Manchester United declined two record-setting bids from Arsenal for Alessia Russo in January.
After months of conjecture surrounding the future of England striker Alessia Russo, her move to Arsenal on a free transfer finally puts an end to the speculation.
24-year-old Russo had been on the radar of some of the top European clubs after three stunning seasons with Manchester United. Arsenal managed to win over Russo to secure her future in north London, despite finishing just behind United in the Women’s Super League (WSL) in the previous season. So what led to her decision to switch clubs, and what influence might she have at Arsenal?
Why did Russo depart from Manchester United?
Achieving European football was crucial for Manchester United’s ambition to retain Russo, especially after narrowly missing out on qualification for three consecutive seasons. They eventually secured it by coming in second in the WSL.
Additionally, they reached the FA Cup final for the first time, a mere five years after the reestablishment of the women’s professional team.
However, despite the team’s on-pitch achievements under manager Marc Skinner, Russo was disgruntled by the slow pace of off-pitch contract renewal negotiations.
While Arsenal demonstrated interest by placing an almost £500,000 bid for Russo in January, United struggled to secure new deals with several key players in 2023.
United’s full-back Ona Batlle departed for Barcelona when her contract expired this summer, and Fifa Best goalkeeper Mary Earps has only one season left on her current deal.
United reportedly matched Arsenal’s wage offerings, but Russo felt they took too long to accept her terms.
Despite the evident progress made by United in the last season, they are still relatively new to the WSL. In contrast, Arsenal stands as one of England’s most successful women’s teams, and remains the only British club to clinch the European Cup in 2007.
Why was Arsenal keen to sign Russo?
Arsenal’s interest in Alessia Russo can be traced back to 2020 when she joined former manager Casey Stoney at Manchester United after a two-year stint at the University of North Carolina in the United States.
The Gunners had been tracking Russo’s growth since she graduated from Chelsea’s academy, played for Brighton, and represented England at youth level.
Arsenal had to expedite their efforts to sign a prolific scorer due to major ACL injuries to Beth Mead, the Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner, and Dutch star Vivianne Miedema.
Even though Stina Blackstenius, Arsenal’s top striker, ended the 2022-23 WSL season strong, the top scorer of the season was midfielder Frida Maanum with nine goals, placing seventh overall.
Despite qualifying for the Champions League after finishing third, and losing several key players to long-term injuries, Arsenal’s squad was strained by a rigorous schedule competing on multiple fronts.
Meanwhile, Russo was a joint-top scorer at United last season with 10 goals and an assist in 20 matches and emerged as a rising star at Euro 2022, scoring four times from the bench.
How will Russo integrate into the Arsenal team?
Russo has consistently proven her value for both United and England since returning home in 2020.
In total, she has scored 26 goals in 59 games for United and made 11 goals in 22 appearances for England.
Playing as a number nine, Russo is adept at holding the ball and excels in air battles. She has successfully played alongside England winger Mead at Euro 2022 and is poised to receive abundant service from Arsenal’s powerful midfield pair, Kim Little and Lia Walti.
However, Russo must vie for her spot in the starting lineup against Miedema and Mead, who are set to return from injury, and Blackstenius, who was often criticized for missing opportunities last season.
Caitlin Foord from Australia was a standout performer for Arsenal in 2022-23 before an injury derailed her campaign’s end.
Last summer, Arsenal also brought in Lina Hurtig from Juventus and Cloe Lacasse from Benfica in June. Katie McCabe, the Republic of Ireland’s captain, is often deployed as a wide forward.
With a fully fit squad, manager Jonas Eidevall has a variety of choices in attack. Arsenal, who made it to the Champions League semi-finals and won the League Cup last season, seeks to compete at all levels, requiring a deeper squad.
The arrival of Russo provides another powerful center-forward option who is ready to capitalize on the opportunities provided by key wingers Foord and Mead.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about transfer
Why did Alessia Russo leave Manchester United for Arsenal?
Alessia Russo left Manchester United for Arsenal because of frustrations with the slow progress in contract negotiations and Arsenal’s ability to offer a more enticing future, including Champions League football and a more established women’s team.
Why did Arsenal want to sign Alessia Russo?
Arsenal was keen to sign Alessia Russo due to her impressive performances at Manchester United and her track record as a prolific goalscorer. Additionally, Arsenal needed to strengthen their attacking options following injuries to key players and Russo’s versatility and skill made her an ideal fit for the team.
How will Alessia Russo fit into the Arsenal team?
Alessia Russo will provide Arsenal with another strong center-forward option and will likely compete for a place in the starting XI alongside Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead. She will benefit from the service provided by Arsenal’s talented midfielders and will play a crucial role in Arsenal’s quest for success in the Champions League and other competitions.
What impact could Alessia Russo have at Arsenal?
Alessia Russo has the potential to make a significant impact at Arsenal with her goal-scoring prowess and ability to hold up the ball. Her presence in the team will enhance Arsenal’s attacking options and provide depth to the squad, allowing the team to compete on multiple fronts and increase their chances of success in domestic and international competitions.
What were the key factors in Alessia Russo’s transfer to Arsenal?
The key factors in Alessia Russo’s transfer to Arsenal were the slow progress in contract negotiations at Manchester United, Arsenal’s ambition to compete in the Champions League, and the opportunity to join a more established and successful women’s team. Additionally, injuries to key players at Arsenal created a need for a proven goalscorer, making Russo an attractive signing for the club.
More about transfer
- Alessia Russo completes transfer from Manchester United to Arsenal – Arsenal’s official announcement of Alessia Russo’s transfer.
- Women’s Super League official website – The official website of the Women’s Super League, where you can find more information about the league.
- Manchester United Women’s Team – Official website of the Manchester United Women’s Team.
- Arsenal Women’s Team – Official website of the Arsenal Women’s Team.
- UEFA Women’s Champions League – Official website of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, where you can learn more about the competition.