Monday, January 30, 2023

Arsenal Women Squad Profile: 2020-21


Arsenal broadly play a 433 with Leah Williamson and Jen Beattie at centre-half, both of whom can also play in midfield due to their comfort in possession. Either side of them, Joe Montemurro pushes his full-backs very high up the pitch. Last season, Lisa Evans and Katie McCabe largely played in these positions and both made their names as outright wingers. This summer, Montemurro has added top-class left-back Steph Catley-possibly the best left-back in the world and Noelle Maritz from Wolfsburg who has won more titles than you can count on your fingers and toes.

In midfield, Lia Wälti usually anchors the midfield with Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little ahead of her as attacking number 8s. When Arsenal come under pressure, Little drops back and forms a double pivot with Wälti due to her ability to keep the ball in tight spaces. Nobbs is an all-action box-to-box midfielder who offers goal threat too.

Upfront, Vivianne Miedema is the most recognisable player in the Arsenal team and one of the biggest goal threats in world football. However, her goals are only part of her game. She likes to move away from the front line and drift into the number 10 position, allowing the likes of Nobbs, Little and van de Donk to get into the area as support forwards.

Last season, Beth Mead and Danielle van de Donk operated as wide forwards. In truth, van de Donk spends a lot of time in-field either as another number 10 or filling the space Miedema leaves when she wanders in search of possession. Caitlin Foord can also play all across the frontline and she adds power and dynamism to a technical attack.

Manager Joe Montemurro is tactically flexible, he occasionally switches to a back three if he feels it’s the best way to exploit a specific opponent. He even rotates his goalkeeper depending on the opposition, with one ‘keeper for long distribution against teams that press high and one for short distribution against deep blocks.

Joe likes to solve tactical puzzles in-game and will often make a subtle tweak at half-time, whether by asking his full-backs to play more inside or outside or by asking one of his attacking midfielders to attack a particular half-space or channel. Montemurro prefers a smaller squad packed with players that can play several roles or positions to aid his planning. He will often make 2-3 tactical specifications to exploit an opponent per game, always retaining Arsenal’s patient possession style. “The less the opponent has the ball, the less they can hurt you,” is a sentence he has uttered to me more than once!

1.Manuela ZINSBERGER– The Austrian international goalkeeper joined the Gunners from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2019, where she spent five years winning two Frauen-Bundesliga titles. The 24-year old previously played for SV Neulengbach in her native Austria. Manu is a very modern goalkeeper, who is quick from her line and has no compunction about dropping the odd Cruyff turn in her own penalty area.

Zinsberger is favoured by Montemurro for her ability to snuff out danger outside of her area and because of her short distribution. Initially last season, Zinsberger rotated the number 1 spot with Pauline Peyraud-Magnin before firmly establishing herself as Montemurro’s preferred goalkeeper. This season she will face competition from Lydia Williams.

Further listening: July 2019 Arsenal Women Arsecast

5.Jennifer BEATTIE– Scottish international Beattie initially joined the Gunners as an 18-year old, winning four league titles and two FA Cups, before departing for Montpellier. After two years in France, she signed for Manchester City in 2015, where she picked up another league title and another pair of FA Cups. She also spent a short loan spell at Melbourne City in 2016, where she won the W-League under Joe Montemurro.

Beattie re-signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2019 and formed a formidable centre-half partnership with Leah Williamson. Beattie is more of a ‘sweeper’ centre-half who reads the game excellently and rarely loses an aerial duel. Jen’s pass completion rate last season was 91%, the highest in the team.

Further reading: Un-Beattie-ble, a review of Beattie’s 2019-20 season.

Lifelong Arsenal fan Leah joined the Arsenal academy when she was just 9 years old and broke into the first team at the age of 16. An FA Cup winner with the club in her hometown of Milton Keyes at the age of 17, she has played in eight cup finals for Arsenal and was a starring member of the 2018-19 league winning side.

Leah is renowned for her ability to pass the ball out from the back, so much so that she can comfortably play in midfield, she is also an excellent one-on-one defender. Williamson has won two Conti Cups, two FA Cups and a league title at the club and was one of the mascots when Arsenal Women won the European Cup Final at Boreham Wood in 2007. She is currently studying to be an accountant in her spare time.

