Arsenal’s elite girls thrive after being put on an equal footing with the boys

Club make player quality paramount regardless of gender and top girls respond by more than holding their own with the boys

As fog blankets the pitch on a Monday evening training session a group of Under-12 academy footballers strive to generate sharp passes, quick feet, clever movement. Everybody looks the part. This particular everybody, though, is not your standard issue elite group because in among the boys are Maddy and Laila, the two exceptional prospects from the Arsenal girls’ team who have been parachuted in to join a weekly session with the club’s boys.

Marcel Lucassen stands by the side of the pitch and watches. The Dutchman carries himself with the air of a man who can gladly talk in microscopic detail about football for 24 hours a day. He has been brought into the academy as the head of coach and player development, to oversee the culture of coaching from the five-year-olds all the way to Under-23s, bringing a bigger-picture vision to it all as he did for the German football federation for several years.

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