The Arsenal Women Academy team will be competing in the FA WSL Academy Cup final against Manchester United Development team on Sunday at Loughborough University.
This is the first season in the new Academy League that involves all the reserves team from the FA WSL teams. The League had originally twelve teams with The FA East region invited to compete but the latest table shows the West Ham Academy team no longer listed.
The Arsenal Academy team is currently sitting in seventh place in the table. The league was won this week by Liverpool. Arsenal’s record is not really good at first glance, with eight wins, one draw and eight defeats.
But when you dig deeper, you find that the team has the best defence in the league by quite a margin, with 16 goals conceded out of 17 games. So how did we end up losing eight games, despite having the best defence?
The answer is simple, the team has lost many games by walkover. They lost six games that way and also won two. On the pitch, they’ve really only lost two games (Chelsea (A) 4-0 earlier this month and Liverpool (H) 1-2 in January) and won six games, scoring 39 goals and conceding 16 overall in the League.
One interesting fact is although the League is a u-21 League, the Arsenal team is actually a u-19 team. All the girls born in 98 and 99 that would be allowed to play for the Academy team have all left to play either in the Championship, in the FA Women National League or at University in the USA.
22 players have been used this season. First-team fans are already aware of the eight players who have been helping the team this season when injury-struck: Ava Kuyken, who has been a first-team squad member for two seasons now. Paige Bailey-Gayle, who was a starter in the Man City away League game, Ruby Grant who scored a hat-trick in the Cup game against Crawley Wasps, Melis Filis, Hannah Dawbarn, Amelia Hazard, Lashante Paul, and Ana Caterina Albuquerque.
International football followers will also know that Silvana Flores, our Mexican midfielder, was a silver medallist at the recent FIFA u-17 Women World Cup in Uruguay, and that winger Tamsyn Sibanda has been called many times for the Wales senior squad managed by the former Arsenal player Jayne Ludlow.
The road to the final
The Academy team defeated Leicester Reserves over two legs in the first round, 8-0 and 4-1. They then defeated Chelsea 2-0 in the quarter-finals, with two long-range goals from Melisa Filis and Ruby Grant. They defeated Ipswich Town Reserves in the semi-final 1-0 after extra time thanks to a Jennifer Echegeni goal.
The opposition, Manchester United Development team, defeated Bristol City 3-2, Yeovil Town 6-1 and Reading women 3-2. They have a couple of players who are well known like Lucy Roberts or Levi Rathburn.
It should be a tight game and hopefully, our girls will bring the first trophy of the season with the u-16 also looking to win the FA Girls Youth Cup and the first team winning the FA WSL of course.