Sunday, June 16, 2024

Arsenal Women: January Transfer Window Review

It has been a busy- and mixed- January transfer window for Arsenal. In January 2022, Arsenal signed three players- Rafaelle, Stina Blackstenius and Laura Wienroither- all of whom have become mainstays in the starting line-up. This month, Arsenal have effectively made 3.5 new signings. With Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo (29) coming in from Vittsjö, attacking midfielder Victoria Pelova (23) signing from Ajax, Danish creative midfielder Katherine Kuhl (19) joining from Nordsjælland.

On top of this, Brazilian winger Gio (19) was recalled from her loan spell at Everton. Back in September, Jonas Eidevall told Arseblog News that having only added Swedish forward Lina Hurtig and American goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese during the summer that January was going to be busy. ACL injuries to Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema created extra urgency in the market.

However, Arsenal did not get everything they wanted in the window. They seriously targeted Brazilian forward Debinha, who instead opted to stay in the NWSL with Kansas City Current. They also targeted Canadian striker Cloe Lacasse, who scored five goals in the Champions League group stages for Benfica but found the Portuguese club unwilling sellers. They made two world record bids for Alessia Russo on deadline day and also tried to sign Lyon striker Signe Bruun. Let’s take the new additions in sections.

Sabrina D’Angelo


The 29-year-old Canadian joined from Vittsjö and given Eidevall’s knowledge of the Damallsvenskan, we can assume he has been a long time admirer of D’Angelo. It is a signing that has raised some eyebrows because current goalie Manu Zinsberger has been a firm first choice under Eidevall and American Kaylan Marckese joined during the summer to replace Lydia Williams as back-up.

D’Angelo is 29 and competing heavily for Canada’s number 1 shirt in a World Cup year. In my experience, that profile of player does not come to sit on the bench. Zinsberger’s contract expires in the summer, though there is an option for a further year. Zinsberger herself sounded a little non-committal on the prospect of extending her deal with Arsenal when interviewed in the Austrian press earlier this month.

My opinion is that the writing is very much on the wall here and that Zinsberger will probably leave in the summer. I sincerely doubt Sabrina has come to Arsenal to play second fiddle. D’Angelo is a different type of goalkeeper, perhaps more aerially dominant than Manu and while Zinsberger is one of the best short distribution goalkeepers in the world, D’Angelo tends to distribute longer and more quickly, which ought to add a new dimension to Arsenal’s build-up play. You can listen to Swedish football expert Amanda Zaza talk to the Arsenal Women Arsecast about D’Angelo below.

Creative midfield


This is a far simpler equation to parse, Mana Iwabuchi and Jordan Nobbs left the club during January and Victoria Pelova and Katherine Kuhl joined. I think you can consider those like-for-like replacements. Nobbs and particularly Iwabuchi were clearly not fully trusted by Eidevall and while Pelova and Kuhl probably won’t expect to walk into the starting line-up straight away, I am sure both will get proportionately more minutes than Nobbs and Iwabuchi did.

Kuhl is more of a creative number 8 while Pelova is more of an 8/10 who can also play wide. I am expecting the trio of Wälti, Little and Maanum to start most games in midfield but with five substitutions permitted and both domestic cup competitions kicking off in this segment of the season, I envisage plenty of minutes for both players.

At the moment, Arsenal’s front four is very physical and direct but perhaps lacks that little touch of cuteness on the ball and Pelova and Kuhl can offer this. However, both are powerful off the ball too and look as though they can adapt to Eidevall’s counterpressing game in a way that Iwabuchi really struggled with.

The additions of Pelova, Kuhl and Gio also bring the age profile of the squad, which was heading towards an average of 30, down a little. Eidevall says this is a symptom of Arsenal having to be smarter in an ever more competitive market where the supply and demand between big players and big clubs is becoming ever more stretched.

You can listen to Danish football expert Amalie Bremer talk to us about Katherine Kuhl here and Dutch football expert Annemarie Postma talk to us about Victoria Pelova here.

The attack


This is where things get messier. Arsenal lost Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema to ACL injuries in November and December. Together, they either assisted or scored in 66% of Arsenal’s goals last season. That is an enormous amount of end-product to lose. The additions of Gio, Pelova and Kuhl go some way to amending the creative deficit, though it remains to be seen how often those players will start for the rest of this season.

What Arsenal have not been able to do is add another reliable goal scorer. They wanted Debinha and then they wanted Cloe Lacasse and then they pivoted to Alessia Russo and Signe Bruun on deadline day did not end up with any of them.

Jonas Eidevall was very forward about his need for a goal scorer when he spoke to Arseblog News earlier in January, “That should be a really important priority for us in this window with the number and the level of games we are playing.” Currently, Arsenal’s top scorers in the WSL are Vivianne Miedema, Stina Blackstenius and Frida Maanum, all of whom have four goals, which puts them equal eighth in the overall Golden Boot rankings.

Caitlin Foord and Katie McCabe have one WSL goal each with Lina Hurtig yet to score in the league (and in fairness to her, she was injured for a sustained period in the autumn). For all of the attacking quality those players add, you can see why Eidevall wanted more penalty box punch. Having not been able to import it, some attacking players are going to have to step up to the plate and deliver personal best seasons in front of goal.

