Home FEATURES The Arsenal Women (WSL): Defense Breakdown

The Arsenal Women (WSL): Defense Breakdown


The Arsenal Women’s side consistently struggled with keeping clean sheets in the 2019-20 season. Despite their best efforts, the ball would find the back of their net with some regularity. The Arsenal Women consistently struggled with keeping clean sheets in the 2019-20 season. Despite their best efforts, the ball would find the back of their net with some regularity. Out of the 15 fixtures played in the WSL season before it was cut short by the pandemic, the Arsenal Women’s side conceded a goal or more in 7 games. In 4 games against Chelsea and Manchester City in the WSL, Arsenal conceded a mammoth 8 goals.

To offer more context, if the title contention remains with these three sides, it all comes down to results which can be secured against each other. In such a scenario, the statistic gains much more importance. Think of Manchester City’s win against Liverpool in the 2018-19 season. It was Manchester City’s most important result. It helped Manchester City edge out Liverpool by one point to win the League title.

Let’s take a look at the back line for the Arsenal Women. There are some seasoned professionals in this backline and some players playing out of their natural positions as well.


Manuela Zinsberger Arsenal Women
(Image Source: Twitter) Manuela Zinsberger

Manuela Zinsberger and new signing Lydia Williams will compete for the number 1 spot. Zinsberger has become a key member and the number one choice for the goalkeeper position since she signed for the club in 2019. Signed as a replacement for 2019 Women’s World Cup’s Golden Glove winner Sari van Veenendaal, Manuela had some big boots to fill. An excellent shot stopper, she is also regularly involved with playing out from the back along with the central defenders. Lydia Williams was signed by the club from Melbourne City, after second choice goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin’s move to Atletico Madrid. She will prove to be some much needed competition for Zinsberger, but is injured currently.


Leah Williamson Arsenal Women
(Image Credits: Arsenal Women Twitter) Leah Williamson

Moving on to the centre-backs, there are three available players to fulfil the role. Leah Williamson is probably the first name on the team sheet when it comes to defense. Long time Arsenal supporter, the 23-year-old has been at the club since she was just 9 years old. She is one of the key players in defense who helps with playing the ball out from the back. Starting her playing career as a midfielder, Williamson has great passing range and composure on the ball.

Jennifer Beattie is in her second stint at Arsenal Women FC. Beattie has already won every domestic title available with Arsenal the first time around. She first worked with current head coach Joe Montemurro on a loan spell at Melbourne City FC. Her playing style is different from Williamson’s. She is an incredibly capable defender with bags of experience. The Scotland international is well renowned for her tough-tackling and forms a great balanced centre-back pairing with Williamson. Third option at centre-back is Viktoria Schnaderbeck, another midfielder turned defender in Joe Montemurro’s side. She has played a few games on the left side of defense as well, in case of injuries to first choice left backs. Schnaderbeck, who captains the Austrian Women’s team, has experience playing in the Bundesliga, where she won 2 titles with Bayern Munich.


The full-backs department was running on its last legs, so to speak, in the previous season. Lisa Evans and Katie McCabe formed a dynamic wing-back pair who could hit the opposition on the break. But the Arsenal squad was short on players, and playing every game there is to play (UEFA Women’s Champions League included) is no easy feat. The two had only German international Leonie Maier as cover, and at times Viktoria Schnaderbeck. To ease this problem, the club signed Steph Catley from OL Reign and Noëlle Maritz from Wolfsburg. Catley, the vice-captain of the Australian Women’s team has tremendous experience having played for multiple clubs in Australia and America. Maritz has been used as the left back in the first two WSL games even though she is a seasoned midfielder. Signing experienced professionals to cover the wing-back positions is a clear sign of improvement for the team.

The wing-backs play a tremendous role in enabling how the team plays. The two full-backs pull the wide, making themselves available for the pass, either from the goalkeeper or the centre-backs. If the attackers choose to close down the passing lane to the full-backs, central midfielder Lia Wälti can drop deeper to collect the ball from centre-backs.

Signing seasoned players in such an important position means there are increased chances of a seamless transition for them into the team. The added depth to the squad will help the team to push deeper into the three domestic competitions available to them, and also hopefully achieve Women’s Champions League qualification.

Also Read: The Arsenal Women (WSL): Attack Breakdown

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