Tobin Heath to Arsenal: Is USWNT star the Women’s Super League’s signing of the summer?

Tobin Heath USWNT 2021Getty

Every stage of Tobin Heath’s move to Arsenal, announced on Friday, made it bigger and bigger.

A two-time World Cup winner, and two-time Olympic gold medallist, joining the most successful women’s football club in England - that’s big.

The way it came into the news was dramatic too; Aston Villa’s former Arsenal defender Anita Asante citing the rumours on Sky Sports News’ Women’s Super League deadline day coverage, which would form the Gunners’ tease of the announcement.

The many photos of Heath in old Arsenal shirts or outside the Emirates that began to circulate helped to scale up the excitement. One of the most recognisable names in women’s football, an Arsenal fan, was on the cusp of joining the club.

With her world-class ability, this should be a signing that sparks big predictions. It’s not a reach to say that she could be a signing that helps a team win a title. When Manchester United were upsetting the odds last season, sitting top of the WSL at Christmas, Heath was an absolutely massive part of that.

Her ability to perform in the biggest games is sensational and will be a particular boost to Arsenal, who have struggled in recent times against their closest title rivals.

“I think even pre-Olympics, we started looking at the possibility of bringing Tobin here,” Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall explained in a press conference on Friday. “Tobin has been very, very keen to come and play for Arsenal, which also has been very nice, of course.

“Even if it's a deal now that gets presented very late in the transfer window, it's not a last-minute deal. It's something that we have been working on during this whole transfer window, basically, and we're really delighted that we could come to terms and make Tobin an Arsenal player.

“I always think when you want to win something, you want players that can score points for you – [get] assists and goals. That's a really important aspect to have as a forward player and Tobin Heath, she's a point player.

“She's a player that can make the difference in games at the highest level. We're excited to bring her here, to help us with the ambitions that we have this year.”

Jonas Eidevall quote PS 1:1Goal

However, there is one slight caveat.

There have been rumours in recent months surrounding the long-term future of Heath and where it lies.

While she was in Manchester last year, the USWNT star saw her rights in the NWSL, the top league in the U.S., drafted by expansion club Racing Louisville. Since that moment, which occurred 10 months ago now, there has been very little communication from Louisville regarding Heath, and vice versa.

Instead, there have been rumours linking her with a move to San Diego’s expansion side, which will come into the NWSL in the new year. That team will be coached by Casey Stoney, who signed her for Man Utd. When Heath was unveiled by the club last summer, she sang Stoney’s praises.

Last season, a whole host of stars came to the WSL from the United States. Some stayed all season, like Heath and Christen Press at United, or Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle at Manchester City. Some left in the early part of this year, such as Alex Morgan at Tottenham, Rachel Daly at West Ham and Jess Fishlock at Reading.

Arsenal do not disclose the lengths of contracts, meaning rumours of Heath's long-term future were not put to bed by her move to the club on Friday.

Christen Press Tobin Heath USWNT 2019Getty

Asked about the contract, Eidevall said: “We don't go into details of the contracts. But if we would see it from long-term or short-term [perspective], it's more short-term than long-term.”

This is a massive signing. Heath has title-winning credentials, is one of the greatest, most skilful wingers the game has ever seen and will be linking up with some serious firepower in north London - most notably Vivianne Miedema, one of the best players on the planet.

As the Gunners try to close the gap to Chelsea and Man City, who left them behind in last season’s title race, this is a statement. The club’s commitment to the women’s team has been questioned in recent years, but to sign Heath shows that their encouraging words about that over the summer were not hollow.

Her impact will be big, there is no doubt about that. Unfortunately, there is just no telling how long it will be for.

But for all the uncertainty over long Heath will spend in north London, there is one thing that is a given: she will make her mark.