After nine consecutive seasons finishing first in the top flight of women’s football, Arsenal took a blip in their success in 2014, where no silverware was won. Since then, they have yet to retain their champion status in the Women's Super League (WSL), but could that change next season?
Pedro Martinez Losa took over the Gunners in August 2014 in an aim to help the club be the - once undoubtable – title holders. However, his first season in charge resulted in a far less than satisfactory fourth place finish in the league, and quarter finalists in the FA Cup.
With now three years without a WSL title, the pressure is on Arsenal, and Losa, to perform in the upcoming season. This looks like to be an ever increasing challenge, as Manchester City and Chelsea are both likely to improve their squads before the new season, as well as the departures from Arsenal’s squad.
A busy winter window so far
The talented Spanish trio of Natalia, Vicky Losada and Marta Corredera have all left, leaving a lack of creative options in the squad. Experience is also going to be missed, as centre backs Casey Stoney and Josephine Henning have also moved on from the club. However, this change allows the likes of Jemma Rose and Vyan Sampson to try and make a name for themselves in Arsenal colours, and prove their worth to the team.
Arsenal’s squad still has many renowned names in spite of the departures: Sari Van Veenendaal, Jordan Nobbs, and most notably Kim Little, as she returns from Seattle Reign.
A proven goal scorer and creative outlet, Little could be the answer to the Gunners problems in helping them to become champions next season; After all, Arsenal have only failed to win the title since the Scottish international left for the States in 2014.
Attack to match that of Chelsea and City
A midfield of Little, Nobbs and Danielle van de Donk will certainly cause a fright within the whole of the league, as Arsenal look to thrive of their attacking options from a deeper role. Arsenal’s impressive forwards Jodie Taylor, Asisat Oshoala and Danielle Carter will run from the front line. Nonetheless, an improvement on the mere 10 goals they scored between them last season (with Carter scoring six of these) will need to be made if they want to be taken seriously for title contenders.
If Jodie Taylor can go injury-free next season, the Gunners will hold a lethal threat in their attacking options. Taylor spent the majority of last season from the sidelines due to a reported foot injury. This didn’t stop Taylor from making an impact, as she scored a brace on her debut after coming off the bench as a sub, helping the team win 2-0 against Doncaster Rover Belles in the last game of the season.
Taylor is no stranger to the WSL, despite spending her two previous seasons prior to her Arsenal move in Australia and the United States. She spent the 2011-13 campaigns with Birmingham City Ladies. Eniola Aluko overshadowed her in the two years she spent with the Blues, yet still managed to score an impressive eight goals in 11 games.
She continued her career abroad, in some of the world’s most impressive and competitive leagues. A loan spell at Göteborg in the Damallsvenskan saw interest for Taylor rise as she scored 10 goals in 10 games. National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) side Washington Spirit acquired the English international in 2014 as she furthered her scoring rate, with 11 goals in 21 games.
Dipping into youth?
Pedro Losa hasn’t been afraid to use players from the youth ranks, which may play out to be an important part for Arsenal as fresh, energetic faces could be the key for their title hopes. Leah Williamson and Chloe Kelly are prime examples, with both players featuring in last season’s campaign.
The unpredictable and refreshing style of play that Arsenal’s youth approach with, could surprise many rivals in the WSL. It would be great to see even more graduates from their Centre of Excellence as I’m sure - considering the talents it’s produced in the past - there are some future world-class players.
Next season will be interesting as Arsenal look to regain recognition in the WSL, after previously dominating the top tier of women’s football for so long. It goes without saying that changes will have to be made from last season if the Gunners want to have a serious title challenge, but will they ever be able to keep up with Manchester City and Chelsea who continue to get better season after season?