ARSENAL WOMEN

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BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Joe Montemurro, the manager of Arsenal Women looks on prior to the WSL match between Brighton and Hove Albion Women and Arsenal Women at Amex Stadium on April 28, 2019 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Thank you, Joe Montemurro

Joe Montemurro’s Gunners' legacy is the return to the Arsenal way of playing football, the title winning season and leaving the club in a better position than he found it
Ruby Mace of Birmingham City Women in action during Womens Super League match between West Ham Women and Birmingham City Women at The Chigwell Construction Stadium in London - 17th March 2021 West Ham United Women v Birmingham City Women, Barclays FA Women s Super League, Football, the Chigwell Construction Stadium, London, UK - 17 Mar 2021 West Ham United Women v Birmingham City Women, Barclays FA Women s Super League, Football, the Chigwell Construction Stadium, London, UK - 17 Mar 2021

“If I’m Arsenal tonight, I’m excited watching that” Ruby Mace loan watch

Arsenal youngster Ruby Mace moved to Birmingham City on loan in January, so how is she doing? 
England's defender Anna Patten vies with Netherlands' goalkeeper Lize Kop during the Women's World Cup U20 quarter final football match between England and Netherlands on August 17, 2018, at the La Rabine Stadium in Vannes, western France. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

4 players identified as Arsenal forced to look local due to Brexit

With Arsenal currently 2nd in the league, signing one or two in January would help the club get ahead of the summer, here we identify 4 possible signings
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Jordan Nobbs of Arsenal FC scores his team's first goal during the Vitality Women's FA Cup Semi Final match between Manchester City and Arsenal on October 01, 2020 in Manchester, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Questions need to be asked after another big game defeat for Arsenal

Arsenal were defeated, again, away to City after a poor 1st half left them with a mountain to climb so why are they struggling in big matches?
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little of Arsenal lift the trophy as they celebrate after during the WSL match between Arsenal Women and Manchester City at Meadow Park on May 11, 2019 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Winners, losers, Champions League places: FA WSL 2020/21 predictions

With the FA WSL new season starting on Sunday, it is prediction time! Who will win the 20/21 FA WSL, who will be relegated?

ARSENAL WOMEN MATCHES

jill roord wolfsburg

Jill Roord ‘proud’ to sign for Wolfsburg

Jill Roord has become the first departure ahead of what looks to be a busy summer for all teams at Arsenal as her move to Wolfsburg is announced.
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Leah Williamson of Arsenal looks on as she warms up prior to the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Everton Women at Meadow Park on December 20, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Leah Williamson backs social media boycott

Arsenal's Leah Williamson has backed a call for clubs to boycott social media in a bid to force companies to take abuse seriously.
Ruby Mace of Birmingham City Women in action during Womens Super League match between West Ham Women and Birmingham City Women at The Chigwell Construction Stadium in London - 17th March 2021 West Ham United Women v Birmingham City Women, Barclays FA Women s Super League, Football, the Chigwell Construction Stadium, London, UK - 17 Mar 2021 West Ham United Women v Birmingham City Women, Barclays FA Women s Super League, Football, the Chigwell Construction Stadium, London, UK - 17 Mar 2021

“If I’m Arsenal tonight, I’m excited watching that” Ruby Mace loan watch

Arsenal youngster Ruby Mace moved to Birmingham City on loan in January, so how is she doing? 
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Jennifer Beattie of Arsenal Women celebrates after her teammate Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal Women (not pictured) scored their team's fourth goal during the FA Women's Continental League Cup game between Arsenal Women and Bristol City Women at Meadow Park on November 21, 2019 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Arsenal Women international call-ups

Arsenal Women international call-ups It is that time again when Arsenal Women international call-ups see players join up with their National Team and at...
England's defender Anna Patten (R) vies with Japan's midfielder Jun Endo during the Women's U20 World Cup semi-final football match between England and Japan in La Rabine stadium in Vannes, western France on August 20, 2018. (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

Arsenal confirm Patten re-signing: This club means everything to me

Arsenal have confirmed that they have re-signed Anna Patten with the player, a self-confessed Arsenal fan, delighted to return home.
Jennifer Beattie, Arsenal Women's latest signing. Arsenal Training Ground. London Colney, Herts, 23/5/19. Credit : Arsenal Football Club / David Price.

Arsenal defender speaks out about cancer diagnosis

Arsenal defender, Jen Beattie, has been talking to the BBC about her breast cancer diagnosis earlier in 2020.
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Katie McCabe of Arsenal looks on during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Birmingham City Women at Meadow Park on December 06, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. A limited number of spectators (900) will be in attendance as Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are eased in Tier 2 areas. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Arsenal manager confirms post-Brexit signing plans in motion

Arsenal are already planning for life in a new, post-Brexit England where EU players will be restricted and the FA are about to implement another homegrown rule.
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal is interviewed following the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women at Meadow Park on October 18, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Prolific 24yo Arsenal forward wants to become an Arsenal legend

Vivianne Miedema wants to become an Arsenal legend but with 84 goals in 88 appearances in her three years at the club, some would...
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 29: The corner flag prior to the FA Women's Continental League Cup Final Chelsea FC Women and Arsenal FC Women at City Ground on February 29, 2020 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Continental Cup preview: Which teams can qualify for the knock-out stages?

The Continental Cup final games will be played this week and we should know the six group winners and the best two runner-ups by Thursday evening.
Arsenal Women are one of the most successful women’s football teams in existence. Founded in 1987, they play at Meadow Park. They are currently managed by Joe Montemurro and captained by Kim Little.

Arsenal have all but qualified for the 2021/22 tournament thanks to a last minute penalty winner from Kim Little.

Everton Women v Arsenal Women FC FA Women s Super League 02/05/2021. Goal 1-2 Arsenal midfielder Kim Little 10 scores from the penalty spot 1-2 and celebrates winning the game with the last kick of the ball during the FA Women s Super League match between Everton Women and Arsenal Women FC at the Walton Hall Park Stadium, Liverpool, United Kingdom on 2 May 2021. Liverpool Walton Hall Park Stadium Liverpool United Kingdom Copyright: Craig Galloway
Everton Women v Arsenal Women FC FA Women s Super League 02/05/2021. Goal 1-2 Arsenal midfielder Kim Little 10 scores from the penalty spot 1-2 and celebrates winning the game with the last kick of the ball during the FA Women s Super League match between Everton Women and Arsenal Women FC at the Walton Hall Park Stadium, Liverpool, United Kingdom on 2 May 2021. Liverpool Walton Hall Park Stadium Liverpool United Kingdom Copyright: Craig Galloway

While it is not mathematically done, Man United would need to catch up three points on final day and a whopping 26 goals difference.

Arsenal losing at home to relegation threatened Aston Villa is unlikely and, even it happened, you would expect a maximum loss by five goals. United would then need to beat Everton by 22 goals to finish in third place. Let’s be honest, if that kind of miracle happens, the FA will need to form an inquiry because no-one has scored more 15 goals in a FA WSL League game ever.

