Arsenal have announced the loan move of defender Anna Patten to Aston Villa for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
Patten has a history with the Gunners having her way through the ranks after joining the club at twelve years old. She made her senior debut against Bayern Munich in 2017, aged 18, before going on to play in every match of the Women’s Super League Spring Series that year.
After studying in the States for four years, in which Patten played successful stints with both the Florida State Seminoles and the South Carolina Gamecocks, she re-joined The Arsenal last January. Patten has enjoyed plenty of ‘firsts’ since returning to North London, including her first goal, and a break into Champions League football against Gillingham and HB Køge respectively.
Further illustrating her ever-maturing potential, on the international stage Patten has been a regular feature of England’s youth camps representing her country at under-15, under-17, under-19, under-20 and under-21 levels. Patten has secured two bronze medals during her time with the national side; the 2016 U-17 Euros and the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2018.
Patten’s move to Aston Villa can perhaps be viewed as surprising. The loaning of a lifelong Gooner, the foreknown absence of their trade left back, and the injury of their staple centre-half, indicates that the Gunners are looking to reinforce their backline from elsewhere. Nevertheless, this is not to say that in the long-term, this move will considerably benefit all parties.
A talent as distinct as Patten must be cultivated, yet such progression can only be achieved through playing consistent minutes, something that, since returning to England, Patten has not received. With a title to reclaim and a reassertion into European football, between developing players, evolving on-field relationships and rotating a dependably robust starting eleven, Jonas Eidevall has a bit of a balancing act on his hands. In saying this, one would still not be indecorous to question Patten’s lack of game time.
Enter Aston Villa. Although the Villans lay within the bottom half of the table, Patten could not have secured a better move. Now under the wing of renowned defence curator Carla Ward, and playing alongside the likes of Women’s Super League vets Anita Asanti and Remi Allen, she is about to have the education of her life.
The likelihood is that Patten will play with far more regularity given Villa’s league position and Ward’s preference to lock in defensive stability before anything else. Yet Patten brings her own profits to her new club. She is able to adopt the profile of a centre-back, as well as a central midfielder if assigned, however when looking at her most prevalent skills, Patten is best used as a fullback.
Upon viewing, one attribute that is highlighted is Patten’s inclination to push fairly high up the field. There is an obvious desire for pitch progression within her play and typically, it is well executed. Being a quality ‘ball player’ is not something that comes naturally to all, yet Patten shows a great deal of worth here in both carrying and releasing. Pairing this with bursts of pace and shrewd counter awareness, Patten’s time on the ball is altogether valuable. Utilising Patten as such will provide Villa with an added attacking outlet, as well as the perfect complement to offset left back, Maz Pacheco.
In return, Villa will provide the opportunity for Patten to exercise and develop her defensive competence against regular competitive opponents. Developing further know-how on opportune periods to apply pressure, favourable positions to intercept and block passages of play, and heightened recognition of opponent’s body shape, areas in which Patten is perhaps not quite as well versed in just yet, will serve her well in fulfilling her undeniable promise.
Come May, whether Patten returns to her childhood club or not will remain to be seen. But if this is the case, one would certainly bet on a more well-rounded, self-assured, defensively sound player returning to Meadow Park than the one who left in January.