On Wednesday evening, Arsenal midfielders Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little made their 200th Arsenal appearances- the vice-captain and captain have shared the podium to hoist nine major trophies together. Nobbs, The Stockton-on-Tees born number 8 joined the club from Sunderland in August 2010 as a 17-year old. She admits battling homesickness early in her Arsenal career but has since become a dyed in the wool Arsenal girl with a deep emotional attachment to the club.
She is widely to be considered England’s finest central midfielder, where her spread of attributes and her boundless energy set her apart. “She wants to be the best,” manager Joe Montemurro tells me. “Even when things are going well for her, she wants to get better and that’s the mark of a top-class player. That thrive for excellence is Jordan. Nobody loves this club more than Jordan; she’s got a big love for everyone and for the game and getting better.”
What a goal! ?
Arsenal's Jordan Nobbs channelling her inner Bergkamp ?pic.twitter.com/8utNtVSCPU
— Goal (@goal) January 5, 2020
Joe says his biggest and pretty much his only challenge in managing Jordan is moderation, “I’ve tried to coach her to stand still for a couple of seconds!” he jokes. “She’s really developed an understanding of where she can pick the ball up to hurt teams. She’s learned that instead of always wanting to be on the ball all the time, sometimes she’s better higher up and making those off-ball runs where she can really do damage.”
Gunners captain Kim Little capped her 200th appearance with an 87th minute winner against Reading in the Conti Cup quarter-final. The Scot joined the club as a teenager in 2008, before undertaking a three-year stint at Seattle Reign from 2014-16. She returned to the club she calls ‘home’ in 2017. The symmetry between Kim and Jordan’s milestones is fitting given the strength of their midfield partnership. Kim and Jordan have grown up together at Arsenal, from teenage prodigies to club stalwarts.
Jordan talks in glowing terms about her Scottish international teammate, “Kim’s one of the best players in the world, I think she’s really underestimated when people talk about the best players in the world. She’s a first-class person and teammate.” The Little Nobbs midfield duo has been an omni-present feature in the Gunners success over the last decade. The axis is the slightly immature headline writer’s dream, but it’s also the Arsenal manager’s dream.
.@hopesolo says Kim Little is going to be super important for Scotland.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 9, 2019
Kim and Jordan are similar, in that they veer between the number 8 and number 10 roles, without really specialising in either. However, both are marked by different attributes. They each have a broad spread of qualities, but Jordan is most notable for her roadrunner approach to the game, where everything is quick without ever being rushed. Kim is one of the most adept players in world football in tight situations, which works well against deep blocks because of her ability to wriggle out away from massed ranks of opponents. She could dribble out of a phone box and lay off the perfect pass thereafter.
“I’m very lucky,” Joe considers, “In the model that I want us to play, it’s not about having a 6, a 10 and an 8 in midfield. The ability to rotate, to understand space and find the line for passes is what we’re about. We want to cause headaches for opponents and I am blessed to have players like Kim and Jordan, who are so intelligent in their understanding of space, whether it’s low or high or in the defensive or attacking phase.” Tellingly, he will use the word ‘blessed’ again as he concludes his thought. “I’m very blessed to have come to Arsenal to find midfielders like Kim and Jordan who play that way.”
Jordan believes there is a similarity at their core that underlines their on-pitch relationship, “We’re both very tippy tappy players,” she chirps. “If we’re playing 5-a-side I always want Kim on my team! We like to pass and keep the ball, we both like having lots of touches. We’re both winners and we love this club.” The ebony and ivory approach to their on-pitch union was beautifully illustrated by the tiki-taka masterpiece goal against Reading in December.
Kim and Jordan caressed the ball through a crowded Reading area, exchanging a wall pass at a time when 11 Royals players were inside their own box. “We work on this type of football a lot and it’s very satisfying when it comes off in games,” Kim tells me shortly after that Reading game. “It’s the football we love to play.”
Coming to *every* screen near you!
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Little also believes Nobbs’ tactical awareness has developed markedly under the stewardship of Joe Montemurro, “When you play for a coach like Joe and for a team like Arsenal, I think it’s quite natural that you become more tactically mature,” she points out. Under Montemurro, their partnership has blossomed against a backdrop of tactical fluidity. Kim, perhaps unwittingly, distils their symbiosis. “We’re both similar, but kind of different as well.” Jordan also recognises the distinction in their skillsets, “Kim is really good at recognising when the team need her to move deeper and get on the ball and I try to spot when I can make runs in behind.”
Overwhelmingly, it is Jordan’s enthusiasm, both physical and mental, that Kim and Joe are drawn to again and again throughout our respective discussions. “She loves football so much and you can see that in her play,” Kim tells me. “She can score and create goals and she’s such an entertaining player to watch. I’ve played with her for the majority of my career now and I’m looking forward to playing together for many more years.”
Jordan is equally effusive about her captain’s inspirational qualities. “Players sign for Arsenal to play with Kim, she brings out the best in every player on and off the pitch. She’s that good.” Joe is succinct in summary, “It’s an absolute honour to coach players who are so enthusiastic and who want to learn so much. Kim and Jordan set standards here, every single day in training. They want to be the best. They make my job easy.”
One thing is for certain, Little Nobbs have given Arsenal fans pleasure 400 times and counting.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 5, 2020