Arsenal won 6 trophies in the 2006-07 season. No, really!

Part One of this Arsenal Ladies feature focused on the history, rise to prominence and the unique qualities that set Arsenal Ladies Football Club apart from other similar set-ups. It showed why Arsenal LFC are not just about the trophies and why its continued and consistent success is a thing to be emulated and respected. However we cannot avoid the mention and discussion of the impressive trophy haul amassed since the club’s inception.

Perhaps the most impressive achievement is the record breaking season of 2006-07, over the course of which, the club won every single competition available (all three domestic trophies, the Champions League, the FA Women’s Community Shield and the London County FA Women’s Cup), ending up with a unique sextuple (not unlike Pep’s Barca during his first season as manager). They beat Umea IK 1-0 in the final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League becoming the first British club to win the competition. Arsenal also won all 22 games in the PL that season with a goal tally of 119 after conceding just 10. What is even more commendable is that all the wins that year were against full-time professional players with most of the Arsenal team maintaining full-time jobs. They thoroughly deserved their Committee Award by the Sports Journalists’ Association during the 2007 Sports Journalists’ Awards.

And the team has only gone from strength to strength, even with the formation of the Women’s Super League (formerly the Women’s Premier League), an elite summer league in 2011.

The FA believes the WSL will be the key platform to drive the women’s game forward in England. The WSL concept was developed to enable players in this country to earn a good living from the game whilst allowing WSL clubs to develop new revenue streams and support for women’s football.

Arsenal Ladies have won the first two WSLs, including setting the record for being the first team in the WSL to complete an unbeaten season. They sealed the title with a 1-1 draw in October 2012 versus their closest rivals Birmingham after winning 10 of their 14 games. They not only ended the season unbeaten, but also 8 points ahead of second placed Birmingham.

Stars Steph Houghton (defender), Ellen White (striker) and Alex Scott (defender) have also been named on the shortlist for England Women’s Senior Player of the Year. But then manager, Laura Harvey, made an important point about the increasing quality in the WSL;

“This year, we went unbeaten but the league wasn’t decided until the penultimate game. It just shows how tight it is. You have to set those standards, to try and go as far as possible without dropping points. To have won it the way we did, with the number of points we have is really pleasing, and the added bonus is that we didn’t lose a game.”

Ellen White, a senior member of this Arsenal Ladies team, also echoes the need for the team to continue to strive for improvement and excellence and guard against complacency as they strive for a 10th straight league title.

“We’re going into the third season now and all the teams have got stronger and more competitive. We know it’s going to be another tough season and we’re hoping that we can retain our title again.”

21 year old defender Gill Flaherty reiterates the desire to keep improving and winning trophies by saying that they are going to target the quadruple as they do every year. She is as aware as everyone that Arsenal LFC are every club’s team to beat when it comes to women’s football in the UK.

“Every year, every team always wants to beat us and stop us from winning trophies. We always have to prove that we’re better than the season before.

“Every team gets stronger and we have to keep making sure that we’re moving forward too. Other teams have strengthened. We’ve managed to keep our unit together and it’s now even harder for us to win things.

“We have to keep pushing forward. We all want to win and that’s why we’re at Arsenal. We’re aiming for the quadruple like we do every year.”

One of the key points for this success has been the balance between youth and experience, a balance that Flaherty along with 20 year old CM Jordan Nobbs. Danielle Carter (striker) and Jennifer Beattie (defender) acknowledges the importance of. Having the guidance and support of experienced, trophy and match-winning players like Rachel Yankey (striker), Kelly Smith, Ellen White, Steph Houghton, Faye White who have also won laurels for their national sides can never be under-estimated and is essential for young talent coming through the ranks.

“I think it’s why we do so well – we’ve got that mix. If it was all older players, when they start to retire, we could be struggling a bit. We’ve got a good mix. We’ve got older players, players in their prime and then younger ones. We all help each other along and pull each other through.”

The team begins the new season under a new manager. At the end of the 2012 campaign, Laura Harvey left after four and a half very successful seasons to go manage American side Seattle Reign FC. Former Scottish international (59 caps) Shelley Kerr has been appointed to replace her. Kerr managed the Scottish U-19s national team for the past four years and isn’t a stranger to Arsenal’s Scottish stars, Kim Little (midfielder) and Jennifer Beattie, whom she has helped develop. The 43 year old has impressive credentials after not only leading Scotland to the finals of the UEFA Women’s U-19 Championships in 2010, but also playing a key role in the Scottish senior women’s team reaching the Euro 2009 play-offs for the first time in the country’s history. Shelley Kerr also has extensive club coaching experience with the Spartans in the Scottish Women’s Premier League.

