As part of their preseason preparations Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham will be taking part in a three part friendly series named the Mind Series over the next week. One of the aims of the series is to raise awareness and funds for Mind, as well as each club’s respective chosen foundations. Mind provides mental health support including an Infoline. The demand for their services have increased exponentially since the beginning of the pandemic.
Each club will host a match day at their main stadium with the three teams playing each other once. The first and last matches of the series will be double headers, with both the women’s and men’s teams featuring.
Arsenal and Chelsea will open the series later today at the Emirates Stadium. The women’s match will take place at 12:15 pm BST prior to the men’s matchup at 3:00 pm. The mid-week match between Chelsea and Tottenham will only feature the two men’s teams. Arsenal will then journey to Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium on Sunday, August 8th. Both women’s teams will play at 11:45 AM prior to the men’s kick-off at 2:00 PM.
While the series is an aspirational one with an important message, and the double-header timing is logical as it coincides with the men’s preseason fixtures which are scheduled earlier in the year than the women’s due to their earlier regular season start, there are drawbacks to holding these double headers.
At present Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Women all have significant parts of their squads away at the Tokyo Olympics. This includes all of their captains: Kim Little for Arsenal, Magdalena Eriksson for Chelsea and Shelina Zadorsky for Tottenham.
Arsenal are also missing Lotte Wubben-Moy, Leah Williamson, Nikita Parris, Mana Iwabuchi, Vivianne Miedema, Steph Catley, Lydia Williams and Caitlin Foord. Chelsea are also without Zećira Mušović, Aniek Nouwen, Millie Bright, Sophie Ingle, Fran Kirby, Jessie Fleming, Sam Kerr, Niamh Charles, Carly Telford and Jonna Andersson. All of these players played in the quarter-final stage of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
This means that entering the first match of the series, nine of the twenty-three Arsenal Women players and eleven of the twenty-four Chelsea Women players will not be available. Many of those away are normally in the regular starting line-ups of each team and are amongst some of the biggest names in football.
While Team GB, Japan and the Netherlands have been eliminated from the Olympic tournament and some of the Arsenal players may be back for the second game against Tottenham, there is no word as to whether the returning Olympians will be given time off after a summer of Tokyo 2020 preparations and competition.
Moreover, Catley, Williams and Foord will again be missing for Arsenal’s second August 8th game as they will have just completed their Olympics campaign. Tottenham will also be missing their captain Zadorsky, who like the Australians made the semi-finals with Canada. There has been no word as to whether Tang Jiali and Ria Percival will be available for the Spurs after competing in Tokyo for China and New Zealand.
While we should champion attempts at expanding the women’s game’s reach, one can also question how these attempts are done. For this series, regular club members at the stadium and those who stream these games online will see two teams without some of their best talent available. For the first match they will see two sides with nearly half their continent missing.
Considering the fact that the women’s game is still not mainstream, and that few occasions arise where matches are held at major stadiums in front of bigger audiences, the argument can be made that this series does not set up for the best possible football display from these three fantastic womens sides. While more football for women is always welcome, those involved need to make sure that it properly showcases the talent within the women’s game.