by Andrew Crawshaw
Our midfield and attack was the strongpoint at the start of the season but also where we suffered the most from injuries as the season progressed. Here is my player by player analysis.
Kim Little – Our Captain and midfield dynamo. Having retired from International football Kim was able to transfer all of her energies to Arsenal. Now 33 she showed no signs of her prowess starting to decline (although a long-term replacement must be on the cards soon) until she was sidelined by a hamstring injury in April following a very poor challenge. Kim is also our designated penalty taker and her being missing told as Katie McCabe missed both of those she took at the end of the season. More practice is required across the team.
Frida Maanum – our Norwegian star and justifiably Player of the Season. When Jonas was appointed he was asked which midfielder he would most like to sign and Frida was his answer, he was unaware that we had just signed her. Frida is capable of operating anywhere in midfield and also as a No 9 should the need arise. In my opinion, she is best suited as a No 10 and had even managed to get ahead of Vivianne Miedema in that position. She has just signed a new contract which is fantastic news.
Lia Walti – our most two-footed player, she manages an almost even number of ouches with both feet. Her sports teacher taught her to do that at school in Switzerland and her ability in that regard is quite remarkable. Lia normally plays in the No 6 role as the most defensive of our midfield but is quite capable further up the pitch as well. We might not notice her too much on the field but we sure miss her when she isn’t!
Victoria Pelova – a 23-year-old Netherlands player who joined us in January following a good showing in the Euros last summer. She has been introduced gradually this season and will most certainly be taking a bigger part next season.
Kathrine Kuhl – a 19-year-old Danish international who joined us from FC Nordsjælland is a central midfielder (and possibly the long-term replacement for Kim Little). She also joined us in January and has been settling in nicely. It is possible that we may loan her out next season to get more experience of the WSL away from the pressure cooker of the top four.
Beth Mead – Our English right-sided forward and a certain starter when fit. She will be the first of our quartet of ACL-injured players to return this coming season, hopefully in August or September although the first games of the season might be too soon.
Vivianne Miedema – Our Netherlands centre forward or No 10. She prefers the No10 role but I am not entirely convinced by her in that role. She does it very well but we haven’t yet replaced her goal threat. Her finishing is ruthless at times, I can’t think of another player with a first-half and a second-half hat-trick in the same match as well as four assists. Hopefully she will be back on the pitch in September/October, Her ALC was four weeks after Beth’s.
Lina Hurtig – another Swede, she signed in August last year. Her first season has been marked with a number of injuries and I’m sure that we haven’t seen her anywhere near her best yet. She is tall, a good header of the ball but hasn’t yet convinced me 100%. She needs to show more next season
Caitlin Foord – our second Australian who has also just signed a new contract. Caitin I always think is something of an enigma, blisteringly fast without the ball but completely one footed giving her a stuttering run when dribbling the ball. A good foil for Beth Mead, maybe hasn’t quite gelled yet with some of our other forwards.
Gio Queiroz – joined us last summer. She is a 19-year-old winger who was initially loaned to Everton for the season but was recalled in January due to our extensive injuries. Probably one for the future she has shown herself to be fast and skilful but perhaps a bit lightweight against teams who pack their defensive third. A loan spell next season wouldn’t altogether surprise me.
Stina Blackstenius – our third Swede, Stina joined us in January 2022, so has now been with us for a season and a half. She has pace to spare and looks to sit off the opposition back line seeking to run behind to pick up through balls. She is often caught offside and her finishing is confidence driven. When things aren’t quite going for her she quickly drops off. When she is playing with confidence then she is a very good forward but I’m afraid I would be very happy is we secured an upgrade this summer. We have looked and failed for the past two transfer windows. If we are serious about winning the WSL and the Champions League this is something the Club must look at again this summer.
Jodie Taylor – a surprise signing as a free agent late in the season. Jodie had a brief spell with us a few years ago. Her experience was valuable but she never really looked as though she would single-handedly turn things around in any of the games in which she featured. I would be surprised if we gave her a contract for next season.
Michelle Agyemang – Not yet a member of our first-team squad, Michelle has just turned 17 and is a right winger. She has featured several times on the bench this last season and is one of our Academy players who, in my opinion, has a great future. She came on as a substitute in our FA Cup tie against Leeds and one of the Leeds defenders tried to shoulder barge her off the ball. The Leeds player just bounced off her! I will be very surprised if Michelle doesn’t feature more prominently next season although we can’t give her a professional contract time she turns 18.
- Further strengthening is still required to take us to the top of the pile. Jodie Taylor filled a short term need but didn’t solve our problems. Vivianne Miedema doesn’t want to play as an outright striker despite being the player best suited to that role. In January we made a world record bid to sign Alessia Russo from Man United. The bid was rejected and stands no more chance of being accepted now. The other top strikers in the WSL are Bunny Shaw at Man City with 20 goals and golden boot winner Rachel Daly of Aston Villa with 22. Neither of those clubs have Champions League football next season. It might be possible to lure one of them.
- We need to sort out the long-term future of Vivianne Miedema both in terms of her contract situation and where she will play.
- Our younger players need to show more of what they are capable of, we need some of the “ones for the future” to show they are now ready to be first-team starters now.
- Next season starts two weeks after the World Cup ends as we have the Champions League round 1 mini-tournaments on September 6/9. The WC final is on August 20th. It is impossible to know at this time who might be available for us for the CL matches. The WSL season starts on September 29 to 1 October so no chance of a three-week break for players between the CL matches and the WSL season start. Typical of the sports bodies to think of themselves rather than the players. There are bound to be more injuries as a result of this needless fixture congestion.
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