SPORT IN FOCUS

ONE SEASON, SIX TROPHIES

According to available records, there are three teams who have won six trophies in a single Association Football season. One is the Maltese side Valletta, who completed the feat in the 2000-01 season; another is the Northern Irish side Linfield, who have won seven trophies on two occasions; and the third is Arsenal Ladies, now known as Arsenal WFC. This piece looks at the 2006-07 Arsenal Ladies’ unbeaten season and their journey to six titles.

Entering the season, Arsenal Ladies were defending three consecutive league titles and under team legend Vic Akers, the team had become a tour de force. Up front was the tandem of Kelly Smith and Lianne Sanderson, who had finished first and second in scoring the season prior, whilst the defense included fan favourite Alex Scott, defensive stalwart Ciara Grant and goalkeeper Emma Byrne. The defense had conceded forty-four goals across the entirety of the last three seasons, a period that saw only a single league loss for the team. The team had also added a young, exciting star in midfielder Karen Carney who joined from Birmingham, where she had earned two FA Young Player of the Year awards. Overall, this was a team with no major weaknesses, and they were truly the team to beat.

The season started in July, with the team undertaking a two-game tour of Germany, where Arsenal won both matches, outscoring SC 07 Bad Neuenahr and SC Sand, 7-1. These matches were followed by the team’s first trophy of the season on August 2nd as they contested the Women’s Community Shield against Everton where they beat the Liverpudlian side 3-0 with goals from Kelly Smith, Karen Carney, and fellow new signing Katie Chapman. Eighteen days later, they began their league campaign at newly promoted Blackburn. Smith scored twice in an easy 3-0 victory for the Gunners, followed by a 14-0 rout of Fulham in Arsenal’s home opener. Across their first five games of the season, Arsenal outscored their opponents 36-1. During this time, they also began their UEFA Cup campaign, handily winning their qualifying group before dominating Icelandic side Breiðablik 9-1 in a mid-October, two-leg Quarter-final. As they continued their winning ways, they suffered their first non-win of the season which came in the form of a 2-2 draw with Brøndby in the first leg of their UEFA Cup Semi-final, however they rallied to win the second leg (3-0) and earned their first berth to the UEFA Cup Final. The year ended with a 4-0 win against Blackburn. Between July and December, Arsenal had gone 20-1-0 across all competitions, scoring ninety-nine goals and conceding only nine with almost half of the conceded goals coming from a single match, a 5-4 win against WFC Rossiyanka in UEFA Cup qualifying.

2007 began with a 4-1 victory over Stockport in the Fourth Round of the Women’s FA Cup, following a 1-0 league victory against Birmingham four days later. Arsenal proceeded to score thirty-nine goals in their next five matches which, for reference, is more than Brighton, Cardiff, Fulham and Huddersfield each managed to score across the entirety of the 2018-19 Premier League season. Arsenal would suffer only one more non-win across the entire season, which came in the second leg of the UEFA Cup Final against the Swedish side Umeå following a goalless draw, but still, they would lift the trophy thanks to a 1-0 victory in the first leg. They beat Leeds 1-0 to win the League Cup, and secured the League title on April 24th following a 5-1 win against rivals Chelsea, and beat Charlton 4-1 in early-May to take home the FA Cup. During the season they also won the London Women’s Cup.

The final game of the season came at home against Leeds on May 20th, which Arsenal won 6-0. Arsenal’s season record across all competitions was 40-2-0 - they scored over 200 goals whilst conceding only 21. In the league, they went 22-0-0 with 119 goals scored and ten allowed, making for a goal difference of 109 - the best goal difference in Premier League history is 79 (Manchester City, 2017-18). Lianne Sanderson (29) and Kelly Smith (19) once again led the league in scoring, with Lianne being the top scorer for the club with 40 goals. As previously mentioned, their six titles (League, League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Cup, London Women’s Cup, Community Shield) is a feat only three other teams have managed. Arsenal won another five consecutive titles, the streak ending with a third-place finish in the 2012-13 season. Today, the club remains one of the best in English women’s football, boasting talent like Kim Little, Daniëlle van de Donk, and Vivianne Miedema.

Vic Akers managed the team until 2009 and is currently the team’s Honorary President and assistant manager at National League side Boreham Wood. Lianne Sanderson made fifty appearances for England and is still active, most recently having played for Juventus in the 2018-19 season. Kelly Smith retired in 2017 after a second five-year stint at Arsenal following time in the US. Alex Scott retired in 2018 following her third spell at Arsenal. Emma Byrne played for Arsenal until 2016 and joined Brighton for a season before announcing her retirement in 2017 aged 28. However, she currently plays for the Spanish side Terrassa FC after announcing she was coming out of retirement in August 2019. Karen Carney left Arsenal in 2008 and played for the Chicago Red Stars, Birmingham City, and Chelsea until her retirement in 2019. Her final international match was England’s 2-1 loss to Sweden in the third-place match of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.  She retired as England’s all-time most capped women’s player.

The story of the 2006-07 Arsenal Ladies’ season is one of pure dominance, showing off the very best of English women’s football at the time. It is a feat that is unlikely to ever be repeated and will go down in history as a truly spectacular moment in the sport. Ensure you never miss a Football match with the Fixture Calendar.

Benjamin Mock, January 2020

Photos by Arsenal, UEFA

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