Arsenal women ready for challenge of winning back-to-back WSL titles, says skipper Kim Little

The Gunners begin their new Women's Super League campaign against West Ham United on Sunday

New signings, a desire to improve and a determination to retain their title - Arsenal women are ready to go again at the start of the new season.

That is the message from captain Kim Little as she and her team-mates prepare to kick-off their new Super League campaign against West Ham at Meadow Park on Sunday afternoon.

Arsenal ended a seven-year wait for the title last season, winning 18 of their 20 games and losing just two.

Under the guidance of Joe Montemurro, they finished seven points clear of runners-up Manchester City to bring the championship back to north London and book their return to the Champions League.

They begin the new campaign as favourites to retain their title, but Little - who signed a new contract with the club last month - is well aware of how difficult securing back-to-back championships will be.

“That’s ultimately our goal,” the Scotland international told Goal. “It’s harder to retain the title after you’ve won it because everyone wants to beat you.

“But that gives me more motivation to want to be the best and to win the league. It was obviously a great year last year but we hope this year is even better.”

Little added: “Joe and his staff have created a great squad here. We’ve got a great group of girls who want the best for each other.

"We want to be better every day and to win. It’s a good feeling.

“You obviously have your ups and downs as a team. You can level off a bit, but we are at this level for a reason and that’s because we want to be better, to improve and for our team-mates to be better.

Arsenal women's team

“At this level of sport you have to demand a lot from each other to be able to get the output that you want.”

Montemurro has been busy this summer looking to refresh his squad, with the extra demands of Champions League football to come this season.

Three new faces have arrived from Bayern Munich, with Manuela Zinsbeger, Jill Roord and Leonie Maier all coming in to add European experience and quality to the changing room. 

Jennifer Beattie meanwhile has returned for her second spell at the club, joining from Manchester City.

“Regardless of how successful you have been, you always have to build, to freshen things up and to add and change things so you can go again,” said Little.

"I think the signings have all been great. They are additions to different parts of the team, goalkeeper, defence, midfield and strikers.

“They’ve all been great in pre-season and it’s refreshing to have new players in to make the environment more competitive.”

The Gunners skipper added: “We’re all very excited to be back in the mix in the Champions League. It adds a little bit of something else to the season.

“It’s nice to play under the lights in midweek games. So we can’t wait for that. We just hope we can stay in the competition long enough so we can enjoy it.

Lyon have been pretty dominant but English teams have got to the semi-finals the last few years. Hopefully we can push and perform at that level as well.”

Kim Little Arsenal

Interest in the women’s game in the UK has never been higher following the overwhelming success of the summer’s World Cup in France.

England reached the semi-finals before being beaten by eventual winners the United States, but the Lionesses' journey to the last four captured the imagination of the nation.

This weekend will see Chelsea and Tottenham meet in front of a sold out Stamford Bridge, while a crowd of over 20,000 is expected at the Etihad on Saturday to watch the first-ever professional women’s Manchester derby.

In a further boost to the growth of the women’s game, the Football Association has launched a free-to-use streaming service, which will provide live access to more than 150 domestic games this season, including all Women’s Super League (WSL) matches.

“The women’s game has been on an upward journey over the past 10 years or so,” said Little.

“I played just after the 2015 World Cup when the USA won. I was playing in America then and you could see the impact the World Cup had on the season then and the size of the game.

“So it’s great to be here in England off the back of the World Cup and to see the interest and the popularity of it all. It’s exciting to be here and to play at this time.”

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The 29-year-old added: “There are lots of things that are adding to the game.

“The additions of playing games at bigger stadiums, the interest from the media, the sponsors who are investing and the fact that the games are being shown online so everyone can watch, can only help increase the growth of the game.

“It’s such a great time to be involved and to see it grow.”