Much has changed since the Gunners first started preparing for their first WCL quarter-final in six years
Arsenal usually play a 4-3-3 with Leah Williamson and Jen Beattie aas centre-backs, both of whom can also play in midfield due to their comfort in possession. Joe Montemurro likes to push his full-backs very high. Lisa Evans and Katie McCabe playedthere last season and made their names as outright wingers.
In midfield, Lia Wälti anchors with Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little ahead of her as attacking No 8s. When they come under pressure, Little drops back and forms a double pivot with Wälti as she can keep the ball in tight spaces. Nobbs is an all-action box-to-box midfielder who offers goal threat.
In attack, Vivianne Miedema is the most recognisable player in the Arsenal team and one of the biggest goal threats in world football. However, her goals are only part of her game. She likes to move away from the front-line and drift into the No 10 position, allowing the likes of Nobbs, Little and Van de Donk to get into the area as support forwards.
Arsenal are a team who seek to dominate through possession; they are patient with the ball, with players rotating positions. “The important thing is that the players understand space and rotations, so that when we pass the ball there is always an option for the player receiving straight away and we have second phase and third phase of play mapped out,” Montemurro says.
Which players have they signed this summer and can be used from the quarter-finals?
The Australian left-back Steph Catley has been added from Melbourne City. She has played under Montemurro before and is considered one of the best left-backs in the world. The goalkeeper Lydia Williams also arrives from Melbourne City, while the Swiss full-back Noëlle Maritz arrives after a trophy laden seven-year spell at Wolfsburg. She can play in either full-back position or on either wing. The 20-year old Swiss international Malin Gut was also signed to provide cover for international teammate Lia Wälti in the defensive midfield role.
Montemurro joined Arsenal in December 2017 after holding several coaching roles with the Melbourne City men’s and women’s teams. He is a proponent of total football based on short passing and rotation of positions in attack. “The less the opponent has the ball, the less they can hurt you,” he says. He also likes to make specifications for each opponent and enjoys solving tactical problems in-game. His assistant, Aaron D’Antino, is an expert in video analysis.
They are far from a one-woman team but Vivianne Miedema is undoubtedly the star. She broke the Netherlands goal-scoring record at the age of 22 and has won the WSL Golden Boot in the last two seasons. She is also a talented creative player, providing more assists than any other player in the the league last season. She seems to glide across the pitch and enjoys working outside the penalty area as much as she enjoys working inside it.
Did you know?
Jen Beattie’s father, John, was a Scottish rugby international in the 1980s [her brother Johnnie is a recently retired professional rugby player, too]. She scored a header against Argentina at the Parc des Princes in last summer’s World Cup – John scored a try for Scotland against France at the same end of the same pitch in 1987.
Who could surprise everyone in Spain?
The Australia forward Caitlin Foord signed in February but was only able to play twice prior to lockdown. A seasoned performer, she is now looking to make her mark in Europe, “She’s a little bit different to some of the players we’ve got, she’s very powerful in the final third,” Montemurro says.
What is the realistic aim for Arsenal in the WCL?
Arsenal need to win the tournament to qualify for next season’s competition. They are by no means favourites given the presence of Lyon and Wolfsburg but they will absolutely aim to win the tournament in Spain. Saturday’s quarter-final with PSG could go either way.
Arsenal remain the only British team to have won the tournament back in 2006-07. This is the first time they have been in the Champions League since 2014 and while they do not have the pedigree of Lyon or Wolfsburg, they have played in more Champions League quarter-finals than any team.