Frida Maanum seems the most likely to manage this, in all competitions she is the top scorer with 10 goals. Caitlin Foord hit double figures in the league in 2020-21 playing off Vivianne Miedema and Foord and Blackstenius will need to really cement a similarly fruitful partnership. Last season she scored four WSL goals. Stina Blackstenius will need to deliver a far better ratio than the four goals in 10 WSL starts she has so far this season.

Likewise, now fit again Lina Hurtig is going to need to find her feet and contribute in front of goal. Mead and Miedema have been absolute mainstays in the attack for the last five and a half years now so this is a very new look attack learning to play together on the fly. It’s not going to be easy for each of them to produce big seasons in front of goal while still learning to play together but that is the challenge now.

Gio is an incredibly exciting forward, by my estimation, in Kuhl and Gio, Arsenal have brought in two of the top five teenage footballers in Europe right now. However, Gio’s loan move to Everton was hampered by injury and she will need to acclimatise for the remainder of the season. She can be a potent weapon from the bench, however, not least because of her lightning pace on and off the ball.

Gio is also very strong in transitions, as she showed with this outstanding assist in the Merseyside derby in September. Jonas Eidevall urged patience with the Brazilian as she is still developing and her recall is about adding depth to the attack in the short-term given the injury situation. But Gio scored 11 times in Spain last season on loan at Levante, she is raw but exceptionally talented.

That said, it is difficult not to be pessimistic about the impact of losing Mead and Miedema without a prolific striker coming into the squad. It’s very rare that teams lose their two most consistent sources of goals and come out unscathed. Pelova, Kuhl and Gio add depth and quality in the short-term and create excitement for the future.

I am very much assuming that D’Angelo will be Arsenal’s number 1 goalkeeper before long and her ability to dominate her area and to start attacks early should add a new attacking dimension to a team that is becoming increasingly muscular and direct. But there is just no getting away from the failure to land another reliable goal scorer as a significant blow.

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chig

Underdogs for a trophy then but anything can happen in football. We should at least target top 3 finish in WSL

Bill Hall

Well it’s not as I f they didn’t try to sign a top quality forward this window. And Man U are going to watch Russo walk away for free in the summer!

Fun Gunner

We will have to adapt somehow. Having said that, if we had beaten Chelsea and Man U, which we should have done, the league title would be a lot closer. I’m thrilled with the players we did add to the squad as well as what I have seen of Michelle Agyemang. And a Russo transfer in the summer is possible, seeing as we have indicated an interest in her in the most emphatic way. But £500,000 is a lot when the club’s annual revenue is around £2million on the women’s side, so in a way I’m relieved we are not… Read more »

chig

Financially I think the transfer fee would have been worth the risk given the potential long term revenue for Arsenal if she continues to be successful with the Lionesses. Have to be aggressive with investment in nascent stages of an industry when it has such high growth potential in the long run.

Fun Gunner

Yes, absolutely – in the long term. But the large sum of money was bid to get Russo in *now*, to help propel us to the title. So if she were then to suffer an injury, or take longer to adapt or fit in than expected, the half million would have been wasted, even though of course it would still have been a great long-term signing. And it will be if she joins us in the summer.

kazoo

That was a rather ridiculous bid, IMO. Russo is a good player but I’m not convinced that she is all-world—or will be.

trugun

In your opinion Tim will Arsenal go for Russo in the summer or has interest now stopped?

Bill Hall

Well the front 3 will just have to up their game just like the men did when Jesus got injured. Caitlin, Stina and Lena are perfectly capable of at least 10 goals each by the end of the season in the pl.
It’s up to them!

Peter Story Teller

Exactly Bill, all three are capable but they need to step up a gear and stop wasting the chances that the new midfield creators are providing for them!

Salvador Berzunza

Miedema and Beth got the major contribution in goals for the team because all the team effort was focused on make that real, that was the plan and worked good for so long. Caitlin experienced something similar in the Matildas, all was centered in supply balls to Sam Kerr but sometimes Kerr is not in a good day and is a bad day for us, now the team change a little bit the strategy, I can see now she’s trying more for herself, also Stina going deep also to the sides to pick up balls and delivering in to the… Read more »

Fun Gunner

Certainly, there will be no shortage of ammunition for our markswomen!

kazoo

I seriously doubt any of the three will have 10 goals in the WSL by end of season. Has Hurtig ever been a serious goal scorer? My sense is not, but I don’t have her career stats in front of me.

Ricky

Perhaps the club should have targeted more left-field striker options instead. For example, FC Twente’s Fenna Kalma scored 33 goals in 24 games last season and scored 21 in the first 12 games of the current one. I think she is worth a gamble. In hindsight, I feel we missed a trick by not competing with PSG for the highest profile free-agent striker in this window, Amalie Vangsgaard.

Fun Gunner

I don’t know *anything* about any of those strikers 🙂 but I agree there might have been short-term solutions or gambles amongst less well known names.

