Arsenal Ladies' Biggest Fear Comes to Life: Three Key Players Head for the Exit

Mary O'SheaSenior Writer IFebruary 10, 2009

The signs were there in December, when several American clubs went in search of Europe's finest, before the start of the new professional women's league.

At the time, manager Vic Akers (pictured) stated his fear that several of Arsenal's top players would head to America as the opportunity to play professionally would be too much to turn down.

And lo and behold he was correct.

As reported earlier, Karen Carney has already agreed to join the Chicago Red Stars.

However, in the last week Arsenal has suffered a double blow with the announcement that both Alex Scott and, more worryingly, Kelly Smith are leaving for America.

Both have agreed to sign for the Boston Breakers.

24-year-old Scott has been with Arsenal since she was eight although she did spend two years with Birmingham between 2003-2005.

She has made 172 appearances for the club, scoring 20 times. The defender was a key player for Arsenal and scored the winner against Umea IK in the Women's UEFA Cup final in 2007.

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Scott is also an England regular, having so far earned 43 international caps scoring eight goals for the Lions. She has played in all four of England's games in last year's World Cup in China.

However, more devastating for Arsenal is the departure of Kelly Smith.  She is widely regarded as one of the best players in the game, which was illustrated in her recently being voted the fifth best player in the world.

The 30-year-old has signed a four year deal with the Breakers in a move she claims will prolong her career.

"A four-year contract adds longevity to my career," said Smith.

"It's been great playing for Arsenal, they've been really good to me and it's a wrench to leave. But they've got more than enough quality to still be the best team in the country."

With her reputation as one of the best, Smith can expect large wages in the WPS, something that Arsenal could never offer.

"I couldn't earn anywhere near to what I'll be getting in the WPS if I stay in this country" added Smith. "But it's not just about money."

"It's about playing with and against the best players in the world, training every day and everything else that goes with being a professional footballer."

This trend is not only worrying, for Arsenal but the English league in general. Chelsea too have lost Anita Asante and Eni Aluko to America. Asante has signed for the New York/New Jersey team Sky Blue, while Aluko will ply her trade with St Louis Athletica.

It is hard to form an argument as to why the players should remain in England, where they play in front of low attendances and have to hold down jobs as well as train and play matches.

Women's football is a bigger business in America than what it is in Britain and whilst previous attempts to start a professional league failed, the WPS say they have learnt from their mistakes and this time it will be successful.

Whether it will or not remains to be seen.

As for Arsenal, they still have the required strength in depth to maintain their challenge for the triple and hopefully strides can be made to keep the talent at Boreham Wood.