Arsenal Women finished the season with a comfortable 9-0 victory against Crystal Palace, bringing down the curtain on Joe Montemurro’s three-and-a-half year reign in the process. After a very difficult winter, the Gunners managed to pip Manchester United to third place and Champions League qualification and they are safely through to the FA Cup quarter-finals which will take place in September.
However, while the on-pitch action is over until August, there is a lot of admin for Arsenal to get through. First and foremost they need to appoint a new Head Coach. Montemurro announcing his decision to step down in March has bought the club time to search for a successor. It is understood by Katie Whyatt of the Athletic that Arsenal are constructing a three-strong shortlist this week. Hopefully we ought to get confirmation of an appointment by the end of the month.
Personally, I have heard absolutely no whispers whatsoever around the identity of any of the applicants, this is a process that is being handled by Vinai Venkatesham and Edu and it will be kept pretty clandestine I would imagine. News of Joe Montemurro’s appointment in 2017 was broken by journalists in Joe’s native Melbourne, I would expect a similar scenario here, where, if the news breaks at all, it will be broken by sources close to the new manager.
There have been additions to the backroom staff during the season and recently the club have advertised for a Head of Medicine and Sports Science and a Player Liaison Officer and there will be further backroom positions advertised in the coming weeks. It is unclear what the future holds for the current coaching staff, including Joe’s assistant and confidant Aaron D’Antino, whose video analysis background has been a crucial part of Montemurro’s match preparation. Assistant coach Leanne Hall has also been a crucial member of the backroom team.
An emotional day with a performance that typified the @MontemurroJoe way. 4 full backs in back 4, 9 goals, 8 different scorers, 1 methodology. The smiles in this picture demonstrates the impact Joe had @ArsenalWFC. Thank you for bringing me on board. All the best for the future https://t.co/wrtHj6Jcd8
— Leanne Hall (@LeannehallSGK) May 16, 2021
There will be some player churn this summer as there always is and as there is at every club. Manchester United and Manchester City will need to replace Heath, Press, Mewis and Lavelle, with United also expected to lose Lauren James and Jess Sigsworth. One look at the squad that won the title two years ago will show that van Veenendaal, Veje, Arnth, Carter, Peyraud-Magnin, Quinn, Janssen, Kemme and Samuelsson have all since departed. In women’s football, where contracts are short, turnover is par the course.
That said, the outgoings will require replacements. With Jill Roord’s departure already announced and Malin Gut, Leonie Maier and Danielle van de Donk expected to follow, the new coach will need to recruit quickly. The signing of Mana Iwabuchi from Aston Villa has been in train for a while but, as far as I know, all other incomings will be contingent on the new manager.
There are also key contractual situations that need sorting, Leah Williamson’s deal is up this summer, while Vivianne Miedema has one year left on her contract. At the moment there is no information to suggest either will leave this summer but it is unlikely that the long-term future of either will be crystalised until the new manager is in place.
Then there is the actual football! This summer, Arsenal will have players at the Tokyo Olympics with Japan, Team GB, Netherlands and Australia all involved. The tournament takes place from 21st July until 6th August. Arsenal’s first Champions League qualifier will take place on 18th August.
The Gunners will be seeded for the first round of qualifiers (the League Path) and the runners-up from Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Scotland, Russia and Belarussian leagues and the third placed teams from France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Czech Republic all enter at this stage. These 16 teams will be split into four mini-tournaments comprising two games. Since Arsenal will be seeded for the first qualifying round, they are likely to draw weaker opponents.
They will play qualifiers on 18th and 21st August at a neutral venue. One would expect them to come through this round. The second qualifying phase is where things get trickier- Arsenal would not be seeded when the four teams that qualify from the first phase go into a draw with the runners-up from Germany, France, Spain, Sweden and Czech Republic. (Manchester City also enter the qualifying phase at this point but Arsenal can’t be drawn against them).
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility for Arsenal to draw Lyon (currently 2nd in France) or Wolfsburg (currently 2nd in Germany). This will be a two-legged qualifier played home and away, with the first leg on 31st August / 1st September and the second leg on 8th / 9th September. If Arsenal make it to the group stage, they will also be unseeded, so could expect a tough group.
The new manager will be greeted with quite the in-tray upon arrival, they will need to recruit quickly and will have to face up to the fact that a large portion of the squad won’t have much of a pre-season with them. In effect, the Olympics and the first two Champions League qualifiers will constitute pre-season for a lot of players.
It could be a very busy autumn with the Conti Cup group stages, this season’s FA Cup to conclude and a potential six games in the Champions League group stage, there will be no let-up. Enjoy the relative quiet for now because pretty soon, 2021-22 will kick into warp speed.