Caitlin Foord: An already paid off signing for Arsenal
The Australian international Catilin Foord signed for Arsenal in January 2020. She made her debut in a 2:0 win over Lewes in the FA Cup back in February 2020 and scored in her first game for the Reds. However, due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the cancellation of the 19/20 WSL season, she was only able to make her league debut 7 months later in a 6:1 win over Reading in September 2020. She was subbed-in in the 69th minute for Beth Mead and assisted twice on her debit. Let’s have a look at what she had been up to before joining the North London team and how the first year in Europe went for her.
The 26-year-old is a natural forward and can play as a center-striker or as a winger. Before signing for Arsenal she had played in the U.S. for Portland Thorns and for Sydney FC in her home country. It is very common, especially for Australian football players to play back-to-back seasons for two different clubs which means to participate in both leagues, the NWSL in the USA and the W-League in Australia. This is only possible because of the synched up calendars of both leagues. But in January 2020, Caitlin decided to reject the NWSL and W-League carousel as she joined the WSL instead. Her move to Arsenal allows her now to focus on one league and one club. In an interview at the beginning of 2020, she said it had become a lot to play for two clubs, it had been good for a little bit but the players coming to the WSL (e.g. Kerr, Raso) wanted to start focussing on one team and one league.
The first team Foord has played for in the NWSL was Sky Blue FC. She signed for them at the age of 18 in 2013. After a couple of years and two years of requesting a trade, she decided to play in Japan for a season. During the NWSL off-seasons, she continued playing for the Australian side Sydney FC. After returning from Japan to the NWSL she got traded to Portland in 2018. Due to a serious foot injury, she suffered while playing for Sydney FC at her home country, her arrival at Portland got delayed. Since getting into the team, Caitlin mainly operated as a central forward for the Portland Thorns. While she went off to the World Cup 2019 in France, the league in the U.S. continued and the Australian struggled to get back in the starting line-up after returning from the World Cup.
Looking at her international career with Australia, some remarkable aspects stand out. At the age of 16, she became the youngest Australian to play in a World Cup, when she was traveling with the Australian national team to Germany in 2011. She had made her debut weeks earlier in a friendly against New Zealand and was able to score a goal in the 3:0 victory. During the World Cup in 2011, she started in two of their three group matches. The Australian team was eliminated by Sweden in the quarter-final. However, Foord was given the “Best Young Player” award of the tournament. As a result of her play at the 2011 World Cup, she has also been named AFC Youth Player of the year. After that, she was also part of the Australian squad for the 2015 and 2019 World Cups. Furthermore, she competed in the Olympics with Australia in 2016. In the same year, she was named AFC Player of the year, becoming only the second player to win the youth and senior player of the year awards. In total, she has 83 caps for the Matildas and 20 goals added to her name.
Her arrival in London has been quite rough and mixed at the beginning. After her debut against Lewes and another appearance against Chelsea in the Conti-Cup Final in February 2020, she wasn’t able to add any more appearances until August 2020. Due to the Covid-19 break and the following cancellation of the league, her WSL debut had to be postponed. Before she actually participated in the English league, Arsenal had been part of the UWCL tournament in San Sebastian in August 2020. Foord was subbed in for Beth Mead in the 76th minute but however, Arsenal lost the game by 1:2 to the French side Paris Saint-Germain and was out of the tournament after their first game.
"The biggest thing for me right now is that I feel like I'm in a good place with my football and how I'm feeling since joining Arsenal. I've never felt so sure and right about a move like this before. "
Caitlin Foord via justwomenssport.com in summer 2020
On the 6th of September 2020, Arsenal’s number 19 was finally able to make her WSL debut in their home game against Reading. With her as the additional player for the attacking front 3, the team looks to have a very good versatility in the final third of the pitch.
Since the Dutch international Vivianne Miedema is Arsenal’s main no. 9 and the English international Beth Mead mainly operates on the right-wing, Foord is starting on the left-winger position most of the time. But she can easily swap positions with Miedema and has been able to adapt to the central forward position during games, as seen in the game against Tottenham on the 18th of October. The second goal in this game was scored by Miedema from a left-wing position. The Dutch striker was able to drift to the left because Foord was filling the center-striker role.
Together with Katie McCabe as the fullback on the left side, she plays as a left-sided forward with license to move inside. So she adapts to the role of a second striker next to Miedema, to give McCabe space to push forward and make a side-line run. But not only has her ability to swap positions quite easily with Miedema stood out, but also the understanding between these two players brings big advantages to the team. There have been a lot of goals created and finished by the duo so far.
When the Australian is going for a run on the left side-line by herself she can also demonstrate her own brilliant finishing qualities by cutting in from the side and finishing the move with an excellent curling shot into the back of the net. She was successful with a move like that in the Conti-Cup group stage match against Chelsea on the 7th of October and almost scored an identical goal against Reading on the opening day of the season.
Her adaptability to the different position's in Arsenal’s attacking play is a major improvement for the team. And this can be indicated by the stats for the first half of the 20/21 WSL season in comparison to the stats of the previous season: after 10 games in the 19/20 season the Gunners had scored 29 goals in total, thereof 14 goals (48,2%) were scored by Miedema; after 10 games in the 20/21 season, they scored 38 goals with only 11(28,9%) goals scored by Miedema. Foord was able to add 6 goals to her name in these 10 games. With 5 assists and 6 goals, she’s is second on the goal-scorer charts list of the WSL behind teammate Vivianne Miedema. Without a doubt, Caitlin Foord has been a very effective signing for the Gunners last year.
On the Red’s last league game of the calendar year 2020 at home against Everton, the Australian started as the center-striker while Vivianne Miedema was benched. The game ended by a scoreline of 4:0 to the gunners and Caitlin was even able to contribute one goal and once again showed what she can give to the team.
Caitlin Foord was recently even nominated for Barclay’s player of the month award for December. But the winner voted by fans is due to be announced by Barclays.
In conclusion, the Gunners and their Australian head-coach Joe Montemurro can be more than happy with the signing of Caitlin Foord last year. She seems to fit in perfectly within the team whether on or off the pitch. Her partnership with Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead on the attacking-line is working out really well and brings a lot more diversity to their offensive play. Due to the signing of the 26-year-old, Arsenal was also able to add a lot more depth to their forward positions. Looking forward to what the year 2021 holds for Caitlin Foord.