She definitely seems like capable hands to lead the Arsenal Ladies Club into the new five year football plan of women’s football that the FA has recently launched. The plan is titled ‘Game Changer’ and will look to capitalise and build on the success the GB women’s football team enjoyed at the 2012 London Olympics. The Football Association wants to ‘drive the women’s game forward’ and propose four major commitments from their side.

  • The creation of an Elite Performance Unit together with appointing a head of elite development to help with the development of promising young female footballers.
  • Delivering a new commercial strategy for women’s football which will see a commercial programme set up for the first time. Under the programme, the rights for women’s football matches will be sold separately to the men’s game for the first time, in order to establish a clear identity for women’s football.
  • The expansion of the FA Women’s Super League. An FAWSL 2 will be formed in 2014, in order to enable promotion and relegation, as well as improving awareness of the women’s game growing participation.
  • The FA want women’s football to become the second largest team sport, behind men’s football, by 2018. Women’s football is currently fourth, behind men’s football, cricket and rugby.

In 1997 the FA Charter for Quality meant that a Talent Development Plan for Women’s Football was launched, aiming to provide a sound structure for the development of elite talent in the female game. A crucial part of this was the establishment and development of footballing opportunities for elite girls aged 9-17 through “Centres of Excellence” (The Arsenal CoE is overseen by director John Bayer appointed in July 2008). There are currently 30 licensed FA Centres of Excellence across England and a new programme of FA Player Development Centres will start in September to provide talented girls who play in grassroots clubs some extra support. This new structure is a result of an 18 month FA review in 2011 which examined the talent development programmes available to girls and accordingly proposed the current restructure of the women’s football pathway.

  • Subject to the continuation of both FA and external funding, the existing 31 FA Girls’ Centres of Excellence, that fulfil their FA Licence agreement and meet the strict criteria going forward will retain their FA licence until the end of the 2013-14 season .
  • In 2014 The FA will reopen the application process for these 31 FA Girls’ Centre of Excellence licences to all organisations that wish to apply. This timescale has been agreed to dovetail into the plans to explore the introduction of a second tier of The FA WSL in 2014, ensuring that the whole talent pathway of women’s football is developed in parallel
  • Funding will be also be available to develop eight more FA Girls’ Player Development Centres for the 2012-13 season. This will offer more support to more grassroots players who show future potential for our game. This will be developed further in conjunction with the County FAs and their local partners.

On the background of this, Arsenal recently announced that its Arsenal Ladies’ Elite Education Programme at Oaklands College would conclude in June 2014. However, the University of Hertfordshire will continue to provide academic support to the Club’s selected young players in the future. Since February 2013 no new applications have been selected, but current participants will continue their respective programmes. This ensures that the Club is in a better position to support the academic and football needs of elite young female players. One of the Arsenal ambassadors for this will be Faye White who recently announced her retirement. As a player who has won 31 major honours with the club, captained them to their 2007 Quadruple, 2 Trebles and four Doubles, and captained her country in four major tournaments (90 international caps) with a 2007 MBE for services to women’s football, Faye is the perfect candidate to promote the growth and development of the women’s game.

There is no denying that trophies do play a big role in creating the appeal of Arsenal LFC but there’s a lot more that makes it a truly successful club in women’s football. And it is this entire framework which will ensure that the club can continue to improve, remain successful, stable and relevant for many years to come while promoting and helping the women’s game at the same time.

Recent results and upcoming matches.

Arsenal Ladies 7 – 0 Nottingham Forest Ladies. (Away game) (FA Women’s Cup)

Arsenal Ladies 1 – 0 ASD Torres. (Away game) (Women’s Champs League quarters)

Arsenal Ladies 3 – 1 ASD Torres. (Home game) (Women’s Champs League quarters)

Arsenal Ladies 6 – 0 Birmingham City (Away) (FA Women’s Cup quarters)

Arsenal Ladies 0 – 2 VfL Wolfsburg Ladies. (Home game) (Women’s Champs League semis)

Arsenal Ladies 1- 2 VfL Wolfsburg Ladies. (Away game) (Women’s Champs League semis)

Arsenal Ladies vs Liverpool Ladies. (Away game) (FA Women’s Cup semis)

Arsenal Ladies begin their defence of the Women’s Super League on May 12, 2013 with a home match against Birmingham City Ladies.

Anushree Nande

Published writer and editor. Hope is her superpower (unsurprisingly she's a Gooner), but sport, art, music and words are good substitutes.