The Everton game on Sunday, was very interesting because Joe Montemurro shuffled his pack again making full use of his players’ flexibility. Vivianne Miedema played in midfield, Caitlin Foord was up front and Jordan Nobbs was on the left-wing.

The starting 11 was Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Wälti, McCabe; Little, van de Donk, Miedema; Mead, Foord, Nobbs. The available subs were Williams, Patten, Wubben-Moy, Maier, Catley, Goldie, Gut, Roord.

Tactically, it was a game of two halves.

Everton played the first part of the game in 5-3-2 sitting deep and soaking up the pressure from the Gunners. In response, Joe Montemurro set-up the team in an structure that he recently started using with inverted full-backs in Maritz and McCabe. Those two players bombing forward into the half-spaces created some opportunities for other players.

Combined with Miedema playing deeper than van de Donk very often, it opened space for other players to come in to.

Indeed, the first Arsenal goal came from one of those full-back runs through the middle. Wälti send a long through ball to Foord who touched it towards McCabe who evaded the Everton defence before chipping MacIver superbly  to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal.

With Arsenal dominating the proceedings for the most of the first half, Willie Kirk made a tactical change at half-time. He replaced one of his midfielders, Graham, and put a forward on switching from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 in attacking play and 4-4-2 in defensive shape. Sorensen, who came on at half-time, shuffling positions in defensive and attacking situation on the right wing.

The change resulted in a cat and mouse game, that might have looked dull on TV. Everton played higher on the pitch managed to negate most of the Arsenal threats with that switch and the game became rougher. It also got away from the referees control with multiple fouls.

Everton equalised through Finnigan as a short throw in was crossed by an unmarked Christiansen in the mixer and the Everton defender headed it past Zinsberger. The Arsenal defence was caught sleeping as Finnigan managed to head the ball easily and, next to her in acres of space, was an unmarked Emslie who would have been able to volley the ball had Finnigan missed it.

Arsenal put pressure on in the final 15 minutes, looking for a win but there was not enough to destabilise a solid Everton defence until the last minute of added time.

Van de donk and Wälti pressed Christiansen in the middle of the pitch. Little intercepted the loose ball and touched it to Roord who sent it to Miedema, who had her back to the goal and pivoted to pass it on the edge of the penalty area to McCabe. Finnigan, who was coming across to defend, was late and hit McCabe quite hard. The referee pointed to the spot and booked Finnigan.

Kim Little did not disappoint and put the ball top left corner to score the winner with the referee blowing full-time before Everton could even restart the game. Arsenal literally won it with the last kick of the game.

Arsenal winning 2-1 means next season they will play in the revamped Women Champion’s League competition with more money for the clubs and a new group stage with 16 teams. Unless, of course, something bizarre happens on the final day, but it is an unlikely scenario that would raise many suspicions.

So, it’s job done for Joe Montemurro and his squad, who managed to turn things round when they looked really bleak back in January.

Full credit to the manager, his staff and all the players for qualifying the biggest club competition.

Arsenal’s players and coaches responded after some huge questions, following poor results against the top four teams, with a huge win against Manchester United and are now in the right position to be able to qualify for the Champions League.

Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU - FA Women s Super League - Meadow Park Arsenal s Malin Gut left and goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger reacts after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton
Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU – FA Women s Super League – Meadow Park Arsenal s Malin Gut left and goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger reacts after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton

The 2-0 win with goals from Millie Turner (OG) and Lotte Wubben-Moy means Arsenal now trail United by three points with a game against West Ham in hand.

The Gunners’ goal difference is +36 while United’s is +17 which means, should the teams finish level on points, Arsenal will finish in third place and qualify for the Champions League.

For this crucial game, Joe Montemurro made some bold choices in the starting 11 and was rewarded with a big win.

With Leah Williamson and Jennifer Beattie both injured, he turned to Lotte Wubben-Moy and Lia Wälti as the centre-back pairing, depriving the midfield of its traditional anchor.

He could have played the Patten-Wubben-Moy centre-back duo that kept the team unbeaten during the 2017 Spring Series to keep Wälti alongside Kim Little in the middle of the pitch. The Swiss midfielder was superb in the role and the fact that she can pass with excellent accuracy from both feet meant she could open space and create attacking play on the left side in tight space with ease.

In midfield, the Arsenal manager went with no real defensive midfielder, as Kim Little was deployed as the deep-lying playmaker with the two Dutch attacking midfielders, Danielle van de Donk and Jill Roord, ahead of her.

Jordan Nobbs was relegated to the bench, which, again, was a bold choice unless she had a niggling injury.

Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU - FA Women s Super League - Meadow Park Manchester United s Millie Turner greets Arsenal's Jordan Nobbs after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton
Arsenal v Manchester United, ManU – FA Women s Super League – Meadow Park Manchester United s Millie Turner greets Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs after the final whistle during the FA Women s Super League match at Meadow Park, Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday March 19, 2021. Copyright: John Walton

Up front, there was no surprise at all with Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema and Caitlin Foord the main attacking trio used this season.

Lisa Evans was benched again as Noelle Maritz was selected ahead of her at right-back and Beth Mead as the right winger.

The starting 11 therefore was: Zinsbeger; Martiz, Wubben-Moy, Wälti, McCabe; Little, van de Donk, Roord; Mead, Miedema, Foord.

It was quite obvious that United set-up to come for a draw, but that game plan went straight out of the window as early as in the second minute when Arsenal opened the scoring via the United defender, Millie Turner.

Arsenal won the ball on the left in United defensive third. Foord sent a delightful through ball to Roord and her cross was deflected in by Millie Turner, past Earps.

1-0 to the Arsenal.

United had a couple of chances they did not convert and half-time came with the Gunners leading 1-0.

BT Sport showed Casey Stoney complaining to the referee about Lauren James being repeatedly fouled and, strangely enough, Beth Mead was booked early in the second half for an innocuous challenge on the former Arsenal playmaker. It was a yellow that would have consequences later in the game.

In the meantime, Lotte Wubben-Moy scored a towering header from a Katie McCabe corner as she won her duel against Katie Zelem, who is quite small and was marking the tall centre-back.

Arsenal were two nil up and needed good game management to see the match out over the next forty minutes.

But disaster struck in the 62nd minute when Beth Mead received a second yellow card for a reckless tackle.

Arsenal switched to a 4-4-1 system, sitting deep and soaking up United pressure. The Red Devils were not creative enough to break down the Gunners’ defence, except once when Ella Toone scored, but she was offside and the game finished 2-0 to the Arsenal.

This was a big, big win for Joe Montemurro and his squad as there is a lot of pressure to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Players might come and go based on Champions League qualification, especially in terms of player retention with offers coming for Leah Williamson and Vivianne Miedema.

