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Arsenal Women player preview

Can Arsenal do one better than last season and take back the WSL title?

Arsenal Women Pre-Season Training Match Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images


The Gunners come into the season with a new face in the keeper’s room — American Kaylan Marckese. The 24-year old replaces Lydia Williams, who joined PSG over the summer in search of more regular playing time ahead of next year’s World Cup. Marckese will back up Manuela Zinsberger, the incumbent #1 keeper.

Manu Zinsberger
Position: GK
Outlook: Manu is Arsenal’s #1 keeper, and she has steadily improved during her time at the club. She won last year’s Gold Glove award for keeping the most clean sheets in the WSL. More importantly, her shot-stopping is approaching elite levels. Last season, she posted an 80% save percentage, up from 64.5% two seasons ago. But save percentage can be buoyed by shot quality — if your defense is only allowing easy shots, you’re going to put up good numbers. Zinsberger, however, is earning her keep. On post-shot xG, she should have conceded 13 goals last year. She only let in 10. That means she kept out 3 goals that you’d expect an average keeper to concede.

Hopefully that means she will continue to cut back on mistakes, too. She has a weak goal / passing giveaway in her, which is the one drawback to her play.

Kaylan Marckese
Position: GK
Outlook: Marckese was brought in to be the backup, but she’s an accomplished keeper in her own right. She helped HB Koge to consecutive titles in the Danish league, making 43 appearances across two seasons. Last year, she played all 8 of Koge’s Champions League matches as well. Jonas Eidevall has shown that he prefers a starter-backup keeper setup as compared to Joe Montemurro’s preference for rotation, so Marckese will have to work hard for her opportunities.


Arsenal return all the regulars from a defensive unit that conceded the fewest goals in the WSL last season — 10 in 22 matches. The backline, while solid with Lotte Wubben-Moy playing next to Leah Williamson, took a leap forward when Rafaelle Souza joined the squad in January 2022. Her on-ball ability and distribution, coupled with her physical, tenacious tackling, helped the Gunners win the ball and advance it up the pitch.

Rafaelle Souza
Position: CB
Outlook: As mentioned above, Rafa’s signing took the Arsenal defense (and entire setup, really) up a level last season because of her progressive passing and dribbling. She’ll be one of the two preferred CBs this season alongside Leah Williamson. Hopefully Jonas Eidevall will rotate her enough to keep her healthy, she missed time during the stretch run last season with an injury.

Lotte Wubben-Moy
Position: CB
Outlook: While Lotte won’t be first choice, she should get plenty of playing time at centerback this season after committing her long-term future to the club with an extension last spring. The 23-year old was on the Euro-winning England side but wasn’t a featured player. She should shine at Arsenal, however, with her ability to pick a longer pass opening up more direct routes of attack for the likes of Stina Blackstenius. Jonas Eidevall won’t mind Wubben-Moy trying to go long, either because he views turnovers, especially further up the pitch as an opportunity to press the opponent into a mistake.

Jen Beattie
Position: CB
Outlook: The Arsenal veteran signed a new contract with the club in June of this summer and will continue in her leader / mentor role while picking up a few of the easier games on the schedule and some minutes to help close out leads. What Beattie lacks in pace she makes up for with intelligent positioning. Her aerial prowess can be a threat on attacking set pieces and help clear the danger on the other side.

Leah Williamson
Position: CB
Outlook: What else is there to be said about Leah Williamson that hasn’t been said already? She’s a complete footballer. Her positioning is fantastic, she reads the game, is strong in challenges, comfortable on the ball, and an excellent passer. Part of what makes her so effective is her ability to stop attacks early on with well-timed step-ups into the midfield to either break up a pass or take it off a turning attacker. Couple that disruptive ability with her distribution, and she can quickly turn a backtracking Arsenal side into one storming forward on the counter.

Oh, and she captained England to the Euro title. She’ll be the anchor and leader at the back for the Gunners this season.

