forward has just come back from a season loan to Doncaster Belles.
First Name: Carla
Squad number: 11
Position: Attacking midfielder, second striker
The first time I heard about Carla was back in February 2011 when she was selected for an England u15 game played at Leicester against the Netherlands.
Although, she did not play in that game, her finishing certainly looked good in the warm-up and I remember thinking – we might have a little diamond for the future at Arsenal.
Fast forward two years, Carla scored a hat-trick in the FA Girls Youth Cup final in the 3-1 win against Blackburn.
And it's Arsenal 3 Blackburn 0 just before half time. The goal and a hat trick from Carla Humphrey. #ALFC
— Arsenal Ladies (@ArsenalLadies) May 12, 2013
A couple of months later, she scored on her first team debut in a friendly at Coventry, while she was still only 16. She also won the Development League and Cup double, scoring 22 goals in 20 games in the following season.
Those goals scored at Junior level were all scored from the wing, either at u17 or development team level. It always surprised me that the club played her there rather than in the playmaker or second striker position.
Carla obviously knows when to make runs to get into the right position in the penalty area. She can also deliver killer through balls and finishes well. Although you cannot argue with the results and goal numbers, I always felt she was underused on the wings.
I really think that the area where she can inflict the most damage to the opposition defence is in the final third, in the central area. I remember asking Pedro Losa during a development team game he was watching where he intended to play her.
He praised her intelligence and ability to see things quickly, but also mentioned that the 4-3-3 system was working well for the club with two wingers and a centre forward. There was no surprise, then, to see Carla play on the wing and get a couple of chances for the first team.
Later her playing time dipped a bit as she was also doing her A level at home, which she managed to pass. With competition for places in attack really fierce, Carla went on a season loan to Doncaster Belles in 2016 and she has now come back an even better and stronger player.
She gained a lot of confidence and carried on her development with a lot of playing time, albeit still on the wing quite often.
Humphrey should be challenging for a place in the starting 11 during the Spring Series.
As Arsenal play a 4-3-3 system, the big question remains. Will Carla play in midfield competing with Kim Little for the playmaker position or on the wing, fighting HAO, Katie McCabe and any of the five centre forwards that get moved to the winger position?
If we look at the France ’98 team that won the World Cup, they had a similar problem positioning Youri Djorkaeff alongside Zinedine Zidane. Coach Aime Jacquet ended up playing a 4-3-2-1 system, with Zizou at number 10 and Youri in the 9 and a half position behind the centre forward Guivarch’/ Dugarry/Trezeguet.
So why not try the same idea with a midfield three of Williams in the base, Nobbs on the right and McCabe/Janssen/Williamson on the left?
With Little in the number 10 role, Humphrey as second striker role and one of the five centre forwards up front, I think that would be an interesting system to test.