Jonas Eidevall has turned around Arsenal’s fortunes, taking Chelsea to the wire in last season’s WSL title race. The Gunners had finished nine points off Chelsea in the previous campaign, coming third, and that deficit was reduced to a single point in his first season.
Most encouragingly, eight months into his tenure, Arsenal had taken eight points off Chelsea and Manchester City, having previously struggled against their closest rivals. A stellar start faltered around Christmas as injuries and a fixture pile-up bit but action in the January transfer window, with the forward Stina Blackstenius and defenders Rafaelle Souza and Laura Wienroither coming in, shored things up enough to ensure the title race was taken to the last day. This summer they have been less active, with the goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese, from last season’s Champions League group stage opponents HB Køge, and the Sweden forward Lina Hurtig the only recruits.
More important, though, they have held on to Vivianne Miedema, the WSL and Netherlands record goalscorer, who signed a new contract after being courted by Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, and have hired a new lead analyst and added to their strength and conditioning personnel. Having lots of incoming players is attractive but there is a lot to be said for squad consistency, keeping the core together and building the team around them.
Hurtig’s arrival is important, though, given Nikita Parris has been allowed to join Manchester United, Tobin Heath has returned to the US and Miedema has been used in the deeper No 10 role. The Dutchwoman’s position switch from striker has given Eidevall a midfield headache, with the Japan magician Mana Iwabuchi, England’s Jordan Nobbs and the captain, Kim Little, competing with Miedema for space in front of the more defensive Lia Wälti.
The one area of concern personnel-wise is the side lack backup for Wälti. Frida Maanum has been used in that role under Eidevall but it is not a natural fit and although Leah Williamson has been tried in midfield for club and country, her removal from the backline hugely weakens it.
It is hard to predict whether Arsenal are ready to lift the title or can stay competitive in all competitions, but there are promising signs of growth and development.