Transfer dealings between two rivals are a rare occurrence in football, especially in the Premier League. And this is with good reason.
After all, why would a team want to sell to another and strengthen their squad? Furthermore, the fans of the receiving team would also not readily accept a player that played ‘for the other side’.
Like any other rivalry, the same rule applies to the one in North London.
Very few have crossed the divide between Arsenal and Tottenham. Emmanuel Adebayor comes to mind when we talk about this subject. A figure so eccentric, he managed to piss off both sets of supporters while also playing for both teams.
Now, another player has crossed the same bridge, though this time, it is for the other gender.
Mana Iwabuchi, the Japanese international forward, has completed a shock transfer from Arsenal to Tottenham Hotspur.
The move comes as a surprise to many, as Iwabuchi had only joined Arsenal a year ago and had established herself as a key presence in the locker room.
The 29-year-old made a strong impression in her debut season with Arsenal, scoring 15 goals in all competitions and earning a place in the PFA Women’s Super League Team of the Year.
Her performances also earned her a spot in the Japan national team for the Olympic Games, where she helped her country win a bronze medal.
Despite these successes, Iwabuchi has made the controversial decision of switching to the other side of North London. How did she go from a fan favourite to a rival player so quickly? Let’s break it down.
The Japanese has only played 121 minutes for Jonas Eidevall this season and has been an unused sub on multiple occasions, which is not a good sign, given Eidevall’s extensive list of player injuries this season.
Iwabuchi was a regular starter under the previous manager and was a consistently decent performer.
This drastic loss of play time for her under the new manager could be boiled down to differences in play style and philosophy. We aren’t the only ones who feel this way, Gooners do too.
The point made here about Arsenal already having replacements stands true. In the recent injury-struck era, Maanum, Walti and Kim Little are the most consistent starters in the midfield for Arsenal.
Due to Kim’s injury, the rotation for the third spot includes players like Miedema (striker), and Leah Williamson (defender), both of whom would ideally start for the club in different positions, but play well in the midfield as well.
In their spots, they are replaced by backups like Blackstenius and Wubben-Moy who are more than capable of putting up good performances. With such versatility and depth in other positions, this leaves no space for Iwabuchi, even during these lean times.
Additionally, the Gunners presently have just three spots left for overseas players in their squad. According to Women’s Super League restrictions, clubs can have up to 25 players on their roster, but at least eight must be homegrown.
Arsenal has a first-team roster of 21 players, including 7 homegrown players, so they can now only bring in three foreign players until one leaves the club. Iwabuchi’s exit is probably to create room for a fourth foreign player.
One important point to note in this saga is that Spurs and Arsenal are not exactly as strong a rivalry in Women’s Football as it is in Men’s football due to the gap in the team’s qualities.
Of course, the history will always be there, but the situation is less grave here than it would be for men’s football, where we could see, for a direct example, Tomiyasu leave for Spurs. Here, Iwabuchi would surely improve Spurs’ quality, but it would still not be close to that of Arsenal.
One would expect that a fan-favourite leaving the club for a direct rival would start a riot, but owing to the constraints of the situation, all parties seem to be somewhat understanding of why the transfer was done.
Tottenham got a good player, Iwabuchi will get her desperately needed playtime, and Arsenal opened up an international spot. One question that bugs fans though is – Why only Spurs?
At the end of the day, this is just a loan move. She won’t play against Arsenal, and would still get to live in the same city and avoid the hassle of moving. Plus, with a whole written apology to Arsenal fans explaining this situation, who could possibly be mad?
Tottenham currently sits 8th in the WSL, having won only 3 in 10 games. With Tottenham playing a system with 5 players in the midfield, there is more than enough room for Mana to make a difference.
This a rare example of a deal that makes everyone happy.
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