History of the Arsenal Womens Team 2012-2022 and The growth of the Womens Super League

The Arsenal women’s history continued: 2012- present

Apologies that it has taken me a little longer to write the second part of the ladies history Gooners but hopefully it will be worth the wait..

If you missed the first history of Arsenal Women you can read it here

In case you didn’t know this, Arsenal Women play most of their home matches at Meadow Park, home of Vanarama National League side Boreham Wood, in Hertfordshire Borehamwood of course.

The stadium has a capacity of 4,500 and in more recent times Arsenal’s home UEFA Women’s Champions League matches are also played here. Also, in more recent times and due to the growing connection with the Arsenal men’s side it is with great pride that the women are now permitted to play competitive matches at the Emirates stadium, when of course the ground is not being used for the men’s matches and if not equal to, they draw nearly as much crowd as the men do.

After mainly male dominated roles at the helm of Arsenal women with Vic Akers the protagonist at the wheel for 22 years and then Tony Gervaise at the helm for just one season after taking over from Akers in 2009-2010, the managerial role would soon become all female dominated for the next few years after Gervaise resigned after only eight months in charge, claiming “a lack of clarity about who was in charge.”

Gervaise remained at Arsenal though as he swapped roles with reserve coach Laura Harvey in an unusual development, as she became first-team manager and Gervaise became reserve coach.

Harvey’s appointment marked the clubs first female coach in any capacity. However, Harvey’s reign would have a year break in play in preparation for a reformatted league in which Arsenal were named as founder members of the FA Women’s Super League, which began in the spring of 2011. And is now formally known as the WSL.

Arsenal won the inaugural season, marking their eighth consecutive English title, and secured another domestic double by also winning the FA Cup. After a two-year period without a league triumph though, Harvey would finish her Arsenal tenure having led the team to three consecutive league titles, two Continental Cups and one FA Women’s Cup, not bad for a first time female manager at the helm of what would be a very very big club in years to come, if it wasn’t already..

However, as we know once one person leaves another has to come in and in would come another female, in the form of Shelley Kerr as Harvey’s successor in 2013.

Kerr was awarded the UEFA Pro Licence in January 2013 and on 1st February she was said to have been “extremely excited” to be announced as Laura Harvey’s successor as manager of Arsenal Ladies.

And she didn’t fail to disappoint, as the club under her management won the FA Women’s Cup twice, once in 2013, and the second time in 2014, two weeks after the men’s team won the 2014 FA Cup, completing a rare FA Cup double for the club.

They also won the Continental Cup and finished third in the league during the 2013 season. However, after a poor run of form which saw the club gain only one point from the opening four league matches of the 2014 season, exit the Champions League to minnows Birmingham and suffer a shock loss to Reading in the League Cup, Kerr decided to resign as her magic soon rubbed off only one season later.

Kerr’s final game in charge of Arsenal was the 2014 FA Women’s Cup final where they beat Everton 2–0 so all was not lost on this front, as she at least signed off with another trophy under her belt.

After Kerr’s departure Arsenal were on the lookout for another manager, and with the lack of female managers out there to choose from it would be yet another male figure who would come in and take the reins.

And so, in 2014, Pedro Martínez Losa was named as the new manager of Arsenal Women, succeeding Shelley Kerr.

Losa came in with a wealth of experience having managed two female teams in Spain from 2008-2012 in the shapes of Pozuelo Alarcon Women and Rayo Vallecano Women. He then left his post at Rayo and moved to the USA where he would be assistant coach to Aaran Lines at Western New York Flash. During his time there he was also handed the role of Advanced Training Instructor at the Flash Youth Academy.

While still a part of the Flash set up, Losa also spent the 2013 season as assistant coach to Niagara Purple Eagles women’s soccer coach Peter Veltri.

So, it is no wander with his previous experience that Arsenal were quick out the blocks to snap him up and bring him to England.

With Arsenal as his next challenge, Pedro also didn’t disappoint, and led the team to the 2015 FA WSL Cup final and the 2016 FA Women’s Cup, lifting both first time around.

He also helped lay even more of the foundations for the team’s current success by signing the likes of Dominique Janssen, Sari van Veenendaal, Daniëlle van de Donk, Katie McCabe, Kim Little, Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema. The last four, whom are still at the club and have all made bigger names for themselves by becoming nothing short of legends at Arsenal.

In July 2017, the club rebranded as Arsenal Women Football Club, in a move described by Arsenal as a “clear signal of togetherness and unity” to also help retain the progressive ethos of the club, utilised the core Losa helped build.

Losa’s time in charge also included bringing through youngsters with the quality of Leah Williamson, Charlie Devlin and Lauren James, and of course we all know Williamson is also another legend at the club.

All good things have to come to an end at some point though and Losa left Arsenal in October 2017, following a mixed start to that season.

But in would come another male in the form of Australian Joe Montemurro who had left current club at the time Melbourne City to join the Gunners.

On 14th March 2018 Montemurro won his first major trophy with Arsenal by beating Manchester City 1–0 to win the FA Women’s League Cup and two months later on 15th May, he led Arsenal to the Women’s FA Cup final in front of a record attendance of 45,423 at Wembley Stadium, but unfortunately, they lost 3–1 to Chelsea.