Steph Catley
Position: LB
Outlook: Catley had an injury hit first season, but had a very good second season at Arsenal, culminating in signing a new contract. Steph scored her first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League last season, scored her second on the final day of the season, and assisted four goals. Started 9 of Arsenal’s final 10 league games of the season after returning from the Asian Cup, a solid season will see her edge ahead of Katie McCabe as Arsenal’s first choice left back.

Noelle Maritz
Position: RB
Outlook: Arsenal’s experienced right back turned in another solid campaign, signing a new deal at the end of the season. Maritz will have a further challenge at right back from Laura Wienroither, but she’s been truly excellent in the WSL, coming second best to very few wide players. One area for improvement is going forward: Noëlle assisted only one goal last season.

Laura Wienrother
Position: RB
Outlook: Wienroither joined in January from Hoffenheim, initially to deputise for Noëlle Maritz. However, a string of superb performances for Austria at the Euros, against top-class talent like Lauren Hemp, Guro Reiten, and others, could mean Wienroither has her sights set on the starting right back position at Arsenal.

Teyah Goldie
Position: CB
Outlook: Teyah is recovering from an ACL tear suffered early last spring while on loan to Watford and isn’t expected back until November or December, at which point she will likely head back out on loan in the bottom half of the WSL. She’s 18-years old, she’s one for the future at Arsenal, not so much for the present.


Arsenal’s midfield hasn’t really changed from the end of last season. Vivianne Miedema will be Arsenal’s number 10, and Lia Wälti will be the #6. Kim Little should round out the usual starting midfield, with Frida Maanum, Jordan Nobbs and Mana Iwabuchi rounding out the midfield. It’s a well balanced midfield, but there is a whole in terms of backup for Wälti. On one hand, that is understandable, as there is a dearth of high quality defensive midfielders who are available to buy, but when Wälti is absent, Arsenal struggle. She missed the season defining defeat against Birmingham, and couldn’t play away at Wolfsburg in the Champions League, where Arsenal greatly struggled to progress the ball.

Lia Wälti
Position: CM
Outlook: Wälti initially struggled under Jonas Eidevall, who wanted her to play further up than Joe Montemurro did, as Eidevall rejigged Arsenal’s midfield from a #6 with essentially two #10s to a double pivot. In the second half of the season, though, Wälti was exceptional. A genuine two-footed player, Wälti is wonderfully press-resistant, able to slip away because of her two-footed ability. An excellent reader of the game, Wälti might be the best defensive midfielder in the WSL, especially if Keira Walsh departs for Barcelona.

Kim Little
Position: CM
Outlook: Arsenal’s captain returns from a short loan at the NWSL team OL Reign during the summer. Little recorded 1 assist while at Reign—her first league assist since December 2020—having scored 6 goals last season for Arsenal. Little has dropped deeper as her career has progressed, and she is firmly a deeper central midfielder for Arsenal. A lovely passer of the ball, and a good press resistant player, the question surrounding Little is whether she can contribute more to Arsenal’s attack.

Jordan Nobbs
Position: CM
Outlook: Nobbs’ 2021-22 season never really got going, as her season was bookended by two injuries. The second injury, a knee ligament strain, meant Nobbs missed out on playing at the Euros, having missed out on the World Cup in 2019 after an ACL injury. Nobbs’ biggest issue is she ultimately didn’t fit in Jonas Eidevall’s starting lineup. She didn’t quite click as a number 10, and is now competing with Vivianne Miedema for the role, and didn’t seem to be trusted in central midfield. If she can play in central midfield, her capability on the ball and ability to drive with the ball could make a significant difference to how Arsenal play.

Frida Maanum
Position: CM
Outlook: Frida burst onto the scene at the beginning of last season, but her first WSL campaign fizzled out at the end. A shortened Euros campaign, as Norway went out in the group stage, means that Maanum should have had a solid amount of time off, which could be important: Maanum essentially played for a season and a half last season, having joined from Sweden’s summer league. Maanum is an all-around box to box player; physically imposing, with a powerful shot and good long range passing, Maanum could deputise for Miedema at #10, or could compete with Little to play in a box to box role.