MartynJ

Is it just me that was fine with the incomings and outgoings, irrespective of whether a striker came in or not? If Jonas had shrugged his shoulders and said “we tried to get Lacasse, but c’est la vie” (or whatever the Swedish equivalent is) rather than publicly insisting we still needed a sriker, what would we be talking about? Ch*lsea’s desperate-sounding bid for Katie M, perhaps. Looking at the business other WSL teams have done, our main rivals haven’t exactly strenghtened (“You know that really good French player? Well, we’ve signed her sister!”). Relationships on the pitch need to develop,… Read more »

Salvador Berzunza

I’m going to be disappointed if the filtration about Arsenal offered 500 grand plus Stina for Russo is true, anyway the club need to explain what had happened because this can cause a negative impact in our team morale and especially in Stina’s self-steem .

MartynJ

Wondering if this was more a case of testing the waters – see what Man U’s limit was, ie “If you could take a player in exchange, who would you go for” rather than specifically offering Stina.

Salvador Berzunza

is what I want to believe, Jornos bending the facts of a business conversations to sell a story and raise some hell.

chig

Yes maybe a list of players that are available for the negotiation and Stina as well as others were on the list. Presumably if United chose Stina from the list then the 500k cash part of the deal would be reduced to 300k etc.
All speculation at this moment though and the story is getting a lot of attention for those journalists

chig

The list of players for a swap deal happens all the time in negotiations in the men’s game by the way

Fun Gunner

I imagine these swap possibilities are discussed from time to time – the bad part is the information becoming public knowledge. Stina will be feeling horrible and it could affect her relationship with JE. So let’s all back her to turn her negative feelings around.
Second half of the season – Stina Blackstenius Strikes Back! You go, girl – show them they should have had more faith in you.

Gunner H

Disagree that Stina will be feeling horrible especially given she was far from the only player being “offered.” She seems highly professional in her attitude so may well feel the saga to be a motivating factor towards enhanced performances.

chig

May have just been loan offers not permanent moves if the story is actually true that players were offered

MartynJ

Interesting that (a) Marc Skinner has questioned the accuracy of some of the reporting and that (b) many media outlets covering women’s football have NOT mentioned any proposed player exchange in their reporting. Also, neither of the journalists who originally broke this story on twitter appeat to have followed it up yet with anything more substantial than those original tweets (or have I missed something?).

Alex

People need to understand that Stina have played matches non-stop since the olympics without any break at all. Not strange at all that she is tired both menthaly and physically. She was better than ever before and during the olympics but after that she picked up an injury just before she signed with Arsenal. After that she never got back to the same shape and level of confidense. Even if she scored a lot of goals last season she was no way near her best. The tempo and pace she plays with when she is in top-form is fantastic and… Read more »

Fun Gunner

Really interesting and uplifting to hear from someone who knows Stina’s game well, thanks Alex! Excellent point about her suffering from fatigue. We can look back at Miedema and Foord who had the same problem and some time off made all the difference.

Verstellung

That was fairly vague…can you be more specific ?

Verstellung

Obviously sarcastic.
Well written post.

chig

I imagine Kaneryd wouldn’t choose Arsenal because Beth Mead was in her way for that role on the right?

chig

Don’t see any right forwards/wingers signing for Arsenal to compete with Beth Mead. Would explain why we are improvising now in that position

Alex

You are probably right! But i feel like Kaneryd now has that situation in Chelsea with Emma not giving her the chance when players are out of form. She knew that she will have to fight for a spot in the Chelsea line up. If playing time was very important for her she would have chose United over Chelsea and Arsenal but she wanted uwcl-football. Right now I think Pelova is the best option on the right wing, Hurtig is better at the left. Pelova played on that position in the Champions league qualifyers and I thought she was very… Read more »

Gunner H

A thoroughly brilliant detailed summary analysis, Tim. I do feel more optimistic about our prospects for the rest of the season, however, with an exciting new goalkeeper, Leah and Rafa back into top gear, 2 first class full backs, Frida & Caitlyn on fire, the dependable Lia, the under-rated & newly re-motivated Stina, Lina who I suspect will soon start to shine brightly, Katie who will feel she has a point to prove, plus our 3 very impressive new recruits. Lastly and key to it all, we have a magnificent Captain in Kim, and we all know what she contributes… Read more »

Matt

I’m optimistic too. I think it’s still all to play for, even though we didn’t manage to bring in a striker. We’re generally excellent defensively and we have plenty of players who are capable of scoring. Very much in the mix in all our competitions I reckon!

Verstellung

Agreed. I’m not that worried about a new striker. Caitlin or even Gio can pick up any slack if Stina would get injured. I think the biggest point on beating the top teams is tactics…we have the players.

kazoo

I don’t get the sudden slagging of Zinsberger, whom I’ve always considered an excellent keeper and the least of Arsenal’s concerns.

Salvador Berzunza

she’s getting married in summer, maybe fiancé is working in Oesterreich or she don’t have a visa for her, something similar happened to Tameka Yallop she leaves Westham because wife and daughter does not get a UK visa.

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