Keeping those players, along with others like Jill Roord, is key to the team’s development and competitiveness next season in the league and, hopefully, the Champions League, too.

13/02/21

Arsenal women get Champions League lifeline as Manchester City thump Manchester United

Arsenal’s faint hopes of Champions League qualification were given a boost on Friday as the Citizens dominated an error prone Manchester United 3-0.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Caroline Weir of Manchester City celebrates scoring her sides third goal with Steph Houghton of Manchester City during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester City Women and Manchester United Women at Manchester City Football Academy on February 12, 2021 in Manchester, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 12: Caroline Weir of Manchester City celebrates scoring her sides third goal with Steph Houghton of Manchester City during the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match between Manchester City Women and Manchester United Women (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Former Gunner, Caroline Weir got the pick of the goals with this sublime chip over Mary Earps:

https://twitter.com/BarclaysFAWSL/status/1360517065396879361

The table shows Arsenal trailing Manchester United by nine points with two games in hand and a home game against the Red Devils that could end up being crucial.

That game is scheduled for Thursday 18 March at Borehamwood.

Arsenal also have a better goal difference than Manchester United by 10 goals, so should the teams finish level on points, Joe Montemurro’s side would end up ahead of their rivals.

The Gunners attempt to travel to Aston Villa for the third time, after the original game was postponed due to Covid-19 cases and the re-scheduled game was postponed due to bad weather and a waterlogged pitch.

It is another must win game for Arsenal and it will be their third game in seven days.

Considering we have just played Manchester City and Chelsea, some players will be tired and might need a rest. There are currently five players injured and we do not need to add more to the list by overplaying them. Especially as we did have a long period without games at the start of the year.

My guess is Maier, Gut and Patten, who were unused subs in both games, will start alongside Nobbs, who is back from injury.

Maritz is also now back to fitness and should get another start.

Williams was good in goal against Chelsea and should carry on, unless Joe Montermurro wants to give a game to Stenson.

Aston Villa should not offer the same pressing threat as City or Chelsea and will therefore allow the Gunners a bit more ease in building up play from the back.

It will be a different challenge, trying to go past a low or medium defensive block. That’s why fresh legs will be needed.

So, the possible XI could look like this: Williams; Maier or Patten, Williamson, Wubben-Moy or Patten, Maritz; Wälti, Gut, Roord; van de Donk, Miedema, Mead.

Of course, the weather might again conspire to postpone this game, which will lead to a fixture pile-up later in the season.

As of today (Saturday), there are only two teams who have played the 15 games planned as per the schedule: Manchester United and Brighton.

Chelsea, Manchester City and Reading have a game in hand, with two of those teams also in the Champions League.

Arsenal, West Ham and Bristol have two games in hand, while Everton, Tottenham and Aston Villa have three games in hand.

The Arsenal know that they need to win every remaining game to have a chance of making the top three and qualification for the Champions league, unless United collapse and drop many more points.

FA WSL TABLE TOP 3

Is there a new manager bounce effect in the FA WSL?

Bristol City v Chelsea - FA Women s Continental Tyres League Cup - Final - Vicarage Road Bristol City manager Matt Beard before the FA Women s Continental Tyres League Cup final match at Vicarage Road, London. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021. Copyright: Mike Egerton
Bristol City v Chelsea – FA Women s Continental Tyres League Cup – Final – Vicarage Road Bristol City manager Matt Beard before the FA Women s Continental Tyres League Cup final match at Vicarage Road, London. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021. Copyright: Mike Egerton

Four of the bottom five teams in the FA WSL that are fighting to avoid relegation have changed manager this season. Here I’ll have a look if the changes have benefited the teams of if the situations are the same.

West Ham (12th place with 8 points)

Matt Beard left the club by mutual consent on 19 November with 0.57 PPG W1 D1 L5. There was an interim period with Billy Stewart 19 November to 23 December with an excellent 1.5 PPG with W1 D0 L1.

Olli Harder has taken over since and has a 0.2 PPG record with W0 D1 L4. Their only draw came against Bristol at home. Their form is not good at the moment and they have a key game against Birmingham on Wednesday.

No managerial bounce at West Ham.

Bristol (11th place with 9 points)

Tanya Oxtoby went on maternity leave on 15 January and was replaced by Matt Beard. Her record at the time was 0.2 PPG with W0 D2 L8. Matt Beard has a 1.4 PPG with W2 D1 L2 and they are one of the form team in the relegation battle having also reached the Conti Cup final mainly under Tanya Oxtoby.

The 6-0 defeat against Chelsea should not impact too much their relegation battle and they are currently on an upward trajectory with a clear impact from the manager change.

Aston Villa (10th place with 10 points)

Marcus Bignot the former Birmingham co-manager in the FA WSL and former Arsenal assistant manager has taken over as interim manager from Gemma Davies who stayed in the coaching staff on 25 January.

Gemma Davies had a 0.70 PPG record with W2 D1 L7 and the Villa board was clear that the change was made to avoid relegation and grow the team next season. Under Marcus Bignot the results are just better with a 0.75 PPG record with W1 D0 L3. it has to be said that the three defeats were against Champions League contenders in Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

So, Aston Villa have actually won their one realistically winnable game against Tottenham. Their upcoming games against direct competitors in the relegation battle will tell us if the management change was the right move.

Tottenham (8th place 13 points)

There was a bit of a surprise when Spurs sacked Karen Hills and Juan Carlos Amoros who had been leading them for many years from the lower League. Their replacement was also named on the day, 19 November, which shows the move was planned well in advance.

The numbers were not good though. At the time, Spurs had no win in seven games and a meagre 0.42 PPG. They were deep into the relegation battle. Fast forward to March, Spurs are five points clear of the relegation place and Rehanne Skinner has a much better 1.25 PPG rate. Her record is good enough with W3 D1 L4.

They need probably at least one or two more wins to make sure of staying up, but the managerial change certainly had a positive effect.

Overall out of four changes, two have certainly improved the team, one is still undecided and one has not worked out so far. All those teams have seven or eight games to make sure, they do not finish bottom of the table, it will certainly be interesting to see what happens at the end of the season for the team that will go down.

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Arsenal win another important away game as things hot up at the top and bottom of the table

The Gunners needed to win away at Birmingham did the job very well with a 4-0 victory. Chelsea, Manchester City and Man United also won setting up and exciting title and Champions League race.

https://twitter.com/BarclaysFAWSL/status/1369053313182953475

The title race is really open with Chelsea two points clear of Manchester City and only one ahead in the goal difference. Both teams have six games remaining to play and are also involved in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. It means they will have played four more games than the other FA WSL sides in March and might suffer from fatigue if they don’t rotate their player enough. Points might ended up being dropped in League games as both look to win the tournament and dethrone Lyon.