Further reading: Leah Williamson exclusive interview March 2020

7.Danielle VAN DE DONK
‘DvD’ as she if affectionately known, joined Arsenal from Göteborg in Sweden in November 2015. Prior to that, van de Donk played for PSV Eindhoven, VVV Venlo and Willem II in her native Netherlands. Van de Donk was an integral part of the Dutch national side that won Euro 2017 on home soil and reached the final of the 2019 World Cup.

Van de Donk has won an FA Cup, a Conti Cup and a league title during her time at Arsenal. A versatile attacker, she can play in midfield as an 8 or a 10, as a wide forward or as a false 9. DvD is known for her elegance on the ball and for her fiercely competitive streak. Daan scored five goals and made four assists in the WSL last season and played more minutes than any other Arsenal player last season.

Further reading: Danielle van de Donk 2019-20 in review

8.Jordan NOBBS
Jordan joined Arsenal from Sunderland ten years ago and immediately established herself as a first team player. Part of the Sunderland academy that unearthed Lucy Bronze, Lucy Staniforth, Demi Stokes, Steph Houghton and Jill Scott, Nobbs quickly gained a reputation as an all-round attacking midfielder with a wide range of attributes.

Jordan has 116 appearances in the WSL for Arsenal, more than any other player. She has won three league titles, four FA Cups and five league cups in a glittering spell in North London. Nobbs is currently the club’s vice-captain and scored nine goals during the Gunners’ 2018-19 title winning season, enough to make her fifth highest scorer in the division despite her season finishing in November due to a knee injury.

Further reading: Jordan Nobbs 2019-20 in review

9.Beth MEAD
Beth joined the Gunners from Sunderland in 2017 after scoring an incredible 77 goals in 78 appearances for Sunderland. She once flipped her car into a ditch after swerving to avoid a deer and scored a hat-trick for the Wearsiders against Chelsea 72 hours later. Mead joined Arsenal after the club made several attempts for her signature, with the player finishing her studies in the northeast before joining.

With Jodie Taylor and Vivianne Miedema in the squad, Beth was repurposed from a penalty box striker into a wide forward renowned for her excellent delivery from dead balls and wide positions. Beth strikes a ball brilliantly with her laces and has scored a host of long-range strikes in her time at the club. Mead takes the number 9 shirt this season with Dan Carter having departed.

Further reading: The evolution of Beth Mead

10.Kim LITTLE [c]
The Gunners captain initially joined the club as an 18-year old from Hibernian and made an immediate impression. In her first spell at the club, she won four league titles, three FA Cups- scoring in the 2009 and 2011 finals- and three league cups, scoring the winner in the 2012 Conti Cup Final and scoring again in the 2013 Conti Cup Final.

In 2014, she left for Seattle Reign where she scooped up two NWSL Shields and was voted the NWSL’s MVP in 2014. Her teammate from Reign, Hope Solo, says that Kim is the best player she has ever played with. The Scottish international returned to North London in 2017 and captained the Gunners to the 2018 Conti Cup and 2018-19 WSL title. Kim is widely recognised as one of the best midfielders of the modern era.

Further reading 5 times when Kim Little went large

11.Vivianne MIEDEMA
Anna Margaretha Marina Astrid Miedema began her career at Heerenveen where she made her debut at the age of 15. She scored 39 goals for Heerenveen at the age of 17, which won her a move to Bayern Munich where she won two Bundesliga titles. Miedema won Euro 2017 with Netherlands on home soil, scoring twice in the final victory over Denmark.

She signed for Arsenal that summer and despite an injury hit first season, she scored the winner in the 2018 Conti Cup Final against Manchester City and scored in the 2018 FA Cup Final defeat to Chelsea at Wembley. In 2018-19, Miedema broke the WSL scoring record with 22 goals, leading Arsenal to the league title. In 2019-20, she won the Golden Boot again with 16 goals and eight assists to go with it. Last December, she scored six and assisted four in Arsenal’s 11-1 win over Bristol City. Miedema is the best forward in the world.

Further reading: Vivianne Miedema: perfect 9 and perfect 10

12.Steph CATLEY
Catley was a summer signing from Melbourne City FC, a 26-year old Australia international, Steph is seen as one of the best left-backs in women’s football and was wanted by Lyon this summer. She played under the stewardship of Joe Montemurro in Melbourne, where she won three W-League championships.

