Ahead of tonight’s WSL opener against Arsenal, Holly Wright heard from Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Hope Powell at her media conference for us.
Above: Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Hope Powell speaking to the media. Photo: Brighton and Hove Albion Women.
A week later than anticipated and the start of the WSL is here beginning with Brighton and Hove Albion’s trip to Meadow Park to face last season’s runner-up Arsenal.
Albion boss Hope Powell expressed her opinion that the extra weekend off actually did her and her team a favour. “Very sad news for the Royal Family but we’ve just been getting on with it really. It hasn’t affected our training and preparation in any way apart from the game last week, obviously being called off, which in hindsight, actually did us a favour because a lot of international players just got back, and it would have meant a day’s prep for a really tough game so in the end its kind of all worked out well for us. It gave us more time to work on the Arsenal fixture.”
Having played the Gunners three times last season, losing out on all occasions Brighton will no doubt start the game as the underdogs, but Powell expresses that her side are definitely not going to make it easy for them under the Friday night floodlights and what is expected to be in front of a sell-out crowd.
“It’s a sell-out I believe, which would be good for the women’s game and good for us as a club. I think the expectation would be for Arsenal to win the game. We are under no illusions there, but we are not going to give it to them. We are going to make it very difficult, and the plan is to try and get something out of the game as we do every game so a Friday night under the lights suits me perfectly and at least I get a day off on Saturday which is rare.
Powell has had a busy summer transfer market and it is clear to see that one aspect she is focussing on improving in Brighton’s game this campaign is their creativity in front of goal. The Brighton head coach was quick to highlight Elisabeth Terland as one of their standout signings and what additions she will bring to the squad.
“I think Elisabeth, is a good goal scorer. I think she can play up front or she can play slightly deeper if need be. Then you’ve got someone like Vea Sarri, who is an out-and-out ball dribbler, a ball carrier. I think it just gives us different options, to be honest with different personnel who offer different skill sets and we hope that will sort of bear us going forward. The reason we brought them in was to try and add some value to it and hopefully during the course of the season, we get to see that.”
She added how satisfied she was with their business over the closed season with the possibility of more to come over the campaign. “I am really pleased with the work that’s been done. We are probably a little bit light on players. We perhaps wanted a couple more in but for various reasons couldn’t get it over the line. We control what we can control, which is now, and then if and when the window opens again, we’ll be looking again.”
Numerous signings are new to the league or new to the English way of football with Powell emphasising how important pre-season was for them to integrate into the squad and them to know each other not just on the pitch but off it as well. “For some of them, the league is new. The summer has been quite long given the Euros, so they are ready to play in games now and excited by the prospect. They have blended quite well.
“The preseason tour away was really good. It gave us an opportunity to focus on team building. They are with each other all day every day and I think they have started to get to know each other as people, which is really important. For me it’s more important that they get to know each other as players on the pitch and this preseason has been focusing on that. Playing together, understanding the nuances of each player, and credit to them they are getting on with it. It feels like they have been here for a considerable amount of time, which is really, nice.”
After the success of the Lionesses in the Euros, the focus returns back to club football where there is a huge attraction from overseas for players to come and play in the most physically demanding league in women’s football. Being involved at the highest level for numerous years Powell explained just how different the WSL is from European Leagues and how individuals have benefitted from the appealing style of football seen week in week out.
“I think if you speak to the new players that are experienced from last season, and you ask them what the differences are, they say it’s quicker, it’s faster, it’s a lot more physical. They have had to adapt, and they have done that very quickly. Your speed of thought has to be quicker. Your pace of play has to be quicker. Physically, you need to be stronger, and they have grown into it. Playing week in week out is giving them the ability to adapt and improve. The strength of the league compared to others is definitely a lot more demanding, than some in Europe.
Going into this evening’s game, the Brighton head coach hasn’t got the advantage of a full squad to pick from for reasons not shared, but is raring to get going and kick off the 2022/23 WSL campaign with a bang.
Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall’s media conference ahead of the match was attended by Impetus’ Johnathan Stack and can be read here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/09/15/arsenal-ready-and-gunning-for-glory/
Arsenal vs Brighton and Hove Albion kicks off at 7.30pm with the match being broadcast live on FA Player.