Arsenal Ladies are having a spell like Manchester United, explains Faye White

Opponents think the formerly dominant team are there for the taking, says legendary former captain

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Arsenal Ladies are discovering, in football terms, how it feels to be mortal. The best team in the history of the women’s game in England will try to regain their WSL title, starting this evening at Notts County, knowing that there is more competition than ever at the top.

The last year has been disappointing and difficult for Arsenal. They lost their WSL title to Liverpool, after suffering a disheartening points penalty for fielding an ineligible player, before losing star players Steph Houghton, Gemma Davison and Kim Little in the off-season.

Faye White, the legendary former Arsenal captain who retired last year, knows that this will be a difficult season for her old side, recently knocked out of the Champions League semi-finals by Birmingham City. Arsenal will not play in the competition this season, making this a year of necessary regrouping as they attempt to re-find their old dominance.

“Things change in football, and Arsenal were always going to have to go through a rebuilding phase,” White said, speaking after a community event of the type she frequents now, along with her media and coaching commitments. “For a long time there was a core group of players, and now they need to bring in new blood.” That process has already started with the recruitment of Yukari Kinga and Shinobu Ohno, World Cup winners with the Japanese national team. “They have lots of experience and different way of playing football,” White said, “they are technical players, rather than relying on power and strength.”

Liverpool won last year’s WSL, and Manchester City are spending big, so there is a real sense Arsenal Ladies might be losing some of their aura. “It is a natural when a team does not win and when they lose a couple of key players. Other clubs will feel like Arsenal are there to be taken,” said White, “a bit like Manchester United in the men’s game. Changes can change other people’s perceptions of you as a club and as a team.” White expects Arsenal to challenge this year, but knows Liverpool and Chelsea will too. “It might not be the all-conquering team of years gone past, only time will tell.”

Faye White was speaking at a Barclays community event. This season Barclays is thanking fans, community heroes, players and managers for making the game what it is. Join the conversation using #YouAreFootball.