Like most top class Australian players, Steph split her time between the W-League in Australia and the NWSL, where she represented Portland Thorns, Orlando Pride and Reign FC. Catley has represented Australia at two World Cups and an Olympic Games, she is the current vice-captain of the Matildas.

Further listening: July 2020 Ausenal Women Ozcast

13.Lia WALTI
Signed from Turbine Potsdam in the summer of 2018, Lia Wälti has quickly established herself as a fundamental part of the Arsenal midfield, playing just in front of the back four. Despite missing almost half of her debut season with a knee injury, Lia was voted into the WSL Team of the Year in her first season.

Raised in Emmental in Switzerland, Wälti is nicknamed ‘snake hips’ because of her ability to wriggle away from opponents in tight spaces, an attribute Wälti puts down to her childhood ice-skating. Lia is renowned for her ability to progress the ball with both feet and for her outstanding ability to read play, making her one of the finest defensive midfielders in world football.

Further reading: Lia Wälti Arsenal’s glue

14.Jill ROORD
Roord broke into the FC Twente team at the age of 16, starting life as a centre-forward before moving into an attacking central midfield role. At the age of 20, she moved to Bayern Munich where she spent two seasons before signing for Arsenal last summer. Roord was a member of Netherlands’ 2017 European Championship winning team.

Jill joined the Gunners in May 2019 and made an immediate impression, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-0 pre-season friendly win over Spurs. Roord has played as an advanced number 8 and as a defensive midfielder in her first season at the club, where her passing range and her ability to cover ground and close down opponents are among her best qualities. Roord recorded a 91% pass completion rate in the WSL last season.

Further reading: Jill Roord season in review

15.Katie McCABE
The Ireland skipper joined Arsenal from Shelbourne in 2015. McCabe started out as a squad player under Pedro Losa, filling in at left-back and on the left-wing predominantly. She was part of the squad that won the 2016 FA Cup, before joining Glasgow City on loan in 2017, where she won a league title.

Katie quickly established herself as a starter under Joe Montemurro when she returned from Glasgow. Joe values McCabe’s versatility and she was a key part of the team that won the 2018 Conti Cup and played more minutes than any other Arsenal player when they won the title in 2018-19. Last season she was the Gunners’ first choice left-back, but with Steph Catley and Noelle Maritz on board she will likely move back into a wide role.

Further reading: Katie McCabe left-back but never left out

16.Noelle MARITZ
Born in California, Maritz moved to Switzerland at the age of 10 and has already won 80 Swiss caps at the age of 24. Maritz started her career at FC Zurich before moving to Wolfsburg at the age of 17. A versatile player, Noelle can play in either full-back role or on either flank where she is an excellent crosser of the ball and a canny defender of space.

At Wolfsburg, Maritz won five Bundesliga titles, six DfB-Pokals and won the Champions League in 2013-14. She registered 0.44 assists per 90 from full-back for Wolfsburg last season and 3.92 dribbles per 90 to boot. She is a long-time international teammate of Lia Wälti, as well as Malin Gut.

Further reading: Noelle Maritz tactical analysis

17.Lisa EVANS
Scottish international Lisa joined the club from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2017, signing in a double transfer with Vivianne Miedema. Evans impressed as a wide-forward for Glasgow City in her native Scotland before suspending her university studies to join Turbine Potsdam at the age of 20. Evans spent three years at Potsdam, before signing for Bayern Munich where she won a Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Evans is fluent in German.

Lisa initially joined the Gunners as a winger, but with Alex Scott winding down her playing career and Swedish right-back Jess Samuelsson struggling with injuries, Evans was repurposed as a right-back by Joe Montemurro. A member of Scotland’s 2019 World Cup squad, Lisa is an integral part of the Arsenal team, expertly holding the width on the right-hand side of the pitch.

Further reading: Lisa Evans exclusive interview June 2020

32-year old goalkeeper Lydia signed for Arsenal from Melbourne City this summer. Australia’s first-choice goalkeeper for 13 years now, Williams is a long-time teammate of fellow new arrival Steph Catley. Williams has represented Canberra United, Chicago Red Stars, Pitea in Sweden, Western New York Flash, Houston Dash, Melbourne City and Reign FC.

