Arsenal Women are flying at the moment. The Gunners are currently sat top of the Women’s Super League ahead of Manchester City on goal difference, a third WSL title well within their sights with just eight games left to play.
Joe Montemurro’s side suffered their first defeat of the season last time out against the team breathing down the back of their necks, weakening their grasp on first place and heating up the title race.
The added focus on the women’s game at the moment, compared to its neglected past, will be a source of great comfort and happiness for everyone involved, with the likes of Alex Scott going into punditry only strengthening its increasing reputation.
A report from Pitchero shows just how much women’s football has risen in the last few years. The 2013 FA Cup final saw an attendance of 4,988, whereas 45,423 travelled to Wembley to watch the most recent edition earlier this year.
People are definitely starting to take more of an interest in this side of the game. Google searches for ‘Women’s FA Cup final’ have more than doubled since 2015. Viewing figures for those who prefer to watch from the comfort of their own home have also shot up – the 2011 World Cup saw 5.1m viewers, whereas the 2015 edition entertained 12.4m, and Arsenal star Jordan Nobbs is particularly enjoying the rise.
The goalscoring midfielder, who is currently out injured having ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in the 4-0 win at Everton back in November, kindly took the time to talk exclusively to Football FanCast about her career, her side’s season so far, Arsenal Football Club and much, much more.
Aged 26, it’s quite incredible that Nobbs already has a decade of first-team football under her belt. She’s become synonymous with Arsenal Women, where she has played for the last eight years, but in fact made her senior debut for her hometown of Sunderland back in 2008. Nobbs and the Women’s game in general has come a long way since then.
What do you remember from your debut for Sunderland ten years ago and from your younger playing days?
“Oh god, that’s an intense question! I wish I could remember it but it just seems like such a long time ago! I think when I was young, a main part of my game was my athleticism, so I was always all over the pitch as a young kid. I think most of my memories from when I was really young were when I was playing behind Morrison’s car park for a young girls’ team, and we used to play in an all boys’ league, so they’re my main memories.
“I got into the England squad quite young and everything just snowballed from there. Playing at Sunderland alongside Lucy Bronze, Demi Stokes, Lucy Staniforth, as soon as we didn’t get into the Super League, the drive was there in all of us to do better. To play now for a club like Arsenal is just incredible. It feels like it’s gone fast but hopefully I still have time to improve and develop. “
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What areas of your own game have changed the most?
“Probably picking where and when to run. In the past I’d either get in peoples’ way or I’d try and do too much, whereas now I think I’m starting to learn when the right time is. Specifically, the start of this season I got nine goals in eight games and I think that’s because I started to be clever with my type of movement. I’ve just got to look after my legs now!”
Since making her aforementioned debut all those years ago, the Women’s game has come a long, long way, and has gained a lot more respect and admiration. We’ve seen that side of football receive more funding, added accolades and provide new inspirations for young, budding female footballers.
How has the Women’s game changed in that time and what has been the biggest change?
“It’s honestly incredible. I love talking about it because I just think its phenomenal how it’s changed and how much support we get now. When I came to Arsenal at the age of 17, we trained twice a week in a little room kind of in the background. Now we’re in a multi-million pound gym, on unbelievable pitches and we have full support from Arsenal.
“As a national team it’s also been able to allow us to compete because we’ve been training every day at our clubs which also improves us as players and as individuals. It’s still not there yet, there’s still a long way to go but it’s taking the right steps forward.”
How will the introduction of the Women’s Ballon d’Or change the game even more?
“It’s about little stepping stones where Women’s faces are getting out there. People are starting to accept it, it’s becoming more normal. Why shouldn’t a woman be winning the Ballon d’Or? It’s incredible that we’re taking these strides forward, but like I said, we still have a little way to go. Not just on the pitch, whether it’s media, sponsorship, awards, if we can keep improving these areas then people will talk about it more normally.
“If this is your dream you can grab it with both hands and run with it and it’s nice to let young girls know that. Not even just football, the way in which Alex Scott has gone into media now as well. Hopefully it can keep developing.”
Arsenal Women have been in fantastic form so far this season, but still face many challenges to become champions this time around. They’ve been much improved from the last campaign, sitting top with 42 goals under their belts – more than the whole of last season – and are well on course to improve on last term’s third place finish.
Are you worried that the recent loss to Manchester City could affect the group psychologically, or have you all bounced back strongly?
“It’s obviously a difficult one. We never want to lose. We accept that we maybe didn’t have our strongest squad but I think the girls have done such a professional job on getting themselves to where they are now. I fully believe that they’ll keep that spirit and keep pushing on.
“The girls are in a great place right now and it’ll be good to regroup at Christmas and go again.”
Do you think it’ll be a two-horse race, or could other teams start catching up in the New Year?
“I’m always going to say no! This league can swap and change so quickly. We’ve witnessed Liverpool being third and then end up winning the title, last year was close between Chelsea and Man City, Birmingham are another team who are creeping up the table, so I think it shows the excitement in the women’s game and how strong it is.
What have been the key differences behind that improvement since last season?
“Obviously Joe (Montemurro), our manager. He came in and he gave us this energy, this very simple foundation to work off and then the freedom within that. I think he understands the role of a footballer very well. Not just on the pitch, you need to know when your team need a break.
“I think he’s been phenomenal coming into this club, developing us and developing me as a player. Obviously the girls have really grabbed onto that and performed very well on the pitch but I think overall you need someone driving you in the right direction and he’s most definitely been that guy.”
If Arsenal could sign any player from the rest of the WSL, who would you like it to be?
“I’m thinking Fran (Kirby) or Ji (So-yun) from Chelsea. It won’t sound bad that I’m including a midfielder will it? You could just knock me out of the team I guess!”
Obviously, having spent 22 years at Arsenal Football Club, the aftermath of Arsene Wenger’s departure from the Emirates must’ve hit the north London club hard. His successor, Unai Emery, has started life in the Arsenal dugout in excellent fashion, and even embarked on a 22-game unbeaten run, but a managerial shake-up of such significance is sure to send shockwaves throughout the whole club.
After Arsene Wenger’s lengthy reign, have the Women’s team also felt the impact of the change in management (and management structure) at the club?
“Not one little bit. From minute one we were fully supported. Trevor (Saving) and Ivan (Gazidis), who has just left, were incredible at coming in, seeing us, speaking to us and letting us know that Arsenal Women are highly on their forefront.”
Have the Women’s Team had any dealings with Emery yet?
“Not personally with him (Emery). We had a chance to meet him when he first came in but I think we all had a game. We’ve all had a chance to meet the two chairman that have come in, they’ve sent me lovely messages about my knee and I think little things like that where they’ve come to Boreham Wood and watched our games. You know that if people like that are supporting you then it’s a great place for Arsenal Women.”
What are your prevailing memories from Wenger’s time in charge?
“I was sponsored by Puma when I first came here and me, Olivier Giroud and Arsene Wenger went in a private jet to an event in Germany and he was one of the loveliest guys, so easy to talk to. A lovely person. It’s all credit to what he’s done here at Arsenal. He’s a true legend within this club.”