Ahead of their Champions League clash with reigning champions Olympique Lyonnais, head coach Jonas Eidevall and Steph Catley spoke to the media about the challenge posed by the French side, and covering unfamiliar defensive positions. Johnathan Stack reports for Impetus (15/12/22).
Above: Action from Olympique Lyonnais’ home clash game with Arsenal when the two sides met earlier this season. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.
Arsenal have the chance to complete a historic double over the defending European champions Olympique Lyonnais this evening. With a win, the Gunners would be confirmed as Group C winners and advance to the knockout stages in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
When the two sides met earlier in the group stage at Lyon’s Groupama Stadium, Arsenal ran out 5-1 winners in a very impressive statement-making performance.
Ahead of the game head coach Jonas Eidevall reflected on that game saying: “It was a combination of a very good performance, but we also scored at very good times in the game, so we had that combination of good times and good performance.
“Everything aligned that night and of course, it’s beautiful to be a part of, but we can’t hold onto that forever, so it’s a new performance tomorrow and we need to be ready for that.”
Olympique Lyonnais go into the game on the back of a defeat to perennial domestic rivals Paris St. Germain, but the Arsenal head coach does not believe the eight-time European champions need any further motivation:”If you’re been playing in the Champions League, it’s the most prestigious and greatest tournament that you have in women’s club football, so if you need more motivation to play that, then I don’t know what to say. “I think every team is always going to be 100% in this competition.”
Catley on the challenges of playing centre-back
Also speaking to the media ahead of tonight’s showdown was Arsenal’s Australian international Steph Catley. The Matilda is only one of five Arsenal outfield players to play every minute of the last six games. Normally a left-back, the Melbourne-born star has been drafted in to play centre-back following injuries to Leah Williamson and Rafaelle.
Catley reflected on that period saying: “It was less physically demanding for me than playing at full-back. But mentally, it was really tough.
“When you are at centre-half, that’s half the battle, organising, constantly thinking, and when you play at the top level, there is so much going on that it’s mentally pretty tiring.
“But physically, in my body, by the time I came back to left-back, I felt physically good, like I was ready to step it up again and get back into that full-back position.
“We have had injuries to big, big players at the back and we have had to reshuffle, even as those players slowly come back and build their minutes, Lotte (Wubben-Moy) will play at right and left centre-back, Jen (Beattie) will come in, Rafa will play minutes here and there.
“It’s a lot of changes going on, it says a lot about our players and team that whoever comes in our back line stays really strong as a unit.”
Catley says she sought advice from some of her centre-half colleagues in the squad, such as Lotte Wubben-Moy, who she played next to during that period, and Jen Beattie.
“I had a few conversations with Jen, most of my conversations with ‘Lots’ were during training, or on the field, that’s where you learn the most positionally.
“I am 28 and when I play left-back it feels like muscle memory and I don’t even have to think, it all just happens naturally. Moving to centre-back, I realised how much I had to learn having not played there for so long.
“I was just having these conversations in training, trying to get the most I could out of it. Manu Zinsberger was great, Leah in the dressing room sometimes at half-time would give me a few tips to help.”
Arsenal has two Champions League games left before they can enjoy a winter break, after their Champions League match in Zurich on 21 December, they don’t play again until the WSL game against at the Emirates on 15 January.
Arsenal’s game against Lyon kicks off at 8pm