The race for the third and final Champions League place is tight as the Gunners did win the two away games in the Midlands with the same scoreline to close the gap to the Mancunians to six points with a game against West Ham in hand. That game has not been rescheduled yet, with both teams eager to play and waiting for the FA to decide a date.

The home game against Manchester United is crucial and a must win game as any other result would mean Arsenal relying on United slipping up in one of the five remaining game. United have already played Chelsea and Manchester City home and away so might not drop any more point this season.

The positive news going into that big game is most of the Arsenal players are back to full fitness, while United are a bit more unfortunate in the injury area with many forwards currently out.

At the bottom of the table, Bristol beat Reading 3-2 and are out of the bottom place for the first time in many months. There has been a bounce effect as Matt Beard has replaced Tanya Oxtoby who has gone on maternity leave.

There are five teams in the relegation fight and strangely enough four of them have changed manager during the season with only Birmingham City managing to keep  Carla Ward despite approach from other teams.

West Ham are at the bottom of the table and have eight remaining games to play. They are one point behind Bristol but have a much better goal difference. So they only need to finish level on points with Bristol to stay up.

Bristol have seven games remaining and are on the up with the Conti Cup final coming on Sunday against Chelsea. They are the form team but will need to pick up more wins to stay up.

Aston Villa are two points ahead of West Ham and with eight games remaining to play. Their goal difference is worse than West Ham by 18 goals so will need to finish above them. Marcus Bignot is working hard to change the players mentality and making them more resilient.

Birmingham City are three points ahead of West Ham and have nine games to play. One of them is actually a game to be decided by an independent tribunal as they did not have enough players to fulfil the fixture against Spurs. They might be defaulted for that game and get nil points or get punished a get a point deduction, we have no idea what the FA will do, it is not transparent at all.

Spurs are four points ahead of West Ham and need a few wins stay up, they might get an additional three points from the Birmingham game. They have eight games remaining, right now.

All the teams fighting to avoid relegation have a lot of games to play. March and April will be congested with the FA Women’s Cup coming into play as well. The teams with the smallest squads might suffer. There is a lot of excitement and the relegation race might go to the final day.

Next Arsenal women game

  • Birmingham City women vs Arsenal women
    Barclays FA Women’s Super League
    Sunday, March 7
    Kick-off: 2pm (UK time)
    Solihull Moors

Arsenal defeated Aston Villa 4-0 away on a difficult pitch against a very defensive side held out for an hour meaning Arsenal are now six points behind Manchester United with a game in hand.

WALSALL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Lisa Evans and Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal chat with Mana Iwabuchi of Aston Villa after the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Aston Villa Women and Arsenal Women at Banks's Stadium on February 28, 2021 in Walsall, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
WALSALL, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 28: Lisa Evans and Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal chat with Mana Iwabuchi of Aston Villa after the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match between Aston Villa Women and Arsenal Women at Banks’s Stadium on February 28, 2021 in Walsall, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

 

For this key game, Joe Montemurro played the expected starting 11 with van de Donk in the number 10 spot and Nobbs on the right wing. The team was Williams; Maritz, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe; Walti, Roord, van de Donk; Nobbs, Miedema, Mead.

The game was basically a cat and mouse affair between attack and defence.

BBC stats have Arsenal with 78% ball possession, 30 shots to five and 14 to nil on target.

Aston Villa lined up on the teamsheet as a 5-3-2 but actually defended in variation of a 9-1 system alternating a back five or a back four depending on the position of the ball on the pitch.

That’s why it took sixty minutes for the Gunners to find an opening. Aston Villa were very resilient at the back, trying to close down space in the central area for the Arsenal midfielders and forwards.

With space congested in the middle, Arsenal had to turn to the wings to find room. Katie McCabe from left-back was instrumental in bringing attack with her pace, clever movement and crossing.

On the other wing, Noelle Maritz did not bring as much attacking play as the Irish defender/forward.  She is obviously an excellent defender and has put in superb performances this season and deservedly starts games. Nevertheless, in those one sided games, I think having Lisa Evans at right-back would be a plus in terms of attacking ability.

In the middle, the central area was so congested that Jill Roord and Danielle van de Donk struggled to find space between the lines. These are games where Kim Little’s composure in small paces is greatly missed as her ability to hold the ball and link play is really special.

The front three tried to link up with the other players, and they did provide the opening with an excellent cross from Beth Mead and a finish from close range from Vivianne Miedema.

Once the deadlock was broken, Villa’s heads went down and Arsenal free flowing play brought more goals.

The second Arsenal goal came from a transition after Beth Mead stealing the ball on the half-way line from the young Villa defender Freya Gregory.

The ball was transferred to the left-wing for a Miedema shot that was well saved and pushed in by captain Jordan Nobbs.

The third goal was a rocket from McCabe after one touch play. It was a goal her performance deserved.

https://twitter.com/BarclaysFAWSL/status/1366050052540493834

And the last goal was a superb team goal from a long passing sequence to keep the ball and a cross from Katie McCabe to Lisa Evans with a delightful header.

https://twitter.com/BarclaysFAWSL/status/1366054555776000007

Overall, a satisfactory performance with three points, four goals and a clean sheet.

Joe  Montemurro also made five subs allowing players, who had not got much playing time to get a few minutes on the pitch.

Up next is Birmingham City away to be played either at Solihull Moors or somewhere depending on what the FA will decide.

Arsenal will need to get the three points prior to the Champions League decider against Manchester United on March the 18.

Latest Arsenal women news

Arsenal women injury update ahead of Aston Villa

Jordan Nobbs
Jordan is back in full squad training and is available for selection.

Jen Beattie
Jen is back in full squad training and is available for selection.

Caitlin Foord
Caitlin has returned to elements of squad training and will be monitored in the run-up to this weekend’s fixture.

Kim Little
Kim has started her pitch-based rehab as part of her rehabilitation from her calf injury.

Steph Catley
Steph has started her pitch-based rehab as part of her rehabilitation from her hamstring injury.

Viktoria Schnaderbeck
Viki is continuing her rehabilitation from a knee injury.

More details here

26/02/21

Arsenal and Manchester United are fighting for the third and final Champions League place with United currently nine points ahead of the Gunners, who have two games in hand a better goal difference.

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07: Caitlin Foord of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead after scoring their side's first goal during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Manchester City Women at Meadow Park on February 07, 2021 in Borehamwood, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 07: Caitlin Foord of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead after scoring their side’s first goal during the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match betw een Arsenal Women and Manchester City Women at Meadow Park on February 07, 2021(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

by Sylvain Jamet

United have 32 points from 15 games and 32-16 on goal difference, while Arsenal have 23 points from 13 games and 40-14.

In simple terms, Arsenal “only” need to win their two games in hand and beat United at home to overtake the Red Devils. Then they need to win every remaining game to guarantee Champions League qualification.

