Arsenal Women Weekly Round-Up: Winter Break

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GUNNERS DOWN MILLWALL LIONESSES IN CONTI CUP
Arsenal wrapped up 2018 with a 3-1 win over Millwall Lionesses in the Continental Tyres Cup on Wednesday evening, confirming their place at the top of their group. They will play in the quarter-finals in January. Arsenal went a goal behind at Millwall, who are bottom of the Championship having failed to win a game this season.

Arsenal academy products Evie Clarke and Gabby Ravenscroft combined to give the home side a half-time lead. An equaliser in Vivianne Miedema early in the second half set the tone for the come back, a minute later 16 year old Ruby Grant gave the Gunners the lead with a 25 yard strike. Leah Williamson sealed the win with a towering header.

The girls now embark on a Christmas break, with no fixture until January 6th, when the Gunners travel to West Ham in the WSL. Kim Little is in contention for a return from injury after the break, with Joe Montemurro telling me after the match, “Kim will be back in January. Viki (Schanderbeck) is doing really well and we hope to see her back at the start of February if things continue to go well and hopefully Tabea to follow on after.”

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
With the injury situation worsening, Arsenal have given 8 academy products their debuts this season. Ruby Grant, Amelia Hazard, Ava Kuyken, Paige Bayley-Gayle, Melissa Filis, Ana Albuquerque, Hannah Dawbarn and Lachante Paul all had a taste of first team action in the last month.

Joe Montemurro used the opportunity of relative dead rubbers against Charlton and Millwall in the Conti Cup to field some young players. Joe told me after the game, “It’s really important for me to be able to see them in games in real situations. The important thing is to create a link between the academy and the first team, that’s why we have the academy. The closer we can get the academy to the first team and get the players playing our style in first team games the better.”

Forward Paige Bayley-Gayle is from Stoke Newington, in 2015 she represented Arsenal in the 2015 Premier League Communities Schools tournament- a tournament which Arsenal won, sealing victory at White Hart Lane in the process. Paige certainly has Arsenal DNA.

NOBBS THANKS SUPPORTERS AFTER COLLECTING OCTOBER PLAYER OF THE MONTH AWARD
Jordan Nobbs paid tribute to Arsenal fans after collecting her October Player of the Month award from the PFA. Nobbs scored in every game in October as the Gunners maintained their assault on the WSL title. Tragically, she ruptured her cruciate ligament in November, an injury which ends her season and her chances of participating in the 2019 World Cup.

Nobbs told the PFA, “It always has extra emphasis when it comes from fans or players, the feeling of wanting to play well for them and I just want to say a massive thanks to everyone that voted for me. I’m just sorry I’m not there for any more months now.”

WATCH THIS SPACE
With injuries to the likes of Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little, Tabea Kemme, Viki Schanderbeck and Dan Carter, Arsenal’s already tight squad has been greatly reduced in size during the season. Arsenal have already added Danish defender Janni Arnth for January.

When I asked Joe if he planned to add any more players, his response was encouraging, “watch this space!” With the knockout rounds of the Conti Cup and the FA Cup on the horizon in the second half of the season, it is clear Arsenal will need to add to their squad, even with the returns of Kim Little and Viki Schanderbeck.

ARSENAL FOUNDATION

For the first time this year, the women’s team joined the men’s team in donating a day’s wages to the Arsenal Foundation. The girls were in the thick of Arsenal in the Community’s Day of Giving on Friday too. Dan Carter joined Lucas Torreira, Laurent Koscielny and Hector Bellerin at Skinner’s Academy pitch in Hackney.

Irish duo Louise Quinn and Katie McCabe joined Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the Sensory Room prior to the Qarabag game, while Vivianne Miedema went along to Royal Free London Hospital in Barnet with Alex Lacazette, Alex Iwobi, Emile Smith Rowe and Emi Martinez. Lia Wälti joined Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Bernd Leno and Matteo Guendouzi at Whittington Children’s Ward.

COMING UP
I spoke with former Arsenal manager Pedro Losa on Wednesday evening. Losa is now the Director of Football at Millwall Lionesses and I caught up with him over his time at Arsenal, the challenge he has taken on at Millwall, fatherhood and the difficulty of having to move on some Arsenal legends during his time at the club. Pedro remains one of the most affable men and engaging interviewees in women’s football, it’s a really great interview. That will go up on the site this week.

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