The time is once again upon us. You open the app formerly known as Twitter and are confronted with your favourite football player's head, superimposed onto the body of a random rival club's jersey.
Welcome to the women's football transfer window.
Debates rage around when player contracts are up. Rumours abound on what positions we need to reinforce, and how dare another club go for so and so player?!
Likes from leading journalists or follows of club accounts by players are taken as potential transfer interest. The levels of detective work during the transfer period could crack multiple unsolved cases if applied in a policing career.
The group chats pop off with debate on who we need, where we need them, and why we should all calm down as we can’t change anything.
Whether you’re a first timer to the transfer hijinks or a seasoned pro, here are some answers to your questions - including who Arsenal may be targeting - and tips on surviving this winter’s women's football transfer window.
First, some general advice, from your fellow fans of the game.
With thanks to members of the Supporter's Club for their contributions:
Don’t get too attached to the idea of any specific signing until it’s announced. It’s not done until it’s done and your club announces it officially in a shiny social media post.
Don’t get too attached to current players either. Football is a cut throat business and, if a player isn’t giving the team what it needs, they could be unceremoniously cut loose. We’re all very emotionally invested in our team but it is a sport and a business at the end of the day. It’s important and healthy to separate yourself from it emotionally.
Much like the history teachers always teach you at school, analyse the source of the information or rumour. If someone says something is happening, what’s their track record? Are they known to have inside information? Are any other reliable names suggesting the same thing? (Read on for a list of credible sources to follow for the more reliable information!)
Keep an eye on the handle on social media. Some users attempt to imitate a known source by changing their username - so check that the handle matches!
Similarly, some journalists will have some fun with followers by liking social media posts related to transfer topics, knowing that they'll be closely analysed by fans (Tim Stillman, I'm looking at you!) Just know, once again, that nothing's official until a reputable source has confirmed it in an article - and I always wait for the club's announcement before taking it as fully read.
Watch more than just your own domestic league, if you have the time. Watching some of the other leagues gives you insights into players who have been rumoured to join your club, or others in your domestic league. It’s a great way to learn.
Finally, before we dive into the full FAQ, a word to the wise from Arsenal Women supporter and the closest person I know to being a scout without being a scout, Adina:
“Trust the team and trust the backroom staff and the process. Even if the vision doesn’t seem obvious to you or you think it’s a bad idea, the fans know only a small part of the big picture.
We don’t know the players personally. We don’t know if something is going on behind the scenes to make a player want a move or not. We don’t know the overall plan or picture for what the club wants the team to be like.
A player could not be great in certain situations but exceptional in others - and we just don’t know the overall plan for why certain moves happen. So, trust the people who do have the bigger picture to make the right moves.”
Transfer window FAQs
When is the women’s football transfer window?
The winter transfer season for WSL clubs runs from 1 January to 11 pm on 31 January. In the summer, the transfer window normally would run from 1 July for 3 months.
Other leagues across the globe have differing dates - as the dates of their seasons also change - which may mean that some transfers can be done outside of the WSL dates.
You can find the full list below:
Similarly, if a player is a free agent, that means that they can join a club once their previous contract officially ends.
Who can you trust to report legitimate information during the women's football transfer window?
There is a lot of false information readily available on social media. As interest in the women’s transfer window grows, so do the rumours, and normally those are from unverified sources.
Here’s a list of some of the reputable names that you can follow on social media, with some assurance that the information they share is as accurate as possible (in no particular order, aside from citing Tim as the top journalist dedicated to the Arsenal Women's team):
Tim Stillman (@Stillmanator), Arseblog journalist. The go-to for all reliable journalism for Arsenal Women. If Tim doesn’t comment on it - whether in an article or on Twitter - you may want to check your source.
Suzy Wrack (@SuzyWrack), Correspondent for the Guardian.
Tom Garry (@TomJGarry), Women's Football Reporter for the Telegraph
Rich Laverty (@RichJLaverty), freelance journalist, featured in The Athletic, Guardian, Times, and more.
Kathryn Batte (@KathrynBatte), Women's Football Correspondent at the Daily Mail sport.
Asif Burhan (@AsifBurhan), journalist for Forbes
Emily Keogh (@emilyskeogh), Women’s sports journalist + producer, 90 Minute Football
Sophie Lawson (@lawson_sv), writer for ESPN FC
Emma Sanders (@em_sandy), Broadcast journalist for the BBC
David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein), Correspondent for the Athletic
How do women's football clubs find potential players?