Let’s have a look at the upcoming March fixtures for the two teams:

Sun 28 February 2020

Aston Villa women vs Arsenal women is a must win for the Gunners to close the gap to six points.

Any other result would completely compromise their Champions League chances. Villa are involved in the relegation battle and recently changed manager with the former Arsenal assistant, and Birmingham co-manager, Marcus Bignot taking over.

Sun 07 March

Manchester United women vs Aston Villa women, Birmingham City WFC vs Arsenal women

Both teams need to get three points and they are the favourites to do so. We have seen teams slip up this season, so anyone dropping points this weekend will give their opponents a big boost.

Birmingham, with their limited budget and small squad, are having a very good season and will be tough to beat as they are extremely resilient.

Thu 18 Mar Arsenal v Man Utd is the BIG one and a must win for the Gunners, even a draw won’t be enough. We will have pretty much a good idea if there is Champions League qualification after that game. If not there might be a lot of changes in term of staff and personnel during the Summer.

Sun 28 March

Manchester United women vs West Ham women, Tottenham women vs Arsenal women

There are no guaranteed win in the FA WSL, so both sides will need to be at their best to get three points.

Tottenham have not beaten Arsenal ever in a women’s first team game, so far, and hopefully that record will still stand.

Both teams have been hit by injuries with United attacking players particularly singled out. Russo, James, Galton and Heath currently sit on their list.

A few of them might be back for the key games on March 18.

Arsenal’s injury list is fluctuating quite a lot and will probably be without two players Schnaderbeck and Catley for the big game.

For the Villa game, Foord, Little, Catley and Schnaderbeck will miss out due to injuries (see below) and Joe Montemurro will have a squad of 18 players to choose from.

The goalkeeper shirt could be given to Zinsberger or Williams, it is difficult to know because they are really close in term of performance.

I expect a back four of Maritz, Williamson, Beattie and McCabe.

In midfield Wälti, Nobbs and Roord to make it a very attacking side and up front Mead, Miedema and Evans or van de Donk.

On the bench, we should have many defenders and defensive midfielders: Stenson, Patten, Wubben-Moy, Maier, Gut and either van de Donk or Evans.

The team will have to win the game and I fully expect a very attacking game with Villa mixing it up between the ball playing style they have used so far this season and a new defensive approach brought in by Marcus Bignot.

Arsenal Women international call-ups

It is that time again when Arsenal Women international call-ups see players join up with their National Team and at least one of them comes back with an injury so they can miss a number of club games.

Arsenal Women international call-ups - BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25: Jill Roord of Arsenal celebrates with team mates Vivianne Miedema and Katie McCabe after scoring their team's fifth goal during the pre season friendly match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women at Meadow Park on August 25, 2019 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – AUGUST 25: Jill Roord of Arsenal celebrates with team mates Vivianne Miedema and Katie McCabe after scoring their team’s fifth goal during the pre season friendly match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women at Meadow Park on August 25, 2019 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Luckily (?) enough this time, some players have not been called up due to a number reasons and, therefore, the training ground at Walthamstow should be busier than usual during an international break.

Arsenal Women international call-ups – Australia

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Caitlin Foord of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Beth Mead after scoring her team's sixth goal during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women at Meadow Park on October 18, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 18: Caitlin Foord of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Beth Mead after scoring her team’s sixth goal during the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Eligible: Lydia Williams, Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord

No training camp, Steph Catley is currently injured.

Arsenal Women international call-ups – Austria

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Viktoria Schnaderbeck of Arsenal arrives during the FA WSL match between Birmingham City Women and Arsenal on March 31, 2019 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – MARCH 31: Viktoria Schnaderbeck of Arsenal arrives during the FA WSL match between Birmingham City Women and Arsenal on March 31, 2019 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Eligible: Manuela Zinsberger, Viktoria Schnaderbeck

Austria will play a friendly tournament in Malta, the Visit Malta Women’s Trophy. Viki Schnaderbeck is currently injured, Manuela Zinsberger was called up but cannot attend due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Arsenal Women international call-ups – England

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Leah Williamson of Arsenal looks on as she warms up prior to the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Everton Women at Meadow Park on December 20, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 20: Leah Williamson of Arsenal looks on as she warms up prior to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match between Arsenal Women and Everton Women at Meadow Park on December 20, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Eligible: Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, Anna Patten, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Jordan Nobbs, Fran Stenson

The Lionesses will play their first game in nearly a year with a behind closed door friendly at St George’s Park against Northern Ireland on February 23rd at 12.30pm.

The new manager, Hege Riise, has called up Leah Williamson, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Jordan Nobbs. Beth Mead has been left out due to lack of form. Anna Patten and Fran Stenson do not seem to be in the manager’s thoughts.

Arsenal Women international call-ups – Netherlands

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07: Caitlin Foord of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead after scoring their side's first goal during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Manchester City Women at Meadow Park on February 07, 2021 in Borehamwood, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 07: Caitlin Foord of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead after scoring their side’s first goal during the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match between Arsenal Women and Manchester City Women(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Eligible: Danielle van de Donk, Jill Roord, Vivianne Miedema

All three have been called up for the three nations, one goal tournament.

https://twitter.com/oranjevrouwen/status/1359177934553153538

Arsenal Women international call-ups – Scotland

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25: Jennifer Beattie of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Jill Roord of Arsenal after scoring her team's second goal during the pre season friendly match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women at Meadow Park on August 25, 2019 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – AUGUST 25: Jennifer Beattie of Arsenal celebrates with team mate Jill Roord of Arsenal after scoring her team’s second goal during the pre season friendly match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women at Meadow Park on August 25, 2019 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Eligible: Lisa Evans, Jennifer Beattie, Kim Little

Scotland are out of the Euros and have two remaining qualifier games to play. Both will take place in Larnaca, Cyprus due to the Covid regulations.

Kim Little misses out due to injury, while Jen Beattie, who is currently injured has been called up.

https://twitter.com/ScotlandNT/status/1358739706465378310

Arsenal Women international call-ups – Switzerland

Malin Gut via Arsenal.com
Malin Gut via Arsenal.com

Eligible: Malin Gut, Lia Walti and Noelle Maritz

All three have all been called up for the double-header against France in Metz, following the cancellation of the Tournoi de France with Norway and Iceland pulling out late.

https://twitter.com/SFV_ASF/status/1356950804968652803

Arsenal Women international call-ups – Germany

Leonie Maier, Arsenal Women latest signing. Arsenal Training Ground. London Colney, Herts, 22/5/19. Credit : Arsenal Football Club / David Price.
Leonie Maier, Arsenal Women latest signing. Arsenal Training Ground. London Colney, Herts, 22/5/19. Credit : Arsenal Football Club / David Price.

Eligible: Leonie Maier

Germany will play a tri-nations tournament as part of their World Cup 2027 bid alongside the Netherlands and Belgium. Like all FA WSL German players, the Arsenal full-back has not been called up due to Covid-19 restrictions which would see the players have to quarantine on their return.

