England Women

Arnold Clark Cup: 6 things we learned about England after tournament triumph

Ali Rampling
England were crowned Arnold Clark Cup champions
England were crowned Arnold Clark Cup champions / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Cancel the Euros, because we’ve got something better.

The hopes, dreams and prayers of the English people were answered on Wednesday evening, as the Lionesses lifted the prestigious Arnold Clark Cup trophy aloft at Molineux after victory over Germany.

The round-robin friendly tournament offered an exciting taste of what to expect at the European Championships this summer, with three tightly contested match days featuring three of the top sides in Europe (plus a thoroughly impressive Canada). 

So, what did we learn about the Lionesses?

1. Lauren Hemp is pivotal to England's chances of success

Lauren Hemp, Nicole Anyomi
Hemp was exceptional against Germany / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

Lauren Hemp is England’s most dangerous player and she’s only 21. The Manchester City star was an absolute livewire in the opening two matches, often right at the heart of the Lionesses’ most promising attacking moves.

Like a trusty Arnold Clark car, Hemp went up a gear against Germany. The Germans doubled, tripled, and then quadrupled up on the left winger and, unfazed, she just slalomed through them all. So fearless, so exciting, so talented, the Molineux crowd roared with anticipation whenever she was on the ball.

Sarina Wiegman must continue to do everything in her power to get the best out of Hemp at the Euros; start her every match, get the ball to her feet at every opportunity, pack up St George’s Park and move it Norwich. Whatever it takes.

2. Keira Walsh is thriving under Sarina Wiegman

Keira Walsh
Walsh was one of the stand out performers at the Arnold Clark Cup / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

Keira Walsh was one of England’s standout performers at the Arnold Clark Cup. The 24-year-old is often deployed as a single sitting midfielder, but Wiegman opted to play with two midfield pivots against Canada and Germany in the shape of Walsh and Leah Williamson. The presence of Williamson - who continues to impress in a midfield role - relieves some of the defensive pressure on Walsh, enabling her exquisite passing range to shine through.

The Manchester City midfielder turned in two of her best performances in an England shirt, with her composure in tight spaces and sublime vision really catching the eye.

Was this a result of Wiegman’s shrewd tactical switch or was it simply the magic of the Arnold Clark Cup?

3. Millie Bright for the Ballon d’Or

Millie Bright, Alexia Putellas
Millie Bright poses for a photo with a fan / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Sarina Wiegman called on England to be more ruthless in front of goal, and Millie Bright said...'I hear you Sarina, loud and clear'.

The Chelsea defender netted twice during the tournament, the first a thunderous volley against Canada, and the second a poacher’s finish after being thrown up front against Germany.

As a result, a combative centre-back from Chesterfield shared the golden boot with Barcelona’s Ballon d’Or winning midfielder Alexia Putellas. 

Classic Arnold Clark Cup.

4. Do England need another forward option?

Ebony Salmon
Could Ebony Salmon make the England squad / Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos/GettyImages

No offence intended, Millie Bright.

Prior to Wednesday's victory over Germany, England had managed just one goal in two matches. With Beth England - who has seen limited minutes for Chelsea this season - ruled out of the tournament through injury, England named just two strikers in their Arnold Clark Cup squad (not including Bright).

Ellen White has not had her most prolific season domestically, but the forward has made a recent habit of stepping up on the big stages for England.

Alessia Russo has enjoyed an excellent season for Manchester United, but was quiet in her one start of the tournament, albeit against a very strong Canada backline.

The Ebony Salmon option instantly springs to mind, with the forward's electric pace and cool finishing potentially offering the Lionesses another dimension.

5. Will Steph Houghton win her place back?

Steph Houghton
Can Steph Houghton break up the centre back pairing of Greenwood and Bright? / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Steph Houghton is yet to feature for the Lionesses under Wiegman, with injury keeping the Manchester City captain out of the first three squads of her tenure. She has since suffered another injury setback, and is set for more time on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on her achilles.

One area that England have already come on leaps and bounds under Wiegman is defensively, with the erratic errors that were so often their down fall under previous regimes yet to creep in. The Lionesses look tighter at the back, and the centre back pairing of Alex Greenwood and Millie Bright has worked a treat. The pair compliment each other well, with Bright’s more combative style balanced nicely by Greenwood’s phenomenal distribution. 

Jess Carter also impressed at centre-back against Spain as she continues her excellent season for club and country. Can a fully-fit Houghton force herself back into the reckoning?

6. Home crowds will be strong at Euro 2022 - will other matches attract the attendances they deserve?

England games attracted strong crowds, but the other fixtures did not / ADRIAN DENNIS/GettyImages

England supporters turned out in strong numbers for Lionesses fixtures. There were 13,000 at Molineux and 14,000 at Carrow Road, making for a great atmosphere at each of those games.

However, attendances for matches not involving England barely breached three figures. There were other variables at play; Spain versus Germany and Canada against Spain were both played at lunch time on a weekday, while Canada versus Germany kicked off at 8:15pm on the final Sunday of half term in torrential Norfolk rain.

"Speaking openly and honestly I thought there would be more fans," said Canada boss Bev Priestman. "But I do think when the big tournament comes this summer, people are going to come out and do their best to support."