In some rather late-developing drama to the European football transfer deadline, Arsenal have signed U.S. (and UNC!) legend Tobin Heath to a two-year deal. She joins the Gunners on the eve of their Women’s Super League (WSL) curtain raiser against London rivals (and last year’s champions) Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.
The one you’ve all been waiting for…— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) September 3, 2021
Welcome to The Arsenal, @TobinHeath ❤️
Last season, Heath made her WSL debut with Manchester United, though her inaugural campaign (which yielded 4 goals in 11 appearances) was cut short due to ankle and knee injuries. She was able to return to fitness in time for the “2020” Olympics tournament and featured as a substitute in the Bronze-medal game against Australia.
Arsenal have a new first-team coach this year in Jonas Eidevall, and although the news of a rumored Heath signing only began emerging yesterday, apparently Arsenal have been working on this deal for a while now:
Jonas Eidevall tells me that the Tobin Heath deal has been in the works since before the Olympics. ‘We hope we have a lot of games this autumn and we need to rotate, in games as well. Tobin Heath is a points player, she gets you points.’ Full quotes on @arseblognews coming up.— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) September 3, 2021
Tim Stillman is an Arseblog contributor and reports on Arsenal Women, often with direct access to players and staff (definitely worth a follow!) After a Champions League qualifier against PSV Eindhoven (Holland), he spoke with Eidevall about how he would set up his squad, particularly after the summer signings of exciting forwards Nikita Parris (from women’s powerhouse club Olympique Lyonnais [Lyon, France]) and Mana Iwabuchi (from Aston Villa [Birmingham, England]). Eidevall said that his team were quickly adapting to each other because they are all intelligent players that don’t require a lot of time to get their passing and movement in sync.
The early returns are promising, as the Arsenal Women play some really intricate, precise, and beautiful football of the Arsene Wenger vintage:
Playing football The Arsenal way… pic.twitter.com/PyD0Jo0WuB— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) August 23, 2021
Tobin Heath certainly fits that model. There is some cause for concern that Heath doesn’t fill a position of need, as she is not a defensive or holding midfielder. But she is two-footed and versatile enough to play on the wing or middle of the pitch. Add to that the star-power she’ll bring to North London (Arsenal’s official announcement on their website already had a link to her #77 jersey) and the eyeballs she’ll bring from America, and it’s easy to see why Arsenal would pull the trigger on this deal. For an extra measure of good feelings, Heath has been an Arsenal fan since she was a kid, so she’ll be living a dream pulling on the red and white shirt:
This signing is the third connection between Arsenal and Carolina. Heath joins former Tar Heel Lotte Wubben-Moy, a defender currently on the team. Former UNC and USWNT star Heather O’Reilly featured for the Gunners during the 2017-18 season and is currently back in Chapel Hill as an assistant coach on the women’s soccer team.
HAO (O’Reilly’s nickname) was excited about the news and tweeted out this morning:
Clearly I’m very excited about this. My buddy, my lil sis of 20 years is now a Gunner. She’s supported Arsenal since she was a kid. And now we can say we’ve traveled the road of PDA/UNC/USWNT/the Arsenal!!!!! So proud of you. The yin to my yang. Leggo @TobinHeath @ArsenalWFC https://t.co/1ynVD6kAJr— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) September 3, 2021
The Short Fuse (SB Nation’s Arsenal site) has some great coverage of Tobin Heath’s signing and how she’ll fit into the Arsenal squad, so make sure you check them out for continuing coverage. This signing is proof positive that TarHeelGooners are a real thing! Claudia Dickey and Brianna Pinto, I’m talking to you!