Arsenal Women international call-ups – Republic of Ireland

ESSEN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 19: Giulia Gwinn of Germany (R) challenges Katie McCabe of Ireland (L) during the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 Qualifier match between Germany and Ireland at Stadion Essen on September 19, 2020 in Essen, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
ESSEN, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 19: Giulia Gwinn of Germany (R) challenges Katie McCabe of Ireland (L) during the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Qualifier match between Germany and Ireland at Stadion Essen on September 19, 2020 in Essen, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

Eligible: Katie McCabe

No training camp for ROI who are out of the Euros 2022.

Meadow Park

Not your average Joe

Joe Montemurro
Joe Montemurro

Joe – or “Pepe”, as he prefers to be known – Montemurro wasn’t a name familiar to most football fans, even the ones who follow the women’s game. Certainly, few expected it’d be a coach from Australia replacing Pedro Martinez Losa as the manager of the Arsenal women’s team. However, Arsenal did their homework to find an interesting coach who would take the team forward.

Montemurro is, if nothing else, highly qualified.

As a player, Montemurro had spells at Brunswick Zebras in Australia, Neuchetel Xamax in Switzerland and Potenza in Italy. His playing career was predominantly spent in Australia as a midfielder until he retired and moved into coaching in 1995. From that point, it was all about education and learning from his idols.

Montemurro spent much of his coaching career hopping between various youth set-ups in Australia. From 2001 to 2006, he headed three different teams and had reasonable success. Green Gully Soccer Club, a Melbourne-based club that participated in the Victoria Premier League, was his first big break. He took their u21 side to second place in his first year. He then moved on to coach the youth team of the Melbourne Knights, who were then playing in the now defunct National Soccer League. It was during the 2002-03 season that he guided them to the play-off to become the National Youth Champions. When the National Soccer League folded in 2004, Montemurro was offered a senior position in the Victorian Premier League. However, he opted to stay in youth football, and moved on to cross-town rivals South Melbourne.

It wasn’t until 2006 that he made the set-up to senior football. His record at South Melbourne saw him drafted in by Sunshine George Cross. The Georgies, as they were known, were struggling near the bottom of the Victorian Premier League. Montemurro was tasked with keeping them up and, with a draw against Melbourne Knights on the final day of the season, he did exactly that. He parted ways in mid-2007 to take on a role at Hume City, who he guided to promotion. After that was a brief stint with North West Wanderers, before returning to youth football in 2010 with South Melbourne.

Next, Major step up…

Major step up

It was in 2014 that he got his first major job coaching in women’s football. Having gained his UEFA A license, he was appointed head coach for women’s football at the National Training Centre in Melbourne. His work there saw him become a youth coach with the Melbourne Victory Women’s team, who he guided to their highest league position in their history, before trading clubs again, this time to Melbourne City, the newest acquisition of the Manchester City Football Group.

When Melbourne City’s women’s team joined the Australian Women’s League, Montemurro became their head coach. It was here that he had his biggest successes, and likely came to Arsenal’s attention. In his first season in charge, Melbourne City went the entire campaign without losing, scoring 42, conceding just five and winning the league and cup double, all in their maiden season in the division. His second season wasn’t quite as impressive, as they finished fourth in the league. However, it still ended in success as they went to win the play-offs and be crowned Champions for a second season running.

In the meantime, his role with City had expanded to include assisting with the men’s team in the A-League. By 2017, he had become the Chief Assistant Coach, and had to relinquish control of the women’s team. 10 months later, he took up his first job outside of Melbourne: Arsenal, all the way over in London.

It’s unknown when Arsenal became aware of Montemurro’s talents, but they might have received a recommendation from Kim Little. The Scottish midfielder spent a single season on loan at Melbourne City, while she was contracted to the American side Seattle Reign. She was a part of that unbeaten season, where she scored 9 goals in 12 appearances. She was happy to hear that her coach from that time was coming to Arsenal, and optimistic that he could get Arsenal back to title-winning ways.

“I worked with him for four months and I played out in Melbourne in the W League there, and I really enjoyed working with him.” Little told Arsenal.com.

“He likes to coach and play the way that I enjoy playing, which is playing good football with a purpose with a kind of relaxed atmosphere around the team.

“I played under him for quite a short period of time, but we had a great team there and we played possession based football, playing through the thirds with a purpose trying to break teams down as quickly and effectively as possible.

“Everybody doesn’t know too much about Joe, because he has obviously been coaching in Melbourne, but we’re all looking forward to him coming in, putting his stamp on the team and taking us forward in terms of performance.”

Next, Playing philosophy…

Playing philosophy

Montemurro himself describes his playing philosophy as fluid. He believes in having “thinking footballers” – players who can, in any situation, make the right decision on the pitch – who can play proactive football. For him, football is less about individual styles, and more about a holistic style.

Upon his appointment as coach of Melbourne Victory, he said: “I’ve always been fluid in my philosophy. Big statements like “I’m a ball possession playing side”, I personally don’t know any team that doesn’t want the ball. I think that’s just the base of the game.

“We will always play a game where football decisions are made. I will always give the ammunition to players to make the right decisions on the park. We will be well organised, I’m a detail freak, and we will always play a beautiful attacking brand of football. A technical base of football is always where we are heading.”

Australian publication The Football Sack described Montemurro as one of the most qualified Australian coaches around. He completed his UEFA A license and worked on a UEFA Pro Diploma with the Italian football federation. On top of that, he has a Masters in Sports Coaching from the University of Queensland. There is no aspect of coaching that he has left untouched.

While Arsenal got a good tactician, they also got someone who clearly values the human and psychological side of coaching. Montemurro names “personality” and “character” as the fundamentals of being a good coach, along with having a clear strategy on how the game should be played. He aims to make his players better people as well as better footballers as, in his words, not every girl will go on to become a professional footballer. His choice of favourite coaches is revealing on its own: Marcelo Bielsa, Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti head his list due to their willingness to go deep into group dynamics as well as tactics.

He may need all of his people skills to leave his mark on a growing squad of international stars and manage huge expectations. His task at Arsenal was to get the team playing cohesively again, shore up some long-standing defensive issues and take the club to a first title since 2012. Up against the considerable might of Chelsea and Manchester City, that was no small task.

Montemurro has proven to be adaptable and knowledgeable in his career so far. The move to English football was a big change for him, but it seems to be one he is more than up for.

23 July 2020

Is Arsenal’s 20-player-squad good enough to win the Champions League?

Vivianne Miedema in Arsenal’s new kit via Arsenal.com

In a month’s time Arsenal’s women’s team will be in Spain trying to conquer Europe for a second time following their 2006/07 triumph and ahead of that the club have released both the new kit and squad numbers, but is the squad big enough?

The Champions League final eight play in the Basque Country where Arsenal will face France’s perennial runners-up, PSG, in the quarter-finals.

