Arsenal vs Everton Women's FA Cup Final preview: Old power houses struggle to keep up

Today’s FA Cup final illustrates the changing face of the women’s game

It is a measure of the speed of change in women’s football that today’s FA Cup final is between two of the sport’s major names, but also a meeting of the bottom two in the Women’s Super League. When Arsenal and Everton contested the final in 2010 they were the two best clubs in the women’s game, finishing first and second respectively for five successive seasons. Four matches into this season, Arsenal are bottom with one point, Everton a place and a point above them.

Last season Arsenal contested the Champions League semi-finals and won the Continental Cup (the equivalent of the League Cup) but, like Everton, they have lost players to new arrivals Manchester City. In their case it is the new England captain Steph Houghton, though the loss is partially compensated for by the recruitment of her predecessor in the role, Casey Stoney. More damaging was the departure of the 2013 women’s player of the year Kim Little to the United States.

Little scored in the 2010 final, but two goals by Natasha Dowie gave Everton victory. Dowie and fellow England player Fara Williams moved to Liverpool last year and promptly won the WSL title. International team-mates Jill Scott and Toni Duggan moved to City.

Still at Everton is England goalkeeper Rachel Finnis-Brown, who played her first FA Cup final aged 15 and, 18 years on, will be playing her fourth today. “Our league positions are a sign of how other teams have moved on since WSL started,” she said. “Manchester City, Notts County, Liverpool and Chelsea have been the benefactors of player movement. Players have been offered really good deals, not mega bucks but enough to be able to play football and not have to work as well. If I got the same opportunity I’d probably not turn it down.

“Arsenal and us are in a transitional phase but both have shown character to get to the final,” she added. “No-one can say we don’t deserve to be there.” Indeed, the potential of Everton’s impressive youth system has been evident in the Cup. Nikita Parris, a 19-year-old who came through the ranks, has scored in every round.

Finnis-Brown describes the win in 2010 as “one of the best feelings I have experienced in football”. She added: “I had a taste of it and want to do it again. I’ve been telling our young players what to expect, and to make the most of it.”

At Arsenal Alex Scott is also educating rookies. The club have won seven of the last 10 finals and the England international has played in them all. “In the past there have been several other players in the same situation,” she said. “This time half the team will be in their first final.”

She explained Arsenal’s changing status: “It shows how far the women’s game has come, other teams are investing, the best players are now spread around whereas they used to all be at Arsenal Ladies. It is now up to us to keep up. We have been reactive rather than proactive.”

Despite the loss of players like Houghton, Little, Katie Chapman and Ellen White, Arsenal’s poor start is perplexing. They still have half a dozen England players, in the Cup they have beaten Champions League semi-finalists Birmingham City and ambitious Chelsea. Kelly Smith has been dogged by injuries but has scored five goals in three Cup ties.

One casualty of their League form is the manager, Shelley Kerr, who resigned last week and leaves after the final. “The players did not want her to leave,” said Scott. “She tried to move us forward, training every day, pushing for full-time physios. It would have been nice for her to see those changes, but obviously losing matches has not helped.

“The plan is to give her a send-off by winning the FA Cup. Our Cup form has been good, though Kelly has been carrying us with her goals, so hopefully someone else can chip in.”

The FA will be keenly interested in today’s attendance at Milton Keynes. The final drew gates approaching 25,000 from 2007-9 but, despite the greater attention paid to, and investment in, the women’s game, there were less than 5,000 last year.

Alex Scott will be writing exclusively for The Independent during the World Cup

Arsenal v Everton is on BBC2 today,  kick-off 4.30pm at stadiummk. Tickets: £10, concessions £5,  family (2+2) £20

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans is the favourite to replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing