Record-Breaker Nikita Parris Could Revolutionize Arsenal’s 2021-22 Campaign
By Mac Johnson (Senior Writer)
When Arsenal declared the departure of midfield maestro Daniëlle van de Donk, I must admit, I was a bit crushed. Underused by then head coach Joe Montemurro, the Dutch playmaker only earned an average of 60 minutes player per match this season, which seems strange given her importance to Arsenal’s buildup play and her goalscoring knack, not to mention her crucial role in Arsenal's 2018/19 title win.
And so, when six-time women’s UCL winners Olympique Lyon came calling, Van De Donk ended her six year tenure at Arsenal with no small measure of regret, as demonstrated by the emotional letter she wrote to Arsenal fans in conjunction with the news of her departure.
And though Van De Donk might not have left us with a massive hole to fill on paper—fellow Dutch superstar Jill Roord, Aussie technician Caitlin Foord, England's own Jordan Nobbs, and long-serving Scot Kim Little will be able to cover for her absence—it's no small secret that her energy, flexibility, and leadership will all be sorely missed.
Not to mention, pulling the aforementioned Roord and Foord off the front lines to play in the midfield does leave a gaping hole at right wing, and Arsenal have chosen to fill that hole with a bona fide superstar in Nikita Parris.
Parris has spent her last two seasons at Lyon, who she joined from Manchester City on the back of a 2018-19 campaign where she broke the record for all-time WSL goals scored, a record since surpassed by our own Vivianne Miedema.
FBREF only started collecting advanced statistical data for the WSL in that season, and Parris collected herself a stunning 19 goals and seven assists across 18 starts from 19 matches played, chalking up 16.6 xG and 3.9 xA in the process. In her two subsequent seasons in France, she's earned herself another 21 goals and 2 assists in the league. A team-high 13 of those goals came this season.
She's already won every domestic title possible with Manchester City, and became an England regular at 24. Now 27, Parris is truly heading into the prime of her career. Her speed, guile, and ability on the ball have all caught the eye across her career, but she augments her talents in the final third with a precise eye for a key pass, and excellent work in buildup play.
In her best season for Manchester City, she carried the ball 34.1 times per match, for an average of 170 yards, including 1.98 successful dribbles and 5.25 progressions into the final third per 90 minutes. Her passing numbers are just as outstanding.
Those statistics place her in an amongst the production of current WSL wingers Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, and most of the US Women's National Team. If she can replicate those numbers at Arsenal, or even approach them, she'll be on for a barnstorming season.
"I’m very happy to be here in north London playing for Arsenal. It’s a great team with an unbelievable history. Hopefully, we can make more successful years to come."
Parris has the profile of an elite goalscoring winger, but it is her leadership that really seals the package for Arsenal. She nearly singlehandedly carried the English attack at the most recent Women's World Cup, and was, alongside youngster Catarina Macario, the bright spark in a Lyon side experiencing a serious downturn in form this past season.
In terms of augmenting this Arsenal side, she brings panache, flair, and a cool head to proceedings, and will take the goalscoring onus off of Miedema's shoulders, which will likely in turn give the Dutchwoman more space to thrive. Her creativity in the buildup will also serve to glue this team back together, just as Van De Donk's absence might have begun to peel it apart at the seams.
I'm beyond excited to see Parris back in England, and to see her thrive once again with a chance at winning a WSL title, but the biggest question surrounding her return to home soil is what she has to prove. She's won every English and French title available, not to mention the Champions League. And it's not as if playing for Arsenal gives her a better shot at featuring for England; she's already a lock for the squad, and likely a starting berth.
I think the most important thing was making sure that I chose the best club and the best place for me to really push on my career. Here at Arsenal, after talking with Clare [Wheatley] and the staff, it became apparent that it was here. Hopefully, we can make more success here at Arsenal.
I believe Parris wants to really start a revolution in her career. There's a certain joy for playing for the best teams, all the time, but to truly forge yourself a name as a superstar, more than that is often required. Arsenal are a team with the ability to truly build a squad around Parris and Miedema, not to mention the rest of their rasher of world class talent.
Finding the "right club" is always the most subjective part of any player's transfer, and in the case of Parris, she openly admits she's already won everything. Now she's playing for herself, and that is a dangerous prospect indeed. Nikita Parris, welcome to the Arsenal.