During Joe Montemurro’s two-and-a half-year spell at Arsenal, a theme of his transfer business has been its punctuality. Targets are identified and locked down well before the window opens and usually announced shortly after. The Australian puts a lot of stock in having his squad finalised by the time pre-season rolls around.
The deadline day announcement of the signing of centre-half Lotte Wubben Moy from the University of North Carolina caught a lot of Arsenal fans off-guard. Ahead of Saturday’s North London derby with Spurs, I ask Joe for the lowdown on this transfer. Lotte left the club to pursue a scholarship with UNC in 2017, meaning she could study sports science and play professional soccer.
Between term times, the Bow born defender would train with the Gunners to keep her fitness up. “You know I am one for innovation and surprises every now and then, Tim, so a deadline day signing, my word! I’ve outdone myself here, haven’t I?” he jokes. “Lotte was always on our radar from when she left just before I arrived in 2017. She was always a player of interest and it’s always exciting to have a homegrown talent go away and do what they need to do in terms of their development and to come back again.”
Wubben-Moy decided to finish her studies early in Chapel Hill due to the covid situation and the uncertainty over the return of college football. She was recently called into the England squad for the first time and didn’t want to enervate her professional career. “We were monitoring and we were guided by the situation with the NCSSA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] and whether that league was going to happen and whether her graduation would happen a little later.
“Once we knew that wasn’t going to happen we pushed things forward and it’s come as a pleasant little surprise to have her back in the ranks. Every time she was back in the UK during her off-season she was training with us and we’re really proud to have kept her development going and we’re really looking forward to her continuing to grow with the squad.”
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) September 11, 2020
I ask Joe what Lotte’s greatest qualities are, “I think there are two main things,” he says, “Firstly, her maturity, she plays like a player beyond her age with her decision making.” Another theme of Joe’s recruitment is versatility and 21-year old Wubben-Moy fits that bill too, “She played as a centre-half in a back three at uni, but she also played in front of a back three as a midfielder. We can play her across the back line but if we need cover in midfield, she can do that as well.”
When we spoke recently, Joe talked about succession planning with young players emerging in his squad like goalkeeper Fran Stenson, new midfielder Malin Gut and in-form midfielder Jill Roord. “Lotte is part of our succession planning too, Viki [Schnaderbeck] and Jen [Beattie] are the more experienced players and we’ve got Leah and Lotte as the younger ones, so for us, Lotte was a no questions asked signing in terms of our long-term plan knowing she can slip into these roles. She has worked with us already; so she knows how we play.”
Starting next season, the Women’s Super League will have new regulations around homegrown players, with each squad of 25 to contain a minimum of eight players who qualify as homegrown. Joe admits that this incoming rule added to the attraction of signing Lotte, who came through Arsenal’s academy.
“It was part of the layer of reasons to sign her, absolutely,” Montemurro says. “We have to plan for these things and I am one for trying to develop as much of our homegrown talent as possible, not just for Arsenal but for the England national team. Lotte has been called into the England squad and she will be part of their process going forwards for sure. The homegrown rule was part of the package of signing her.”
Learning from the best. ??
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) September 22, 2020
For Lotte, born to a family of Arsenal fans and a graduate of Stoke Newington School, a return home made plenty of sense. Centre-half was, arguably, the one area of the squad where Arsenal were light with Williamson, Beattie and Schnaderbeck the only recognised centre-halves in the squad [Malin Gut, Steph Catley and Lia Wälti can play there in an emergency]. This signing came uncharacteristically late in the day for Joe Montemurro, but if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the Lotte-ry. [I’m so, so sorry].