Thursday’s kit launch gave us the first pictures of the new recruits and their squad numbers.

Unless there is a new signing before the UEFA deadline on 18 August, we will have 20 professional players as follows:

Goalkeepers (3): 1. Manuela Zinsberger, 18. Lydia Williams, 24. Frances Stenson.

Defenders (7): 5. Jennifer Beattie, 6. Leah Williamson, 12. Stephanie Catley, 16. Noelle Maritz, 17. Lisa Evans, 20. Leonie Maier, 22. Viktoria Schnaderbeck.

Midfielders (5): 8. Jordan Nobbs, 10. Kim Little, 13. Lia Wälti, 14. Jill Roord, 21. Malin Gut.

Forwards (5): 7. Danielle van de Donk, 9. Beth Mead, 11. Vivianne Miedema, 15. Katie McCabe, 19. Caitlin Foord.

It’s worth noting that most players can actually play in at least three positions on the pitch as Joe Montemurro like players who are intelligent and flexible enough to play all over the pitch.

The five players in bold are those who will be added to the current Champions League squad as per the new regulations that allow six new signings, including a maximum of three from any other team still in the competition.

As UEFA allows a maximum of 25 players overall to be registered, it means another player can be added to Arsenal’s squad. It could be an Academy youngster, like Ruby Mace who is regularly training with the first team.

The other Academy player regularly training with them, Melisa Filis, is already registered in the Champions League squad.

So can this squad win the tournament?

Leah Williamson in Arsenal's new kit via Arsenal.com
Leah Williamson in Arsenal’s new kit via Arsenal.com

The answer is yes, but it will not be easy.

The two favourites, Lyon and Wolfsburg, have really strong squads and all the teams still in the competition have signed a good numbers of players prior to the final eight mini-tournament.

Should Arsenal beat PSG, they would likely meet Lyon and that is a really tough game, unless FC Bayern managed to upset the holders.

Then in the final it is likely to be Wolfsburg, Barcelona or Atletico Madrid, and our former keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. Glasgow City are also still in the running but will play Wolfsburg in the quarter-final and it would be a giant upset if they beat the German champions.

There is a lot of strength in depth in Arsenal’s team. A lot more than last season and it is definitely needed as they could play three games to be played in nine days. With five subs allowed per game, the whole squad is likely to be involved should we go through to the final.

As there is not much time to integrate the new players, and we do not know yet how many friendlies will be played before the tournament next month, it is likely that the starting 11 against PSG will be very close to the one from last season.

I would expect this one: Zinsberger; Maier or Evans, Williamson, Beattie, Catley or McCabe; Wälti, Little, Nobbs; Van de Donk, Miedema, Mead or McCabe.

Hopefully, we can add another signing, though, as 18 outfield players would be a decent number that would provide proper cover when injuries  inevitably occur during the season.

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5 September 2020

Winners, losers, Champions League places: FA WSL 2020/21 predictions

With the FA WSL new season starting on Sunday, it is prediction time! Who will win the 20/21 FA WSL, who will be relegated, and who will fight it out for the three Champions League places?

I believe we will see a three-tier league with teams fighting for Champions League places, the top half of the table and, finally, the relegation battle.

Teams likely to be involved in the FA WSL relegation battle

KINGSTON UPON THAMES, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Lucy Staniforth of Birmingham City is challenged by Erin Cuthbert of Chelsea during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Chelsea and Birmingham City at Kingsmeadow on February 12, 2020 in Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)
KINGSTON UPON THAMES, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 12: Lucy Staniforth of Birmingham City is challenged by Erin Cuthbert of Chelsea during the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Birmingham City at Kingsmeadow on February 12, 2020 in Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Birmingham City women (11th last season)

A summer player exodus has happened for the second season in a row with 10 players leaving the season before and 7 this summer. That exodus has not been fully covered with six new signings made last year and five so far in this transfer window.

Birmingham have been very good in bringing Academy players through the ranks into the first team to cover for the small number of signings. They have a clear pathway for youth players and should be applauded for it when other teams just go abroad to buy ready-made players.

The fact that they also named Carla Ward as their manager recently did not help. It looks like someone else got offered the job and then decided not to take it, making it a late appointment for the club. The Blues have a small squad but have been boosted by the arrival of Rachel Corsie, the experienced Scotland captain. As long as they don’t get hit by injuries, they should be able to compete without problem against most teams.

Bristol City women (10th)

Another team with a limited budget and smaller squad. Bristol lost two experienced players and two promising youngsters during the transfer window. They signed two Australian players, Chloe Logarzo who arrived just before the pandemic started, and Ella Mastrantonio. Aimee Palmer returned after a two years spell at Man United and they got the excellent left-back from Liverpool Jemma Purfield. Megan Wynne, the Welsh wing-back was signed permanently but unfortunately did her ACL in pre-season.

So, they are likely to be drawn into the relegation battle. But, back in 2018/19, they were also expected to be involved in it and ended up in the top half of the table, so should not be underestimated.

Aston Villa women (promoted)

This prediction can be construed as a lazy assumption. Aston Villa are of course a bit of an unknown quantity. Last season the promoted teams Manchester United finished in fourth place and Tottenham in 7th place, so Aston Villa could finish in the top half of the table rather than fight to avoid relegation.

Like any team turning professional, Aston Villa made big changes in their squad with seven players coming in and eight leaving the club. They signed Chloe Arthur from Birmingham and Anita Asante from Chelsea alongside five players from abroad, including one of the back-up goalkeeper from Champions League winners Lyon Lisa Weiss.

The big question is how quickly can they gel to become a team on the pitch. For the players who were semi-professional last year and turned professional, how quickly will they adapt from evening training three times a week to daily training. There is certainly a lot of well-known attacking quality in the Villa team so you would expect them to score the goals to keep them up.

Teams likely to reach mid-table position in the FA WSL

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Hope Powell, Manager of Brighton & Hove Albion and Joe Montemurro, Manager of Arsenal shake hands ahead of the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion at Meadow Park on September 29, 2019 in Borehamwood, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kate McShane/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 29: Hope Powell, Manager of Brighton & Hove Albion and Joe Montemurro, Manager of Arsenal shake hands ahead of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League match between Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion at Meadow Park on September 29, 2019 in Borehamwood, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kate McShane/Getty Images)

Brighton and Hove Albion women (9th)

Last season, Hope Powell’s team were safe early enough with a couple of wins pulling them away from Liverpool and Birmingham to relative safety. Their PPG result was indeed nearly double of relegated Liverpool and they stayed up very comfortably.

They have had quite a turnover with nine players leaving and seven new signings including the Irish playmaker Denise O’Sullivan (on loan), who has been very successful in the NWSL with the North Carolina Courage.

You can see that Hope Powell has been trying to build a team with a solid base in her first season. She then improved the overall attacking creativity last season and is carrying on in the same pathway this year. Building up the team from solid foundations.