In the 2018–19 season, Arsenal under Montemurro, became the first FA WSL team to win nine games in a row, scoring a whopping 42 goals and conceding just five.

But again, the good times had to come to an end and with that so did the winning streak when an injury-stricken squad lost away to Manchester City.

Since his appointment though, it was clear to see that the attacking style and fluidity of possession instilled by Montemurro became noticed by all as he had won many accolades.

In February 2019 Montemurro became the first coach from the WSL to be nominated for Manager of the Year at the London Football Awards, alongside Maurizio Sarri and Mauricio Pochettino.

On 28th April 2019 in front of a record WSL crowd against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Falmer Stadium, goals from Vivianne Miedema, Katie McCabe, Beth Mead and Daniëlle van de Donk, secured the WSL title with games to spare.

This would be Arsenal’s first title since 2012. And as if that wasn’t enough, the season was also capped off with Montemurro winning the WSL League Managers Association (LMA) Coach of the Year and deservedly so, as he led the Gunners to their first WSL title in seven years.

The accolade nominations for Joe wouldn’t end their though as in July 2019, he was nominated as FIFA World Women’s Coach of the year and nominations for any manager regardless of what team they manage, is a big thing.

Arsenal pretty much picked up where they left off in the 2019–20 season as they qualified for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League and the team was also part of another record-breaking WSL attendance, when 38,200 spectators came to watch the first ever North London Derby at Tottenham’s Stadium in November 2019 in which Arsenal won the match 2–0. NORTH LONDON IS ALWAYS RED!!!

Yet another record was broken one month later, when the women beat Bristol 11–1 at Meadow Park, the highest winning margin in the WSL.

That would be the end of the records and the accolades though as in March 2021, it was announced that Joe was to leave the club at the end of the season. Although he had the full support of the Arsenal board, Montemurro decided to leave the club in order to take a break and spend more time with his family, however it would be revealed not long after, that he was to go to Italy to become head coach of the Juventus women.

Joe left the club in a good place, as he saw them qualify for the 2021–22 UEFA Women’s Champions League, with a couple of trophies in the cabinet for his troubles, but he managed to get them back where they longed to be.

Three months after Montemurro’ s departure, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic as well, the club appointed current manager Jonas Eidevall, and in June 2021 he was confirmed as head coach for the club. He is yet to win a trophy at the helm however this season especially, it is clear to see the work rate of the team and the improvements he has made with his coaching.

Under Eidevall the women have broken some records already. All this season when they smashed the WSL attendance record during the NLD at the Emirates after 47,367 watched Arsenal beat Tottenham yet again, with a 4-0 score line. They also broke the record for accumulating 10 clean sheets in a row and 14 straight wins in a row before losing, unluckily may I add, 3-2 to Manchester United at the Emirates.

Arsenal have also spent well in recent transfer windows, bringing in the likes of Stina Blackstenius and Rafaelle Souza to name a few. Even more so under Eidevall’s tenure, Beth Mead has become a world class player, to those who knew her before she was always one, but over the last two seasons she has become a legend to many an Arsenal fan, also lifting the Women’s Euros title after England’s win over Germany in the summer of 2022. And with the club playing as well as they are this season, surely it will only be a matter of time before they lift the WSL trophy again. We hope…

Although I have given a history of the managers of the club and the honours they have won, and as we know Arsenal women have had more than their fair share of managers over the years all with mixed results, there was only ever one legend of a manager for the women’s side to date, that of Vic Akers.

In 2018 ex Arsenal manager and legend, Monsieur Arsène Wenger said of Vic Akers: “It is absolutely unbelievable what he did. Unfortunately, he did it at a time where women’s football was not popular or rated so much. I am convinced he is a real football connoisseur, who has the instinct of managing, and I think with time he will get the recognition he deserves. The women’s game would be nowhere near where it is today if it was not for him.”

And that comes from one legend to another and I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Arsenal are statistically the most successful club in English women’s football, holding the records for most titles won in each domestic competition they have played in.

The club has won 15 league titles, 14 Women’s FA Cups, five Women’s League Cups, 10 Women’s National League Cups, five Women’s FA Community Shields, and are the only English club to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League to date.

They are also the only English club to win the continental treble while going undefeated in all competitions played that same season and in addition to that, in the 2006–07 season, the club became the first in the history of women’s football to achieve the continental European sextuple.

So, it is with a big thanks to Vic Akers who became the club’s first, longest-serving, and most successful manager that the women’s team had that the club is where it is.

He made the club what it is today and not just that, he put women’s football on the map and although it is a shame it took so long for it to be recognised and although there is a lot more work that needs to be done to get it to the level of the men, me as a football fan in general, and Vic too no doubt, will be and can be proud to see the beautiful game for both the men and the women, be where it is now.

Women’s football is more recognised and, in some aspects, more respected than it ever used to be and even though there is a lot more work to be done as I have said, none of this would have happened and neither Arsenal women nor women’s football would have been as successful as it is now if Vic didn’t dedicate everything he had to the cause of building something special.

And so, for that, Mr Akers, we will be forever grateful for what you created and what you have left behind, and here is to many more years of success and even more recognition for the women’s game, and for Arsenal women in particular!

Heres hoping hey Gooners!

Shenel Osman

@sh3n3l_

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