Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday February 17 2012
The first team might be dodging a fair few brickbats after Wednesday night`s shambles in the San Siro, but behind the scenes, the waters are slightly calmer for the Ladies and Reserves sides. Laura Harvey`s Ladies side is ramping up pre season preparations that have been hampered by inclement weather. With the Colchester friendly already cancelled last week due to a frozen pitch, Wednesday night`s proposed friendly with Gillingham Ladies was postponed for the same reason.
Unlike the Colchester game, the Gillingham friendly has been rearranged and will take place on Thursday, 23rd February at 7.45pm. The game will still take place at Chatham F.C.`s Chatham Sports Ground. Tickets are £5 for adults` £2.50 concessions. The Ladies will try not to allow the disruption to affect their stride though. They will spend this weekend on a mini tour of Scotland. The idea was originally supposed to be a ramp up in their preparations with two friendlies behind them. But Harvey will have to find a balancing act now that those two matches have fallen victim to the weather.
The tour of Scotland encompasses three games in three days, starting on Friday evening with a behind closed doors game against Celtic Ladies, before taking on Glasgow Rangers at Murray Park on Saturday at 7pm, closing the tour with a game against Glasgow City at Petershill Park on Sunday afternoon. Such a compacted schedule suggests Harvey will be looking at using the full breadth of her squad to assess their shape and perhaps get a closer look at up and coming talent such as Danielle Carter and Lauren Bruton.
In more general Women`s Football news, the Women`s F.A. have confirmedthat all eight clubs currently involved in the Women`s Super League have been granted licenses to play for the 2013 season following a successful inaugural season last year. The WSL usurped the Women`s Premier League as the top flight as from April 2011, with 8 Women`s teams successfully applying to contest. (8 other sides applied unsuccessfully). The WSL ran on something of a trial basis last year- including a move to summer scheduling to increase supporter interest.
Essentially the move is a trial in an attempt to test the waters of professionalization of the women`s game in England. The WSL is a semi professional league where some of the top players draw a salary in excess of £20,000 a year for playing. The renewal of licenses, as well as the proposal to introduce a second tier to the league suggests the experiment went well last season. Though salaries in the WSL are about a tenth of what they are in the American Women`s Professional Soccer, there`s something of a cautionary tale as the WPS in the States was suspended for the 2012 season. Franchise owner Dan Borislow has become embroiled in an ugly legal battle which has temporarily at least, threatened the league`s finances.
Meanwhile, the Arsenal Reserves have also had an eventful week. This is always a tricky transition period of the season for the Reserves, the January transfer window often sees the mainstays of the side leave on loan as the next crop of U-18s step up to assess their readiness for the next season. In Tuesday`s 3-0 win over Wolves reserves at London Colney, all four of the Arsenal substitutes had played for the u-18s the previous Saturday. That spell took its toll as the Reserves had failed to win for 6 games prior to victories over Swansea and Wolves. Serge Gnabry had another fine game by all accounts, demonstrating his readiness for the Reserves. Likewise Zak Ansah, who scored in the defeat of Swansea, has acclimatised quickly to the front man role in the more physical surrounds.
Another recent Reserves debutant has also clearly impressed. Jon Toral was signed by the club on a professional contract this week. Toral arrived at Arsenal with fellow Catalonian youngster Hector Bellarin in the deal that saw Fabregas return to Barcelona. Toral`s level headed approach has apparently impressed the coaching staff. But being an Catalonian attacking midfielder, pinched from the Barca crib at the age of 16 will see him garner unfavourable comparisons with Fabregas- the likes of which Fran Merida was subjected to.
Tony Adams was in attendance for the behind closed doors win over Wolves. Without wishing to create innuendo and rumour, quite why is unclear. Compared with Arsenal`s inexperience, Wolves fielded a side that included experience campaigners such as Karl Henry, Jody Craddock, Ronald Zubar and Richard Stearman. That said, Sebastier Squillaci made his third Reserves appearance of the season, equalling his number of first team outings for 2011-12. That suggests just how far his stock has fallen. But the Young Gunners won at a canter. The nimble central midfield trio of Ozakyup- playing in a deeper role than usual, Gnabry and Eastmond moving the ball around too quickly for Wolves to cope.
Despite having had a long term injury this year; you`d imagine the bell is tolling for 21 year old Craig Eastmond. He started a Premier League game just over two years ago in a 2-0 away win at Bolton (a game in which Fran Merida scored) and hasn`t added to his league appearances since. With Frimpong and Coquelin ahead of him as Song`s back up, you`d imagine the club will be looking at using the remaining games to bring him to the attention of attending scouts. The Reserves continue their run in to the season with a fixture against Norwich City at Carrow Road this coming Tuesday. Entry is £3 for all if you`re in the area and fancy going along. More on that game next week. LD.
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Date:Friday February 17 2012
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