February 28, 2021

Arsenal boss Montemurro happy for Chelsea and Man City to steal spotlight as WSL resumes

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The Gunners’ manager believes the hype in England has always been around his rivals since he joined the club – but he isn’t complaining about it

Manchester City and Chelsea have stolen a great deal of the spotlight in the build-up to the new Women’s Super League season – and Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro is quite happy with that.

The signings of World Cup winners Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis have seen City grab headlines this summer, while champions Chelsea today signed Pernille Harder from Wolfsburg for what the German club called ‘a record transfer fee for the women’s game’.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s business has perhaps been a little more muted, building on a squad that has proven itself to be one of the best in the country, leaving them out of the conversation for some when it comes to this year’s WSL title.

Asked whether it feels like the attention is elsewhere, Montemurro, who won the league with Arsenal in 2018-19 after joining the club in 2017, said: “I think if I was to be brutally honest, I think the hype has been around City and Chelsea ever since I’ve been here.

“I’m quite happy for Arsenal to be, you know, doing what we do. We know what we’re doing. We know where we’re heading.

“I can’t comment about what other clubs’ policies and strategies are. As far as I’m concerned, we’re very comfortable in where we’re heading, what we can do within the means that we’ve got.

“It’s important for us that we just uphold this brand and make sure that we play our style.

“We believe in what we’re trying to do and definitely there is more a feeling or more of a hype from Chelsea and City.”

Realistically, to write off a squad of this quality would be ridiculous.

On Sunday, Arsenal have a chance to show people they mean business when they take on a Reading side well-established in the top half of the table, a side that harbour ambitions of challenging for the top three this year.

It’s also a chance to bounce back from their Champions League quarter-final defeat to Paris Saint-Germain last month, in which Montemurro was disappointed that the Gunners “didn’t stick to [their] way” of playing.

“We lost our identity and that’s keeping the ball,” he added.

“Even if it’s just keeping the ball for the sake of keeping the ball so we can gain confidence, that has to be what we do and that’s what we always do. And we lost that.”

New signing Lydia Williams, Australia’s No.1 goalkeeper, will be missing due to an ankle injury, while centre-back Jen Beattie is touch-and-go with a back injury.

The latter is an absence that could leave the team a little short in the centre of defence, but Montemurro says he is confident in the versatility in his squad to cover for the Scot, without him having to dip back into the market before the transfer window closes.

“We are quite happy with the scenario at the moment,” he said.

“We have midfielders that are comfortable playing in those areas there and the type of centre-backs we want suit that – ball-playing centre-backs or centre-backs that are all quite dynamic.”

Malin Gut, a midfielder, and Steph Catley, a left-back, are two of Montemurro’s summer signings who are comfortable playing in the position, with his other recruit during the window being full-back Noelle Maritz.

With forward Caitlin Foord having joined just before the Covid-19 pandemic suspended all football in England, she too can act as something of a new signing going into the new season.

Only Williams is ruled out of making a WSL debut this weekend as Arsenal look to start the season with a bang.

“We try to make a statement every time we step out on the field,” Montemurro added.

“As Arsenal, we try to play our style of football and we try to make sure that we represent the club in the best way possible.

“We try to give our fans the joy that they deserve and football the standard it deserves.”