Lydia grew up in the remote Australian town Katanning in the bush of western Australia. Williams is the daughter of an Aboriginal father and African American mother and is a passionate anti-racism campaigner. She is also a qualified zookeeper and had a children’s book published earlier this year called Save!

Further reading: Lydia Williams: from grassroots to greatness

19.Caitlin FOORD
Another Australian international, Foord joined the club from Portland Thorns in January but was only able to play two games before the season was terminated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Capable of playing in either full-back role or as a centre-forward, Caitlin predominantly plays as a wide forward where she is renowned for her hard work and her ability to bring teammates into play.

Caitlin flitted between Sydney FC, Perth Glory and Sky Blue FC in the US, before settling on representing Sydney FC in the W-League and Portland Thorns in the NWSL. Foord forms a formidable partnership with Sam Kerr at international level, where she has 81 caps for the Matildas. Foord scored on her Arsenal debut in the FA Cup against Lewes in February.

Further reading: Caitlin Foord exclusive interview February 2020

20.Leonie MAIER
27-year old right-back Leonie Maier joined Arsenal last summer after six years at Bayern Munich. Maier burst onto the world stage at Euro 2013, where her marauding displays at right-back for Germany caught the eye, earning her a move from SC 07 Bad Neuenahrto Bayern. Leonie won two Bundesliga titles with Bayern, as well as winning Euro 2013 and the 2016 Olympic Games with Germany.

Maier joined Arsenal with her Bayern teammates Manu Zinsberger and Jill Roord- she was also teammates with Lisa Evans, Vivianne Miedema and Viki Schnaderbeck at Bayern. Despite her small stature, Maier is an imposing full-back were she has a preference for pressing opponents high up the pitch and forcing turnovers.

21.Malin GUT– Signed from Grasshopper Zurich in the summer, the 20-year old already has 5 caps for Switzerland, operating mainly as Arsenal teammate Lia Wälti’s understudy. Gut is a ball playing defensive midfielder who can also operate in a slightly more advanced number 8 role or as a ball playing centre-half.

She told in July, “I mostly play in central midfield and I’ve played a few games as a central defender as well, but I usually prefer to play in midfield because I’ve played there throughout almost my whole career. My strengths are that I’m a very calm player, I can keep the game calm and make good passes, that’s what all my game is about.”

Viki signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2018 but sustained a knee injury on the eve of her debut season, keeping her out of action until March. The Austrian international captain is another versatile member of Montemurro’s squad, playing either at centre-half, defensive midfield or in either full-back position.

Schnaderbeck’s calmness in possession [she recorded a 90% passing accuracy in the WSL last season] suits Joe Montemurro’s preference for ball-playing defenders. Viki has also featured as an inverted left-back under the head coach. Schnaderbeck signed a new contract with Arsenal this summer, extending her stay for another two years.

Further reading: Viki Schnaderbeck 2019-20 in review

Only just turned 19, Fran is considered one of the bright up and coming goalkeeping talents in the country. Poached from Manchester City last summer, Fran spent last season on loan with Blackburn Rovers in the Championship where she picked up their Player of the Season award. Stenson will likely spend this season out on loan again to gain more experience.

Fran trained with Arsenal for the first half of the week and Blackburn during the second half of the week last season and though she couldn’t play, she travelled to Florence and Prague for Arsenal’s Champions League ties for experience. Still a developing talent, Fran is seen as a future Arsenal and England number 1. Fran played for Birmingham prior to joining Manchester City.

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Can’t believe the strength and depth of the women’s squad. Hope they perform well on Saturday and the rest of the Champions League. With the additions to the squad we have a good chance to win the league.


Just amazing.




Kim Little is right up there with Tierney and Aubameyang as far as favourite players go.


Absolutely adore Beth Mead!


Many thanks–great player summaries and videos to highlight individual qualities. I’m very curious to see the lineup that Montemurro starts on Saturday–and dearly hoping for a stream that will be available in the U.S.


Do you have to pay for that? Or is it a free view?


I hope this season does not come with as many injuries as the women had to deal with like the last. Does Joe believe he has a big enough squad to cope? I really believed the squad was too small last season to cope with the various mishap.


Vivianna Margaret …

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