The Athletic has this week released an article outlining how most clubs operate and how it differs in the amount of resources available, in comparison to the men’s teams.
I'd recommend reading the article in full, as it's interesting to understand where the women's game is at and the scope that club's have to find potential new signings.
In summary, Arsenal Women have a couple of consultants aiming to analyse the game of players and submit reports to help with recruitment.
Some teams aren’t so lucky, and the managers and other coaches have to shoulder this task themselves. Agents therefore also play a bigger part in the women’s game than in the men’s, recommending their talent to clubs.
At Arsenal, Manager Jonas Eidevall collaborates with the Head of Women's Football and the Recruitment Officer to choose who the club may target.
What does a club showing ‘interest’ actually mean?
Just because a journalist reports that a club is ‘interested’ in a player, that doesn’t mean the interest is mutual or a transfer will happen.
‘Showing interest’ in a player can mean anything from it being a done deal to a player was looked at but the club decided not to proceed with a bid.
Who is Arsenal targeting this season?
First, to clarify - I have no insider knowledge on this topic. I can only comment on rumours that have yet to be fully substantiated. But this is the lay of the land.
Every transfer season is different. The needs of the club will change as well as the required components to make up the best team in the face of growing competition from other teams.
Noelle Maritz has seen fewer minutes this season to make way for Katie McCabe. She's now officially transferred to Aston Villa, on a 2.5 year contract, with the option to extend for an additional year.
That means we're in need of a right back, with Laura Wienroither still not match fit - although she may be back before the end of the season. Emily Fox from North Carolina Courage is the presumed target.
Since a blurry image of Fox in training with Arsenal has made it through any checks in place to catch these slip ups, her signing is likely to be announced sooner rather than later.
Rumours suggested we may be on the look out for a new goalkeeper. Manu Zinsberger’s contract is supposed to be up in the summer - although, who knows, Arsenal is pretty tight lipped around contract lengths. For us fans, we go on more guesswork than the average football supporter.
The only goalkeeper that’s been directly associated with Arsenal at this stage, as far as I’m aware, is Manchester United and England's starting GK, Mary Earps.
Arsenal supposedly put in a world record bid in the summer for Earps, but there is rumoured interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid, and PSG - and Arsenal reportedly have no bid planned for this window.
How many players can be registered in the WSL - and how does this affect transfers?
In the WSL, only 25 players can be registered to play. Currently, Arsenal is at capacity. That means that, for us to gain any new players, we’ll have to see some outgoings.
Jonas has already shared that he can see players coming into the squad and also leaving the team in January.
Gio isn’t currently registered, as her planned loan prospects in the summer fell through - 'a situation that does not benefit any parties', says Jonas.
She’s expected to go on loan again, but this therefore wouldn’t free up a space as there are already 25 other players registered. It’s speculated that Kathrine Kuhl will go on loan too, as a player with a wealth of potential but with few minutes at Arsenal currently.
Maritz leaving means that there is a slot available for Emily Fox, and Kuhl on loan would open up another. But that’s not to say that we won’t see other players leave, or others join.
How much media interest is there around transfers in the women's game?
Rivalries last season led to unparalleled interest in Russo joining Arsenal. I've written about that before - the shock of a player going to a direct rival, on a free, and the booing at her return game to Manchester United.
Tim Stillman's article on Russo's transfer had only 150 fewer views than his article on the £105 million transfer of Declan Rice for the men's team.
That's just one example, and the rumour mill has been working overtime on the topic of Mary Earp's future. She's addressed this speculation as directly as she can - which is to say, not very, before anything's announced.
But she's shared how the speculation has been 'an injustice', saying that 'there is a lot of stuff that's been put out there that isn't true'.
That about sums up the transfer season, yet also demonstrates the impact that it can have on the individual players who are suddenly thrust into a limelight that was previously much less intense.
Scrutiny on players and clubs at this time is closer than it's ever been. Arsenal fans have a harder time of it than most, where contract lengths and therefore potential exits are unknown so anything can happen - or maybe it's better to be living life in a state of ignorant bliss.
Plenty of big name media outlets are now giving lots of column space for commentary on the topic. You can even track the transfers across all women's leagues on the Guardian website.
That interest is only going to grow - so buckle up. There won't be a dull moment until the end of January!