Vivianne Miedema
Position: #10
Outlook: One of the best strikers in the world, Vivianne Miedema is also one of the best #10s in the world. Jonas Eidevall changed her role last season after Arsenal signed Stina Blackstenius, with Viv dropping into a number 10 position to great effect. Still, with her contract coming to an end, few expected Miedema to stay, but she signed a new deal, in part because of the position change. Miedema has always enjoyed playing as a number 10, and, with Arsenal having signed Lina Hurtig this summer, there should be no reason why Miedema ends up at centre forward again. Instead, she will be in a deeper role, with a creative brief. Miedema scored 6 goals and assisted 4 after moving to number 10, so she will still be a big scoring threat, just not perhaps the main scoring threat.


Stina Blackstenius
Position: CF
Outlook: Stina joined in January, and acclimated very quickly, scoring 6 goals in 631 minutes— a goal every 105 minutes. Not only does she score goals, but she consistently makes good runs, holds the ball up, and runs the channels, all things Jonas Eidevall wants from his #9. Having turned 26 in February, Blackstenius is in her prime, and Eidevall will be hoping the duo of Miedema and Blackstenius will provide the firepower to fuel a title challenge.

Beth Mead:
Position: RW
Outlook: The Golden Boot and Ball winner with England during the Euros, and a Ballon d’Or nominee, Mead comes into the 2022-23 season looking to prove that the heights she reached in the 2021-22 season and summer is her level now. Famously, Eidevall early on told Mead he wanted her to be more aggressive in the penalty box, and Beth scored 11 and assisted 8 in the league, her best goal return in an Arsenal shirt. She flourishes in Eidevall’s pressing system, second only to Lia Wälti in tackles and interceptions last season.

Caitlin Foord:
Position: LW/CF
Outlook: After a stuttering first half of the season, where she struggled with injury after the Olympics, Foord was one of Arsenal’s most important players in the second half of the season, with her efforts being rewarded with a new contract. Caitlin scored 4 goals and assisted 3 in the WSL, with all coming in the final 7 matches of the season. She found her role on the left of Arsenal’s attack, with her power and propensity to beat her full back dovetailing well with Mead on the right and Blackstenius through the middle.

Katie McCabe:
Position: LW/LB
Outlook: Perhaps the best pure striker of the ball at Arsenal, McCabe, who led Arsenal in yellow cards, scored 5 and assisted 6 playing upfront and at left back. An effective left back, she was also played further forward by Eidevall, who liked how she stretches the play from wide. McCabe’s an excellent ball carrier and can play across midfield and the front, as she frequently does for Ireland, who she captains. What remains to be seen is whether she can make any role her own, or whether she’ll provide a valuable option from a number of positions.

Lina Hurtig:
Position: LW/CF/RW
Outlook: Arsenal’s only outfield summer signing, Hurtig takes the place of Nikita Parris, who left for Manchester United over the summer. Hurtig offers an aerial presence and can play across the front three, though she, like Foord and McCabe, prefers the left hand side. A much more capable backup for Stina Blackstenius and someone who can commit her defender to one v ones, Hurtig will start as a squad option.

Mana Iwabuchi
Position: LW/AM
Outlook: Mana only played 491 league minutes last season, as injury and non-selection disrupted her first season at Arsenal after a long awaited move. At times, it appeared as if Iwabuchi, whose transfer was sanctioned before Jonas Eidevall arrived, like Nikita Parris, was a player whose style simply didn’t fit with Eidevall’s, and that Iwabuchi was more of a Joe Montemurro player. Perhaps the most technically gifted player in the squad, there is more Iwabuchi can provide, and with the technical quality of Tobin Heath not directly replaced, there is a role for Iwabuchi.

Overall outlook:

Arsenal have a strong squad, and players that have had a lot of experience of winning. Leah Williamson, Rafaelle Souza, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Beth Mead, and Vivianne Miedema have all won major international tournaments; Kim Little, Jordan Nobbs, Stina Blackstenius, Noëlle Maritz, and Katie McCabe have all won major league championships. It’s a good squad that might be one or two light in certain areas, especially defensive midfield, but Arsenal are more than capable of going toe to toe with Chelsea in what should be an exciting WSL title race.