The ultimate Arsenal Women season preview: Can the Gunners end Chelsea’s WSL dominance?

Arsenal Women compositeGetty/GOAL

After an incredible summer of football in England saw the Lionesses bring football home, the Women's Super League returns this weekend and it promises to pick up the Euros' baton and provide plenty of drama and entertainment.

Arsenal get the campaign underway on Friday night at home to Brighton, looking to start a season they will hope ends in style - with some silverware.

Last year was the Gunners' first under head coach Jonas Eidevall and the big positive is that they finished just one point behind champions Chelsea despite it feeling like they can go up another level.

With Eidevall's January signings having had more time to settle in now and the squad as a whole having got a proper grasp on his ideas, Arsenal should be even better this time around. But will it be enough to win the title?

  • Vivianne Miedema Arsenal Women 2021-22Getty

    The Squad

    A quick glance at the ins and outs at Arsenal this summer and some might be concerned.

    They've seen six regular first team players leave while only bringing three in, one of whom - Gio Queiroz, the Brazilian teen who ranked at No.10 in this year's NXGN list - has immediately joined Everton on loan. Their other signings have been Kaylan Marckese, a back-up goalkeeper, and Lina Hurtig, the energetic Swedish forward who arrives from Juventus.

    However, the Gunners did a lot of good business in the January window, with striker Stina Blackstenius and centre-back Rafaelle immediately becoming key figures in the starting XI. Moreover, their most important move this summer was to keep a certain Vivianne Miedema, the WSL's all-time top goal-scorer signing a new contract amid interest from Barcelona.

    With star names like England captain Leah Williamson and Euros hero Beth Mead, this is a strong squad with a lot of depth across different areas. In midfield and attack in particular, those options are varied and will all bring different things to the team when Arsenal face different challenges in the opposition.

  • Leah Williamson Beth Mead Arsenal Women 2021-22Getty

    The Hopes

    Silverware. Arsenal is the most decorated team in English women's football and has an incredible history that includes winning the quadruple in 2007. However, they've not won a trophy since lifting the WSL title in 2019.

    Chelsea have won every league title since and the Gunners would certainly love to end their dominance, particularly after coming so close last year. Had they not lost 2-0 to eventually-relegated Birmingham in January, a win that was the Blues' first in the league for over a year and one of just three they got all season, they would've pipped Emma Hayes' side to top spot.

    It's not just about winning the league though. Fans would love to see a good showing in the Champions League, too, and there are two cup competitions for them to have a real go at to bring that winning culture back.

  • Lia Walti Arsenal Women 2021-22 Getty

    The Fears

    This is a strong squad. It's a squad with lots of different midfield options and a variety in profiles across the forward line, but that doesn't mean there are not players that would struggle to be replaced should injury strike them down.

    That can apply to names like Williamson, one of the best centre-backs in the WSL who captained England to glory at the Euros this summer, and Miedema, who is one of the best players on the planet.

    Yet, it's Lia Walti, their holding midfielder, that most Arsenal fans will be focusing their hopes and prayers on when it comes to staying fit. The Swiss international missed a number of games last season and there is no natural replacement for the important role she performs.

    Eidevall believes there are several players in his squad that can adapt to play in that position but excellent, natural No.6s like Walti are at a premium in the women's game - there's a reason that Barcelona just set a new transfer record for Keira Walsh, after all.

  • Beth Mead England Women 2022Getty

    The Hero

    Beth Mead's past 12 months have been quite remarkable. After the disappointment of being left out of Team GB's Olympic squad last summer, the Arsenal winger had her best season yet, scoring 11 goals and providing a league-best eight assists in 22 games.

    She backed that up with an heroic tournament for England, winning the Euros, the golden boot and the best player award. It's a summer that plunged her into the mainstream. In fact, when the women's squad were at the Emirates for the men's game against Fulham earlier this season, even the away fans wanted pictures with Mead.

    She returns to north London as a national hero and it's difficult to imagine her not continuing this momentum to try and bring a trophy to her club this season, just as she helped bring one home for her country.

  • Emma Hayes Jonas Eidevall 2021Getty

    The Villain

    There's a big reason why it's been three years since Arsenal won a trophy and it sits at the other end of the city of London.

    In that time, Chelsea have won every WSL title, beaten the Gunners in two cup finals and they also knocked them out in last season's FA Cup semi-finals. The head-to-head record since 2019 reads: 11 games played, eight wins for Chelsea, two draws and one win for Arsenal.

    Many expect that the title will be between these two again this year and so Eidevall's side will need to get the better of Emma Hayes' Blues in those big games. It's quite the rivalry that is starting to blossom and it feels like it will only get fierier this season.

  • Stina Blackstenius Arsenal Women 2021-22Getty

    The Player to Watch

    Sweden striker Stina Blackstenius has made a terrific impact after signing for Arsenal in January and she feels primed for a real starring role as the new season prepares to get underway.

    Her arrival saw Miedema drop back into a deeper No.10 role and the two showed plenty of promise as a deadly duo. Blackstenius scored six goals in just seven WSL starts in 2022 - three of them were assisted by Miedema.

    Having had even more time to work on that relationship and how it sits within Eidevall's ideas, they should be even more on-song this term and if Arsenal fans have learned anything about their new centre forward, it's that when she gets a chance, she will finish it.