There’s a buzz about the Gunners’ new Brazilian defender who won rave reviews for her moves during an impressive debut against Manchester City last month. Here’s what she will bring to the title chasers…Embed from Getty Images
When Rafaelle Souza signed on a free transfer from Chinese top-flight club Changchun Zhuoyue last month, she became the first Brazilian to play for the women’s team but she joined 15 Samba stars who’ve turned out in the Gunners jersey. Fans are hoping the South American flair of compatriots Gabriel Martinelli and his namesake Gabriel can boost the men’s team in their bid to finish in the top four in the Premier League and qualify for next season’s Champions League. They look likely to do so with many supporters backing them with oddschecker’s free bets due to them being listed as one of the favourites on the site. Arsenal Women, on the other hand, are flying high at the top of the WSL and fighting to reclaim the title from closest rivals Chelsea. Fans will be hoping Souza continues her good form as they look to extend their lead in the early kick-off against third-placed Manchester United tomorrow.
Souza’s career has taken her from her native Brazil to the USA and china, so she brings a wealth of experience to Arsenal. The Gunners have relied on stalwarts to lead their squad in recent years, with the likes of Jordan Nobbs, Jen Beattie and captain Kim Little setting the example for the younger players to follow. Seasoned performer Souza, 30, is expected to form a solid partnership with Leah Williamson at the back and take on a leadership role on and off the pitch, especially if Scotland star Beattie leaves at the end of the season.
Souza also has 33 caps for Brazil — including appearances at the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics — which means she’s no stranger to handling the big-game pressure they’ll face in the heat of a title race, with Chelsea just four points behind in second place. It’s these attributes that attracted Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall, who said at her unveiling: “Her international experience, technical ability and leadership qualities make her an important signing for us.”Embed from Getty Images
Eidevall has also highlighted Souza’s technical ability, which will be an important asset for a team that plays possession-based football. The pacy and skilful Brazilian likes to get forward and contribute to the build-up play, so expect her to chip in with assists. She is highly adept on the ball and being left-footed means she will be able to open up different passing lanes from the back.
Souza’s skilled in both short and long passes meaning she’ll be able to bring some variation to the manager’s tactics. While it might be her first taste of British football, she slotted in seamlessly when she came on at half-time in the 1-1 draw with City before fans were left mesmerised by the marauding central defender on her first start in the 2-1 win over Brighton and they’re hungry to see more…
One of Rafaelle’s greatest qualities is her versatility, having not only also featured regularly at left-back and in midfield throughout her career but even enjoying the occasional stint up front in China. This adaptability and willingness to feature wherever the manager wants should serve her well at Arsenal. It speaks to a fantastic attitude and work ethic. With injuries and suspensions threatening to disrupt the team’s run-in, having versatile players who give you options is vital. While Souza may have taken the long route to the UK, Arsenal look to have unearthed a hidden gem who could give them the edge in the battle to be crowned WSL champions.