Leupolz header sinks Gunners at pre-season friendly game played at the Emirates Stadium as Carter suffers potential serious knee injury in Emirates Cup tie.
The Emirates Cup was billed as a double-header with Arsenal’s women’s team playing first followed by the men’s team at the Emirates Stadium. Much had been made in the build-up of celebrating the women’s team winning the FA WSL last season.
However, celebrations turned to heartbreak when Arsenal forward, Danielle Carter, went down grasping her knee following an innocuous challenge – an all too familiar scene for Arsenal fans with Carter making her first start following rupturing her ACL towards the end of the 2017/18 season. Carter missed much of last season and was making her first start since her injury. The gravity of the situation was soon apparent with concerned teammates surrounding Carter and gas and air being utilised. No announcement has been made following scans of Carter’s knee and hopes remain that the injury is not as serious as it first thought.
Despite significant amounts of advertising in advance of the Emirates Cup, the large numbers of empty seats when the women’s match kicked off at 12:30pm was plainly evident. A peak audience of 28,500 watched the game before the stadium filled in numbers for the men’s game kicking off at 15:30. Whilst 28,500 is a huge increase on the approximate capacity of 4,000 at Arsenal Women’s usual home, Borehamwood, it is clear that more work needs to be done to ignite interest in the women’s game. In comparison, matches in Italy and Spain pulled in crowds of 60,000 and 40,000 at the men’s stadiums of Juventus and Athletico Madrid respectively.
The atmosphere at the Emirates for the women’s game was quiet and the key question is how do British clubs build on the successes of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to generate similar atmospheres that are synonymous with men’s games. This was an experiment to gauge interest in double-headers to determine whether this might work once the season kicks off. Indeed, several clubs have moved WSL matches to the men’s stadium, with Chelsea offering free tickets for their season opener against London rivals, Tottenham. Since offering tickets, the stadium has been filled with corporate tickets available. It will be interesting to see whether people who have claimed tickets do turn up to watch the match.
In my opinion, whilst attending women’s matches at the men’s stadia is a novelty – I believe that clubs should be concentrating on filling their usual home grounds on a consistent basis before considering holding more matches at the men’s grounds.
In terms of the match itself, Arsenal, without their World Cup stars appeared off the pace with Bayern (already well into their pre-season preparations) proved to be a stern test. Arsenal coach, Joe Montemurro, was keen to face strong European opposition in advance of their season back in the Champions League. Jen Beattie made her second debut for Arsenal after re-joining from Manchester City this summer. Arsenal threatened in sporadic patches, however, Bayern scored the games’ only goal when Melanie Leupolz, unmarked, at the back post scored with a diving header. With the inevitable number of substitutions, the game never really took off and Bayern saw the game out comfortably to lift the Emirates Cup.