Updated: Jul 9
Having had two world record bids rejected for former Manchester United striker Alessia Russo in January, Arsenal yesterday announced that the England forward has moved to North London for free.
It's a massive statement from Jonas Eidevall's side, with one of the best strikers in the game joining an already ferocious attack as the Gunners bid to win their first WSL title since 2019; they'll also be looking to one-up their Champions League success from last year and go to their first final.
Russo is a fantastic goal scorer but also provides excellent build-up play, something Arsenal struggled with during their injury-hit 2022/2023 season. And that's just the tip of the iceberg for Arsenal's third Summer signing.
Alessia Russo was a huge part of Manchester United's best-ever season in 2022/2023. Her goal contributions on top of her fantastic team play made her one of the best players in Europe let alone the WSL.
Much like fellow Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus, the stats don't tell the whole story with Russo. She only scored ten league goals last season, which while respectable isn't a world-class total. That's not to say she isn't world-class however.
Jonas Eidevall likes to have a big, physical number nine at the top of his teamsheets. Stina Blackstenius did well to adapt to that role last season, but Russo doesn't have to adapt to fit that system. She is known for her first touch throughout the league and is just as comfortable playing with her back to goal as she is baring down on it to score herself.
In a Manchester United team with Ella Toone and Nikita Parris, Russo is dangerous. However, with Caitlin Foord, Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead running off her, Arsenal may have the best attack in the WSL. In fact, it's hard to think of a more complete forward line anywhere in the world.
And don't forget that Arsenal create more chances than most even without Russo. She'll get more opportunities this season to score for herself given the quality midfield she has playing behind her. The likes of Kim Little and Frida Maanum will certainly be capable of providing their new teammate with plenty of chances.
In Vivianne Miedema, Arsenal have a creative false nine and in Stina Blackstenius they have a route one target striker; Alessia Russo is both. This in turn gives Miedema the freedom to play her preferred number ten role, where she is somehow even more dangerous. This is just one of many ways Russo will help her teammates.
Russo's partners in the Arsenal attack will likely be Caitlin Foord, Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead, with Stina Blackstenius and new signing Chloe Lacasse rotating into the team as well. Russo and Mead have played together several times for England, with Mead saying publically last month that she'd love to play with Russo every week.
Whilst they are technically wingers, both Mead and Caitlin Foord both get into very advanced central positions, regularly being among the WSL top scorers. Russo will be a dream striker for these two wingers to have playing through the middle. It seems obvious that Mead and Russo will link up well, but there's no reason Foord can't link up just as well with England's number 23.
Then there's Miedema. Arsenal's star who came from Bayern Munich, shattered the WSL goal-scoring record and led the Gunners to the title in 2019.
The Dutch international had a slow start under Jonas Eidevall, but after moving into the number ten role, which she played throughout her youth career, she seemed to be finding her magic again, just before injury struck. With a striker as good as Russo ahead of her, expect Arsenal's number 11 to return to her astonishing best.
Aside from how well Russo will suit Arsenal, the signing also marks a huge statement for the Gunners. In the men's game, former Arsenal star strikers Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez both moved north to Manchester United because they were simply a bigger, more competitive club. This feels like the equivalent for Arsenal Women.
It's worth remembering that Russo scored the winner for United in both encounters with Arsenal this season. She was quite literally the difference between the two sides. Despite this and the fact that United were nine points ahead of Arsenal, she has opted to join the Gunners.
The frankly ludicrous depth of attacking talent Edu has lined up for next season means Russo has the chance to win it all. Of course Arsenal are always title contenders, but there is something special brewing this Summer, which could indicate another push for the Champions League trophy. Russo found this hard to say no to, as any player would.
The Gunners came close to European football's greatest prize even with seven first-team players out injured, so imagine what they could do without the injuries and with world-class additions such as Alessia Russo. She could be the missing piece to the puzzle who finally helps Arsenal dominate in the way they believe they can.
Annoyingly for Arsenal fans, Kelly Smith seemed to have worked this out 11 years ago...