Arsenal Women will appoint a new manager presently with previous coach Joe Montemurro having stepped down effective from 31st May. The appointment process has been a closely guarded secret, so much so that even the rumour mill has been flummoxed into silence on the identity of the new coach.
Personally, I am not expecting to get any advanced information on the appointment, I imagine that the story will be broken by a source close to the new coach. Whoever the mystery person is, they will have plenty to chew on this summer, as I set out in this piece, it’s going to be an incredibly busy summer and a potentially jampacked first half of the season.
Mana Iwabuchi has already arrived from Aston Villa but the new coach will quickly need to implement their plans in the transfer market to beef out the squad. Jill Roord and Leonie Maier are already confirmed departures, Malin Gut might be joining them but is injured in any case and Danielle van de Donk is expected to leave this summer. With such a busy schedule and almost no pre-season to speak of, the squad will need to be deeper.
So what are the priorities for the new coach when they walk through the doors of London Colney? Fortunately, the new coach has my advice to count on and I am not even charging them for the privilege. Here are four things that I think should be at the top of the sorting pile.
CAN EVERYONE STOP GETTING INJURED?
Injuries have played a significant part in Arsenal under-delivering in the last two seasons. Last winter, the injury list was such that social distancing on the substitutes bench was not an issue whatsoever. Jen Beattie, Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little, Steph Catley, Noelle Maritz and Lisa Evans all picked up soft tissue injuries last winter- many of them suffered recurrences too.
In an interview with the Telegraph’s Tom Garry in May, Joe Montemurro spoke about the amount of injuries Arsenal have suffered in recent seasons and, referring to the recent internal review of the injury situation, he suggested action was being taken, “to make sure the processes are put in place so that we don’t make the same mistakes.”
A new position is available for a Head of Medicine and Sports Science https://t.co/Tw4AWgYBQ8
— ArsenalJobs (@ArsenalJobs) May 12, 2021
Arsenal are adding to the medical staff and also appointed a new psychologist towards the end of last season. The new coach needs to get a handle on the situation quickly because the team is likely to play three times a week every week until Christmas if they can negotiate the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.
There is the Conti Cup group stage and the final three rounds of the 2020-21 FA Cup will be played at the beginning of 2021-22 with the final in December. It’s going to be a very hectic schedule with lots of players participating at the Tokyo Olympics too. The care of the players has to be unimpeachable, not least because Arsenal will need to be able to rotate effectively.
BE AN ADVOCATE
Vivianne Miedema has one year remaining on her Arsenal contract. My information has always been that she is not in a rush to leave but not in a rush to sign a new deal either. Convincing her to extend her stay in North London will probably be decided above the new coach’s head- Arsenal will need to demonstrate that they have the ambition (read, investment) to challenge for the Champions League.
Miedema is not especially motivated by money, so offering her a large salary alone is unlikely to sway her decision, she will want to know what Arsenal’s plans are when it comes to competing with the likes of Chelsea, PSG and Barcelona. Funding hasn’t hitherto been a big issue for Arsenal Women- but Chelsea and City will keep expanding their budget and Arsenal must respond in kind.
However, the new coach won’t be a total pawn in this scenario. They will need to sell their vision to Miedema and any other player who might be harbouring doubts. Leah Williamson’s contract expires this summer and I’m told that a new deal is essentially agreed but she wants to wait and see who the new coach is before dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
The new manager’s philosophy and vigour will go a long way to convincing undecided players but the coach also needs to push their bosses to do more. There absolutely must not be any kind of repeat from earlier this season when players had to take it upon themselves to complain about conditions. The new coach needs to be an advocate for this team and these players and push those above into prioritising the women’s team.
AMEND THE APPROACH IN BIG GAMES
Last season, Arsenal lost twice to Chelsea, three times against Manchester City, once against Paris Saint Germain and once against Manchester United. In 2019-20, they lost three times to Chelsea and once against Manchester City. They haven’t beaten either City or Chelsea in the WSL since Vivianne Miedema’s goal in a 1-0 home victory over City in November 2019.
The way the women’s game works in England at this moment in time, you simply cannot win a trophy without beating at least one of City or Chelsea first. Arsenal found City and Chelsea’s high press very difficult to deal with and as the defeats in big games stacked up, mentally, it became tough for the team to impress themselves in games against their immediate rivals. (The injuries didn’t help, either).
Given that the squad is sculpted entirely in Joe Montemurro’s image, there seems little point in opting for a manager who plays a totally different brand of football to Joe’s favoured possession game. Gareth Taylor at Manchester City has done a very good job of making City a good passing team but, also, a powerful team who can both initiate and resist a press.
Arsenal must do something similar- at the very least, they need to be able to withstand a Chelsea or Manchester City press. They cannot expect to win all of their games against their immediate rivals but they must significantly improve on their impoverished recent record in these games. The new coach needs to make the team far more formidable in these games, otherwise there is no chance of improvement.
JORDAN NOBBS IS GOOD
Allow her to continue being good. Yes, she can play as a wide forward because she is good. But she is better in central midfield, let her play there, let her score lots of goals and get lots of assists, reap the rewards. Jordan’s talent has been underappreciated for too long. The new manager has a ready-made, prime, world class attacking midfielder on their hands. Be grateful 🙂
The actual Arsenal goal of the season (cos I said so) pic.twitter.com/FROeyjJ5JU
— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) May 28, 2021