Arsenal in touching distance of title after victory over Liverpool

Happy start of season month to everyone! Even before the weekend’s
Emirates Cup action, the WSL season began post the summer break and recently
concluded European Championships. With a very busy schedule in the months of
August and September, the Arsenal Ladies restarted their season with a much
needed 3-0 away victory over league leaders Liverpool.

This win means that Arsenal are
only five points behind Matt Beard’s squad at the top of the summit, with two
games in hand. The clean sheet also means that they improve upon their goal
difference of -2. It was a crucial game where the WSL title was concerned, and
our Ladies proved just why they are the most successful club in the history of
UK women’s football. The victory was the result of a calm, dominating performance
that announced their intentions of fighting to win their third WSL title in a
row.

On a side-note, Emmet (who did a
guest post for Gunners Fair on the Women’s FA Cup final) wrote the match
report
for this on Arsenal.com, go give it a read! Jordan Nobbs scored a
brace on either side of half time (9th and 74th minute)
while Alex Scott scored from a wonderful team effort in the 34th
minute. The game wasn’t shy of drama however when Liverpool got a penalty from
a Houghton foul on Dowie. At this point, Arsenal were 2-0 up and a Liverpool
goal then could have perhaps changed the match, but Emma Byrne made a fantastic
save before Nobbs sealed the win. New signing Emma Mitchell made her debut at
right-back and while Liverpool did have their chances, they failed to convert them
and we can look towards our next must-win fixture. We have a double whammy
coming up against the Everton Ladies – the Continental Cup semi-final tonight
at Boreham Wood, and a WSL home fixture on Sunday, August 11. That is followed
by three away WSL matches: versus Birmingham City Ladies on August 18,
Doncaster R.B. on August 21 and Chelsea Ladies on August 29. There is no doubt
it is a very hectic period, but I have all the faith that our Ladies can pull
it off.

Before I go any further, here is a
reminder for the “Girls Get Sporty” day on August 17 at the Sports Village on
the de Havilland campus of Hertfordshire Sports Village. It will take place
between 11am-3pm and you can find more details here.

In another piece of good news,
Arsenal Ladies captain Kelly Smith has been appointed player-coach by the club.
This means that Smith, a club veteran and also England’s all-time, leading
goal-scorer, will have additional duties of helping with training sessions and
preparing the team for match-days. It is a great chance for her to use her
considerable experience and expertise, as well as lay a foundation for a
coaching career in the future.

“I’m
really pleased to have been given the opportunity to coach the girls … Coaching
is an area I’ve been interested in for some time. It will be a new challenge
for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Now for the main point of focus
for this week. Considering the absence of Gunners Fair last week, I have a much
longer post for you today so bear with me! At the recent Women’s Euros in
Sweden, the Germans edged out a resilient Norwegian side 1-0 to clinch the
country’s eighth UEFA European Championship out of the 11 played in the history
of the women’s game. Anja Mittag came on as a substitute to score the 49th
minute winner but the real hero was captain Nadine Angerer who not only kept a
clean sheet but also saved two penalties. Angerer has won 5 Euros now and 2
World Cups in what is a glittering club and international career.

But what is more telling is the
consistency of Germany’s success when it comes to women’s football (the
Olympics Gold is the only major title they haven’t won yet). It is a record (8
European Championships, 2 World Cups, 3 Bronze Medals at the Olympics, 1 WC
runners-up medal in 1995 and a 20-3-5 win-draw-loss record in the tournament)
that is all the more impressive when you consider that there was no German
women’s national team until 1982. From 1955 to 1970, there was a DFB (Deutscher
Fussball Bund) ban on the female side of the game and it was only in the late
80s that it was taken seriously and increasing monetary investments made. There
has been a similar consistency when it comes to their coaching appointments,
with only 3 national coaches since the start. The resultant stability has been
steadily maintained and nurtured beginning rightly at the grassroots level and
working its way up. Since the initial success, there has been a mutually
beneficial cycle of success attracting funding/sponsorship attracting further
success and growth.

2008 can be
considered as a crucial year in this timeline of the evolution of women’s
football in Germany with more than a million girls and women being registered
club members. This was a first time occurrence for the DFB, and the
improvements have continued under current president Theo Zwanziger who is a
staunch supporter of furthering the sport for women. Many initiatives
including the launch of a girl’s football programme, a football-for-schools
offensive and projects for the social integration of girls through football
have been undertaken. This complements their goals of nurturing German talent, mentoring
young players and coaches and creating an atmosphere where there are few
foreign players but a fully
professional Frauen-Bundesliga

(with record attendances), one of the few countries where this is so. This
club-level dominance was visible at Stamford Bridge a few months ago when
Wolfsburg won the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

An interesting
point was brought up when the Arsenal Ladies played against and lost in the UCL
quarterfinals this season to eventual championship winners, Wolfsburg. The
Germans were only in their first season of the Champions League unlike Arsenal,
the most successful ladies team in England with 31 major titles. Even apart
from trophies, the London club has been at the forefront of innovation,
development and promotion of excellence and more participation in women’s
football since their inception 22 years ago. Yet there was one big difference. Wolfsburg
consisted of all full-time players. The difference was evident in the audience
attendances – first leg attendance at Arsenal was 1406 while Wolfsburg were
given the chance to play at the men’s stadium for the second leg where the
attendance was 8713. Given that one of the Arsenal Ladies’ record crowds has
been for a league game at the Emirates last season (5000), we can see that the
United Kingdom needs to be patient and work towards building a slow but stable
fan-base that can be expanded upon.

But the Germans
have proved to us that it is very much possible to create a self-sustainable
model of success where women’s football can be appreciated and exist as a
separate entity from the men’s game. There was no bigger proof of that than at
the 2011 Women’s World Cup Championships that took place in Deutschland. More
than 8,00,000 people ensured packed stadiums per match, while staggering TV
audiences viewed the action (Germany’s second group match had a record
16.39 million viewers) and the final became the most tweeted about event in
history at that point in time with 7,196
Tweets per second.

The success of
the World Cup, the recent Euros, the increasing interest and coverage for
female football in Europe and the UK (promoted by the FA’s
Five Year Plan
) as well as the
inherent potential and scope for development in a long-neglected area (unlike
the saturated environment of the men’s game) has also caused DFB President
Zwanziger and none other than FIFA’s Sep Blatter to agree that “the future of
football is female.” We can only wait and watch but it’s very promising and as
fans of the beautiful game, we can show our support by tuning in to watch more
women’s football, cheer on the Arsenal Ladies as they attempt to make it three
WSLs in a row and try to go down for live matches as often as possible.

Next week, you
have a special treat with another post by the lovely Amanda before I return
with an updated overview of women’s football in the United Kingdom which has
seen some more very encouraging developments of late.

Clear Eyes. Full
Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Anushree Nande


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  1. Advantage Arsenal as they hunt down Liverpool 214 Gunners Town - October 11, 2013

    […] weeks ago, I wrote about the Frauen Bundesliga and promised to write about the current state of affairs in England […]

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