Aston Villa Women have confirmed two new signings ahead of their Women’s Super League opener against Leicester City this week.
The first signing, announced on Wednesday, is Irish international Ruesha Littlejohn The 31-year-old midfielder is familiar with Villa boss Carla Ward from their time at Birmingham City together last season. She has signed a short-term contract with Villa.
Villa announced their second signing on Thursday evening, confirming the arrival of Australian international Emily Gielnik. Fresh off representing her country at the Olympics, Gielnik signed a one-year deal with Villa and will take the number nine shirt.
Littlejohn, big impact
The addition of Littlejohn to Villa’s ranks may not excite fans too much, but it gives Villa the one thing they lacked last season. Experience.
At 31-years-old, she will be one of Villa’s most seasoned players. Her career has taken her across Europe, playing in Scotland, Norway and several clubs across England. She has also racked up 60 caps for Ireland. While she has struggled to settle in her career, with Villa being her third club in the space of a year, she brings a wealth of experience that a youthful Villa side lack.
Crucially, she also brings a certain level of tenacity that Villa have missed since their promotion in 2020. While Villa have had more expressive midfielders like recent Arsenal signing Mana Iwabuchi, they have sometimes missed someone in midfield doing the hard yards. Their more defence-minded players, such as Chloe Arthur, were often either underperforming or found themselves benched.
Littlejohn fits the bill for Villa and while she may be a short-term fix, it is one Villa have needed.
A true blockbuster signing
Another massive gap in Villa’s system last season was in the striker position.
Villa signed both Diana Silva and Stine Larsen in 2020, hoping they would produce the goods up front. However, they got a combined total of two goals. Shania Hayles also scored just twice, with both of those coming in one match. Youngster Freya Gregory deputised at striker towards the end of the season, despite being a left-back by trade, and scored as many as either Larsen or Silva.
In fact, no Villa player scored more than three goals last season. Ramona Petzelberger topped the chart with three, while Hayles and Iwabuchi scored twice. It was clear all season that they needed goals and now they should have them.
Gielnik is an international-quality striker with a fine goal record. She hit 13 goals in 12 games for Brisbane Roar in the 2020 W-League season, as well as 12 goals in 28 games for Swedish side Vittsjö GK across two seasons. She also brings experience from her spells with Liverpool and Bayern Munich, so there are plenty of reasons for Villa fans to be excited.
Carla Ward gushed over her new arrival on Villa’s website, saying: “Emily is someone we have monitored for a few months now and I am delighted we have agreed a deal that suits both parties.
“She’s a player with a wealth of domestic and international experience and is a player that can score at the highest level.
“Emily’s link-up play and aerial threat is something that will cause teams problems. I’m delighted to finally get this one over the line.”