Ahead of tomorrow’s huge WSL showdown between Arsenal and Chelsea, Impetus’ Kris Goman dialled into Gunners boss Jonas Eidevall media conference. In wide-ranging discussions, Kris reports on tragic news impacting Beth Mead, Jordan Nobbs’ departure, new signings, the importance of Caitlin Foord, and the match itself (14/1/23).
Above: Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall. Photo: KNews Media.
There was a lot to unpack in the Arsenal press conference in the lead-up to Sunday’s huge top-of-the-table London derby against Chelsea match at Emirates Stadium.
The tragic news that Beth Mead’s mother had passed away was shared. Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall passed on his condolences and said it was taking a lot of energy for the team to have a teammate that goes through that. He said the players have asked to play with black armbands to honour Beth, her mother, and their family.
There’s been a lot of changes during the winter break. But he still thinks that togetherness is the foundation of the team and how they achieve. “When you feel togetherness, you feel safety. And you feel that somebody will have your back. When you create that togetherness, you will have teams that play without fear, that are brave, that are front-footed, that wants to seize opportunities, that plays to win rather than not to lose. And that’s the transformation I want to see this team going through.”
He also mentioned the togetherness of the club. For example, when they were playing Lyon, their pitch was snowed in and the club arranged access to Emirates to train. And for this game, they’ve also been able to train at Emirates last week. “With new players, this has been really important, as they’ve never played at Emirates, so experiencing it before, means they are better prepared for the match. They are small things but all these things together mean we build together.”
The Gunners boss expressed excitement at the fact that it’s the third game in a row with ticket sales of over 40,000 at the club’s major stadium. He was hoping there might be a new record here against Chelsea as well. So he’s now looking at how they play with the crowd. “How do we find ways of using the crowd to energize the state of the game and make it as difficult as possible for the opposing team coming here to play at Emirates?”
The Swede was quizzed on how significant this game is for the season. His answer highlighted the fact that wins over your closest rivals do not always guarantee titles. “Last year, we played Chelsea twice and took four points off them. They took one point off us. We didn’t win the trophy. So it shows you can be better in the head-to-head but still not win. Of course, it helps. We want to win. So the answer is, every game is important if you want to win the League.”
Eidevall spoke of the loss of Vivianne Miedema and Mead, reflecting that whilst the pair leave a major hole, “It’s also an opportunity for other players to step in and an opportunity for us to develop and grow as a team. And it might be an opportunity in the transfer market to bring in replacements as well.”
Over the winter break, Eidevall has signed Canadian Sabrina D’Angelo as a new keeper, Netherlands midfielder Victoria Pelova, Danish midfielder Kathrine Kuhl and recalled Brazilian forward Gio Quiroz but there’s still a gap in the forwards, particularly for a dedicated striker.
Furthermore, it was proposed that he’s bringing a lot of young, creative talent in with the recent signings. There was a question as to whether bringing the age profile down was intentional or coincidental.
Eidevall replied that, “in terms of progressing the team long-term, he wasn’t in a position to buy the best in the market from a global perspective – 26, 27, 28 years olds…we have to be smarter with that and take the players earlier, identify them and see that we can grow together with these players. So we take players with the potential – no guarantees – but the potential to be the best when they develop.”
He hinted very strongly that he would be disappointed not to get a “prolific goal scorer” signed during the transfer window in addition to the current signings and said it should be a really important priority. He said all this with a bit of a smirk on his face so one could expect some big news very soon.
The other massive Arsenal news over the break was the surprise departure of club legend, Jordan Nobbs. Eidevall was able to shed a bit of light on this. He acknowledged that the Lionesses star was a very valued team member who played a very important role both on and off the pitch. He said that Nobbs asked to go, “as her playing minutes was not what she liked. And that’s how it is sometimes. But for her, it’s even more significant because it also impacts the probability of being selected for England. So that created the desire for her to go elsewhere.
“We have to look at it from that perspective. We have a player that we value so much but we also have to look at the history and see that she has given us everything for 12 years and she’s now asking us for a favour to be able to go. Of course, I would have liked to keep her but that was our way of showing the respect of the history she has in the club.”
Eidevall confirmed the break was very welcome saying he thought they were exhausted when they got to the break and everyone was looking forward to it so much. The last game was 22nd December and first one back is the 15th January so it was really more like three weeks. He thought it was vital that they had the break.
We spoke about Caitlin Foord stepping up in the absence of Miedema and Mead. “Caitlin Foord is a versatile player. She can play wide forward, she can play the nine, we have used her in different roles. But before we set this squad at the end of the transfer window, we need to ask certain players, and Foord is one of them, to be versatile and be able to cover more than one position and that’s going to be important for us so we can play the right way at the right moments of the games.”
Finally, he was asked how Pelova is fitting into the team and adjusting to England. He said it’s early in the process but she has all the qualities they signed her for. “She’s good on the ball, good balance, good at receiving the ball in small spaces, she’s got good pressing triggers so it all looks very promising. With all the new players, when you move to a different country, into a different culture, into a new team, time is important to build relationships and they all need to do that and invest.