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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Lycett

Alessia Russo to Arsenal: The deal is done - what now?

Anyone else feeling exhausted from this transfer season? Alessia Russo is finally a gunner. After a long six months, the deal is done and she's signed on the dotted lines. Gooners across the country heaved a sigh of relief that the whole saga is finally over. The worst kept secret in the WSL is out - spilled by Caitlin before the club, but we'll forgive her for falling for that.

Rather than a "Will she, won't she" narrative, major news outlets have presented it as a done deal for weeks. It's simply been a question of contractual obligation to Manchester United that's kept it from being signed and announced before the end of June.

Leah Williamson running up to Alessia Russo

That means that the feverish hype surrounding the signing has had plenty of time to build.

As fans, we've had polls running, guessing when we'd have the announcement. We banned mentions of her in group chats in case the jinx fairies hampered the news at the eleventh hour.

When the time came, a steady stream of videos poured out of Arsenal social media accounts.

Arsenal admin has, of course, had plenty of time to prepare for this moment. Using it to launch a new TikTok account seems to reflect the audience that's likely to follow Alessia to the Arsenal.

We already have Beth Mead, Leah Williamson, and Lotte Wubben-Moy. Now, Russo is another Lioness added to the roster. Her presence at Arsenal will have huge commercial benefits for a club that's already storming away from its competition in terms of getting bums on seats.

However, getting to this stage was hardly uneventful.

The past season could have been an unprecedented disaster for Arsenal. Even before Christmas, the injuries were stacking up.

The January transfer season caused plenty of concern around the recruitment process for Arsenal. Deals fell through - and then a record-breaking bid for Russo.

Did that bid show we were serious or did it show our desperation?

A bit of both perhaps, but it resulted in no major signing to replace our lost goals at the start of the year - although we were gifted with Victoria Pelova, Sabs D'Angelo, and the rising star of Kathrine Møller Kühl.

Jodie Taylor quickly became a fan favourite but was a shock signing. She had a short contract showing that Arsenal simply needed to get someone into the squad that could take some pressure off Stina Blackstenius - the player that played in every game of the season.

As it turns out, our players stepped up and had their first run to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 10 years.

Placing the same demands on the players next season was never going to be sustainable.

Arsenal had to show their intent from day one of this new, summer transfer season - or even before. And that's what they've done.

Beth Mead

Kim Little

Lia Walti

Caitlin Foord

Steph Catley

Frida Maanum

Jen Beattie

The list of renewals is incredibly healthy - with the notable exceptions of Viv and Katie. The new signings of Amanda Ilestedt, Cloé Lacasse, and now Russo show that, this time, Arsenal didn't blink.

Alessia Russo in England kit

The club knew what it wanted, and it went and got it.

Now, we can think of the future. On paper, Russo's had a similar season to Stina Blackstenius. Stina even had more goals, albeit across more matches: 15 to Russo's 13.

Coming into this squad, who will Jonas choose to start? Similar questions have been raised around Frida Maanum with the return of Vivianne Miedema expected next season.

I hope to see us become a team that rotates effectively. If Barca can do it, why not us? Last season shows the importance of having other players that can step in and shoulder responsibility when called upon - and the importance of allowing players to rest, to avoid wracking up injuries.

The strength of this team allows healthy competition.

The depth of quality and wealth of experience in this squad gives me a huge amount of confidence that Russo will come into this environment and thrive.

She's already had a lot of pressure thrust on her shoulders at a young age. Her back heel goal will go down in history for the sheer audacity of the moment. She's heading off to the World Cup with the potential of starting in the number 9 position at only 24 years old.

She's opened up about the pressures. “You need to make sure you don’t forget to enjoy it because I know football can get tough at times and the pressure will be on,” she recently said.

Those pressures will only grow now that the deal is done, for her to deliver after the buildup. So it's on her to prove herself equal to the task.

But this signing expands beyond the simple fact of bulking out our goal stats.

It shows that Arsenal is willing to invest the big bucks in players that will drive commercial interest as well as on-pitch impact.

It shows that Arsenal is not backing down from its ambitions to climb back to the top of the WSL and Champions League rankings again. That won't be an easy ask. Chelsea has been active, getting in new talent even before the start of the transfer season. But it signifies intent from Arsenal.

It's thrown up the attractiveness for players of leaving on a free too, giving them more bargaining power when the new club hasn't had to fork out for a transfer fee. It also brings into question Manchester United's tactics - losing out on the £500k bid from Arsenal back in January.

This whole journey demonstrates a worrying fallout off the back of a successful season for Manchester United.

Yes, it ended trophyless for the Red Devils, but finishing second in the league and qualifying for European football is a step up.

Since then, it's all been downhill. Losing Russo is one thing - especially when many thought that Champions League football would be the deciding factor in whether she would stay at United or not. Losing Ona Batlle is another.

We don't have the full picture but it's not rosy. It's a shame to see a team that was on the verge of taking things to the next level instead taking a step back.

That sparked the club's Head of Group Planning, Francesca Whitfield, saying that there should be a European-wide salary cap to "stop the gap widening". This blog isn't about that proposal, but it highlights the sorts of debates that we'll see more of in the coming years.

This is a watershed moment for women's football.

It will spark discussion around inequalities in the teams not supported by larger clubs. Although there are few names as big as Russo's, transfer fees will keep climbing as the competition between clubs becomes more and more fierce.

Women's football is on the ascendancy. Arsenal has already sold out the Emirates once, and the level of football on display on that day was glorious. Adding Russo to the mix - firing on all cylinders alongside a fully fit squad - could very well change the game.

But I shouldn't be surprised. Changing the game is what Arsenal does. Why would it stop now?

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