Over the last fortnight, Arsenal have added four internationals to their squad ahead of the 2020-21 season. Australians Lydia Williams and Steph Catley join Swiss duo Noelle Maritz and Malin Gut, with Caitlin Foord arriving in January. Meanwhile, Katrine Veje, Danielle Carter, Louise Quinn, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin and Silvana Flores have departed, with Emma Mitchell’s departure expected to be announced once she has an agreement with her new club.
So how do the new recruits alter the dynamic of the squad? They don’t alter the size, with Joe Montemurro maintaining his preference for smaller squads with lots of versatile players. [I spoke with Joe in detail about that last season]. However, players like Dan Carter, Emma Mitchell and Tabea Kemme have now departed, all of whom have made single digit appearances over the last two seasons. Replacing them with fit players represents squad expansion. Let’s look at how each player might fit into the squad.
Lydia will act as a replacement for Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, who left for Atletico Madrid this summer. Joe likes to rotate his goalkeepers. This is partly because he doesn’t like players to be disengaged but it’s also based on his footballing philosophy. “Pauline’s long distribution is very, very good, whereas Manu excels in smaller spaces with shorter passing,” Montemurro told me in November.
“We’ve done that by design so that we have both options. They have to understand phases of play too, when we’re in the build-up phase or when we’re mid-block defending- they both play a big part in that.” Williams is more adept with long distribution so she will take PPM’s role in more than one respect. At 32, she is also very experienced but probably hasn’t had this level of competition for her place in some time. Challenging Manu Zinsberger ought to be healthy for her.
Williams has joined on a 1+1 contract and I would imagine her Arsenal future is tied into 19-year old Fran Stenson’s. Stenson spent last season on loan with Blackburn Rovers but is very highly rated and seen as a potential future number 1. She will likely go on loan again this season and how ready Arsenal feel she is to join the first team will have some bearing on whether Williams’ deal is extended next summer.
Lydia Williams led all starting goalkeepers this season in clean sheets and save percentage. Vote for @lydsaussie for @NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year. Voting for the NWSL Awards ends tonight at 8:59 p.m. PT.
— OL Reign (@OLReign) September 18, 2018
Steph is Arsenal’s most eye-catching addition this summer. With Emma Mitchell and Katrine Veje having departed this summer, the Gunners needed a left-back and they have added a genuinely world class one. Last season, Katie McCabe moved into left-back and did an excellent job. However, Catley will almost certainly be the established first choice there now.
Swiss signing Noelle Maritz can also play at left-back, so McCabe will likely be freed to challenge for one of the wide forward spots. Katie can play as an inverted winger on the right or on her more natural left-side. Catley is a very modern full-back who likes to attack, has an eye for a pass and is technically outstanding. Her left-foot is one of the best in women’s football.
— NWSL (@NWSL) August 9, 2017
Maritz is still only 24 but after seven years at Wolfsburg that saw her lift five Frauen Bundesliga titles, six DfB-Pokals and a Champions League, she is already very experienced at the highest level. Maritz is an international teammate of fellow new recruit Malin Gut and midfielder Lia Wälti. One of the curiosities of this multi-national Arsenal squad is the “colonies” within it.
There are two Austrians, three Swiss players, four Scottish players [though Mitch is soon to leave], three Dutch players and three Australians [along with an Australian manager and assistant manager]. Leonie Maeir might be the only German at the club, but Zinsberger, Miedema, Wälti, Roord, Maritz, Evans and Schnaderbeck are all German speakers.
Maritz is a versatile player who can play in either full-back position or at centre-half. With Louise Quinn departed, Arsenal haven’t yet recruited a specialist centre-half to replace her, so Leah Williamson and Jen Beattie will remain the first choice partnership with Viki Schnaderbeck the back-up option. Maritz, Catley, Walti and Gut can all play at centre-half too. Maritz adds depth to Arsenal’s defence.
Good luck in the future! You will be missed! ? pic.twitter.com/MQo89YbZwn
— VfL Wolfsburg US (@VfLWolfsburg_US) July 8, 2020
Gut turns 20 in August and essentially operates as Lia Wälti’s back-up at international level. Gut is a ball playing defensive midfielder in a very similar mould to Lia. This fills an obvious gap in the squad, there has been no specialised cover for Wälti since Dominique Bloodworth left for Wolfsburg last summer. This meant Leah Williamson often had to move into midfield when Wälti wasn’t available.
Gut’s presence offers that cover and rotational support for Wälti who suffered a knee injury in her debut season and a grade 3 hamstring tear last season. Montemurro admitted back in February that Lia’s hamstring problem was possibly down to being overplayed. Gut will be the youngest member of the first team squad, assuming Stenson goes out on loan.
Joe likes flexible players to fit his tactical schemes and he has a clutch of very versatile players to choose from. Having been at Arsenal for two and a half years now, this is very much his squad now. Joe has focused on getting the age profile right too with most players nestled in the 24-28 age category.
GOALKEEPERS: Manuela Zinsberger, Lydia Williams, Fran Stenson
RIGHT-BACK: Lisa Evans, Leonie Maier, Noelle Maritz, Caitlin Foord, Leah Williamson
LEFT-BACK: Steph Catley, Noelle Maritz, Katie McCabe, Viki Schnaderbeck, Leah Williamson, Caitlin Foord
CENTRE-HALF: Leah Williamson, Jennifer Beattie, Viki Schnaderbeck, Noelle Maritz, Lia Wälti, Malin Gut
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: Lia Wälti, Malin Gut, Leah Williamson, Noelle Maritz, Jill Roord, Viki Schnaderbeck, Leonie Maier, Jennifer Beattie
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little, Danielle van de Donk, Jill Roord, Katie McCabe, Malin Gut
RIGHT WING: Lisa Evans, Caitlin Foord, Beth Mead, Danielle van de Donk, Katie McCabe, Mel Filis, Jordan Nobbs
LEFT WING: Beth Mead, Katie McCabe, Danielle van de Donk, Caitlin Foord, Lisa Evans, Mel Filis, Kim Little
CENTRE FORWARD: Vivianne Miedema, Caitlin Foord, Jill Roord, Beth Mead