West Ham United women (8th)

A busy Summer for Matt Beard with nine departures and eight arrivals. Quite an international recruitment drive with Cezch, French, Australian, Swedish and also some promising English talent also signed. Adding Rachel Daly until the winter break means they have a very solid starting 11 and quite a large squad. They should really aim for 6th place at least.

Tottenham Hotspur women (7th)

Spurs are building on last season’s success. They have made an adjustment transfer window by letting go a few players that were not at the required level for them. Four experienced players have come in Williams, Harrop, Zadorsky and Kennedy.

Like West Ham, they should aim for at least 6th place or higher.

Reading women (5th)

Nine players have left and six have come in, so Reading will have a slightly smaller squad this season. Experience and quality have been signed with Mitchell, Carter, Fishlock and Nayler. Another solid starting 11, but the lack of depth might expose them should they become hit by injuries and suspensions.

It is interesting to note that they have been making noises about trying to get to third place and are very ambitious this season. Their strategy of adding quality but eeping fewer players in the squad is similar to Arsenal’s.

Teams fighting for the 3 Champions League places in the FA WSL

Manchester United women (4th)

BROMLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Casey Stoney, Manager of Manchester United Women looks on prior tothe FA Women's Championship match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Hayes Lane on November 18, 2018 in Bromley, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)
BROMLEY, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 18: Casey Stoney, Manager of Manchester United Women looks on prior tothe FA Women’s Championship match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Hayes Lane on November 18, 2018 in Bromley, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Casey Stoney built a solid and resilient team last season and finished a creditable fourth place for their first FA WSL term. She has improved some positions in her starting 11 with three good signings and the main problem of scoring goals should now be solved with the arrival on loan from Tobin Heath and Christen Press.

They will be definitely fighting for the top places with the two World Cup winners signing up.

Everton women (6th)

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: Willie Kirk, manager of Everton FC looks on during the Women's FA Cup 4th Round tie between Everton FC and London Bee's at Haig Avenue on January 26, 2020 in Southport, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND – JANUARY 26: Willie Kirk, manager of Everton FC looks on during the Women’s FA Cup 4th Round tie between Everton FC and London Bee’s at Haig Avenue on January 26, 2020 in Southport, England. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Willie Kirk is ambitious and has signed seven players with six leaving the club. Seasoned internationals like Ingrid Moe Wold, Rikke Sevecke, Valerie Gauvain and Nicoline Sorensen. Hayley Raso and Isobel Christiansen will be like new signings even if they signed in the previous window. A highly rated left-back has arrived in Poppy Pattinson and she could be lining up for the Lionesses by the end of the season.

Kirk has certainly improved the skill level in the team and also added strength in depth. If all those new signings can gel quickly, they have more than enough quality to fight for third place.

Manchester City women (2nd)

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29: Gareth Taylor manager of Manchester City during the Women's FA Community Shield Final at Wembley Stadium on August 29, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Couldridge/Pool via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 29: Gareth Taylor manager of Manchester City during the Women’s FA Community Shield Final at Wembley Stadium on August 29, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Couldridge/Pool via Getty Images)

New manager, new ideas for a squad that was maybe underperforming a little under Nick Cushing as seen in the Champions League. They were eliminated by Atletico Madrid two seasons in a row. This has actually contributed greatly to England losing the third place in the UEFA WCL association rankings to Spain and means the 2020/21 FA WSL champions will have to play a qualifying round instead of entering the Champions League at the group stage level.

City have been a big signing spree with two World Cup winners, two Lionesses and two young English promising players all arriving. Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Chloe Kelly and Esme Morgan back from loan is a top quality transfer window.

They have a big squad which means the same problem as Chelsea ie how to keep everybody happy. They are certainly joint-favourites to win the title after missing out last year.

Chelsea women (1st)

Chelsea's goal scorers Scottish striker Erin Cuthbert (L) and Chelsea's English defender Millie Bright (R) lifts the trophy after winning the English FA Women's Community Shield football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 29, 2020. - Chelsea Women won the match 2-0 against Manchester City Women. (Photo by ANDREW COULDRIDGE / POOL / AFP)
Chelsea’s goal scorers Scottish striker Erin Cuthbert (L) and Chelsea’s English defender Millie Bright (R) lifts the trophy after winning the English FA Women’s Community Shield football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 29, 2020. – Chelsea Women won the match 2-0 against Manchester City Women. (Photo by ANDREW COULDRIDGE / POOL / AFP)

Joint-favourites to win the title alongside Manchester City. Four players have left the club and four quality signings have come in. A world class forward in Pernille Harder, a top midfielder in Melanie Leupolz and two young forwards Niamh Charles and the young, but already experienced, Jessie Fleming.

Top class attacking football is guaranteed at Kingsmeadow this season. The only question mark is how will Emma Hayes keep all her players happy and share the playing time. They have strength in depth and so much quality, which is needed as they are trying to win six trophies this season, one of which is already in the bag.

Arsenal women (3rd)

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - AUGUST 22: Beth Mead of Arsenal celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's first goal during the UEFA Women's Champions League Quarter Final between Arsenal FC Women and Paris Saint-Germain Women at Estadio Anoeta on August 22, 2020 in San Sebastian, Spain. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN – AUGUST 22: Beth Mead of Arsenal celebrates with teammates after scoring her team’s first goal during the UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarter Final between Arsenal FC Women and Paris Saint-Germain Women at Estadio Anoeta on August 22, 2020 in San Sebastian, Spain. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

A good transfer window for Joe Montemurro with five senior players departing and four players signed. All incomings have been defensive signings with two defenders Steph Catley and Noelle Maritz, one goalkeeper Lydia Williams and one defensive midfielder Malin Gut.

The team has now a bit more strength in depth than in the previous two seasons. We have 17 outfield players and three goalkeepers, one of them who is currently injured. There is also one Academy player, Ruby Mace who turns 17 on 5 September, that boosts the team to a squad of 21.

Is Arsenal’s squad good enough to compete in the FA WSL and three cups?

Danielle Van De Donk of Arsenal celebrates scoring her sides second goal from a penalty with Beth Mead during the WSL match between Arsenal Women and Birmingham Ladies at Meadow Park on November 4, 2018 in Borehamwood, England.
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 04: Danielle Van De Donk of Arsenal celebrates scoring her sides second goal from a penalty with Beth Mead during the WSL match between Arsenal Women and Birmingham Ladies at Meadow Park on November 4, 2018 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)

Squad rotation is not a problem as the manager does it on regular basis and players are extremely versatile. Arsenal have to do better in head-to-head games against Chelsea and Man City, while carrying on getting all the points against the ”weaker” teams.

Arsenal will be in the Champions League places race for sure and should the injury curse give them a break this year, they will be title candidates, although it will not be easy to compete with the two joint-favourites.