Every word from Jonas’ pre-Brighton presser

Jonas Eidevall held his pre-match press conference ahead of our opening WSL match against Brighton on Friday.

The boss fielded questions from the media on a variety of topics, including squad depth, how our summer champions will tackle this season, and what the WSL needs to do to continuously grow.

Here’s everything he had to say:

on whether Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord are ready to play on Friday…

Yes.  

on whether we signed all of our targets over the summer… 

I’m going to be very honest with this one here. Ideally, I would have liked one more player, but it’s always like this when you do transfers. There are so many reasons why things can’t go through, and our preference then was if we couldn’t find the perfect fit in this window, then we’d rather do it in the next window, but it’s not more than one player.

I think when you see the list of players in and out for ourselves, it’s very skewed compared to other clubs because if you remember last January, we brought in many players and didn’t release any players because of the Asia Cup at the time. That meant that we carried a very big squad during the spring season, which was a couple of players too large to accommodate for the number of games that we had. It was natural that there were going to be more players out than in and it was more important to keep the key players for us so that we can keep building consistency and culture with them. But yes, one more player in and that has to be in January.

on who can play as a No 6 other than Lia Walti…

Which Lia/Leah? Exactly! Obviously, from what I’ve seen of England, Leah Williamson can also play here. Kim Little can definitely play there and I think if Frida Maanum just improves her defensive game, she will too. That’s just some small adjustments that she needs to do in her positioning and decision-making because she has all the tools in order to be able to do that as well. I’m confident that we have a lot of different alternatives. We’ve got different tools depending on what game we’re playing and which opponents we’re playing against.

on his thoughts on Brighton…

I’ve been very impressed by Brighton during the pre-season because I also saw that they had a huge turnover. I’ve seen them play against Bayern Munich, I’ve seen them play against us, I’ve seen them play against Manchester City and they looked like a good team in those games. I think that some of the players they have got in over this window are of a really high quality, so we are expecting and preparing for a competitive game here on Friday.

on where he would like his team to improve this year…

Yeah, I would say two things. One is from a tactical perspective, it’s to deal better with man-marking systems, as I spoke about at the end of last season as well. The second one is mental. To see – even if we have events in the games that go against us, like conceding a goal or a referee decision – that we do not let that affect us. If we want to build and grow a winning team, we need to give everything on the pitch for every second in all situations, and that’s what we need to do in all games this year.

on what our summer champions can bring to the team this season…

With mental strength, it starts with believing because if you concede a goal, you will have different emotions going through your body and you can let those emotions take over and influence your actions. You can give up or think it’s going to be one of those days where we’re going to concede another goal. Or you can remember and say ‘now, wait a minute’.

For example, the English players who went 1-0 down against Spain at Brighton, they have the memory now that says, ‘no, it doesn’t have to be that way’. It can be one of those days as well where we score in the 80th minute and then we get an overtime goal, so of course, I think positive experiences help a lot in order to deal with adverse situations.

Once you have seen that they work, why wouldn’t you choose to always believe in that scenario instead of the other? That’s what I want us to do, to believe in the positive outcome every time. Is this is going to happen every time? I don’t know, but I will believe it will. 

on whether having players like Stina Blackstenius and Rafaelle Souza for a full pre-season will improve the squad…

Definitely. I think we missed Rafaelle as she missed all our final games last season because of injury, like the semi-final in the FA cup, the quarter-finals in the Champions League, all of the last games in the WSL. So that also is a player coming back from injury that I’m really grateful for.

Another one is Jordan Nobbs, who also went off with a knee injury against Aston Villa and we weren’t quite sure how severe that was. But it’s also very pleasing for us but she’s back and fully able to compete again. It will always be beneficial to spend more time together as a squad. It’s a luxury in football because like you will see, most squads have lots of turnover and women’s football hasn’t maybe been as used to that. It has more consistent squads from season to season, and now we’re seeing much more change and that puts different demands on it. So it’s really important that you keep your core players together as that can really harness and develop relationships. 

on whether the Euros winners can help the other players in the squad…

It’s important to emphasise in that aspect that we have a lot of players that have been in finals, who have also won things before this summer. I think it’s the shared pool of all those experiences that is really important. And we will have players with fresh memories of success or they will have fresh memories of failure. But every one of us will also have some memories of some really, really huge successes and that’s what you have to keep remembering: to keep believing in those situations. So, of course, we’re trying to use all those experiences from a positive point of view. 

on whether he noticed any new trends at the Euros…

No. I can’t really say from a technical perspective that I was blown away by the Euros from any team. I thought it was great from an entertainment perspective and there was some really, really competitive and good football being played. But were there any ideas that I thought were new or refreshing? No, I didn’t think so.

It has come to the same point in women’s football as in men’s football: the innovative ways to play you see now in the Champions League in women’s football just like you do in men’s football. And that’s natural because clubs spend more time with the players, so you have more time to practice and do things differently. 

on whether our Champions League game with Ajax will affect the starting XI on Friday…

I think they should be able to play every time. I don’t think we’ve got a tough schedule. It’s about four days in between most games. We should have been able to build fitness by now, so we should be able to play with the players we want all the time.

on whether he’s advised Leah and Beth about how to cope with noise and distractions from the media…

Part of the mental strength needed to be an excellent footballer is to concentrate on the pitch and to remember that just because you have won something before or because someone has voted for you for something, that’s great. It’s an achievement, but you’re not entitled to anything for it on the pitch for future games. You still have to do everything from the beginning every time you go on the pitch.

Every day, you have to earn your right to play. You don’t get anything for free in football. And that’s the mindset you have to have no matter how much you have won before or how many awards you’ve got. You have to start on the same page as everyone else.

on the fixture postponements…

In my opinion, you should have all the games from this round of the WSL postponed to the same date, so you don’t create a league table where some teams have played 10 matches and some teams have played 11. You play on different sides of the transfer window and so on. I don’t think anyone will take that into account, but for me, when I look at that to try and make it fair, it’s really important that the competition is fair for all teams and I would do it that way.

on how the WSL is going to respond to the increased interest…

I’m sure that the players will respond in a way that will be excellent because of the quality on the pitch and we see that the sporting product is of high quality. We just need to make sure that we now find stadiums that allow all attendances to come in and watch. I think that will be the problem because we have a very low number of medium-sized stadiums in the country.

You either have smaller stadiums or really big stadiums and our game that didn’t go ahead against Manchester City is a perfect example of that. We’re two good teams with a lot of interest which is going to be a sellout in their academy stadium, so the question is: if so many more people want to watch the game, where do we play that? So we really can have all the people who want to come to the game and make sure they have access to it.

on if he’s seen a difference in Beth Mead since the Euros…

No.

on if she’s bringing the same intensity in training…

She brought the same intensity to the Euros as she had been doing with Arsenal, and she brings the same intensity back to Arsenal again now. You know what’s funny: in football, we always look backwards and we think that history will always be the guarantee for the future, but remember, what did you guys write about Beth Mead last summer? Not much, because then there was someone else who had performed well during the Olympics and you thought ‘that’s going to be the result for next season.’

You never know with people and the future, and that’s why it’s important that no matter how much you have won, it’s about what are you moving forward and what you are doing in the present. That’s where Beth needs to look forward, but every player in Arsenal needs to do that in order to achieve new things, because football is never standing still, so as a club, or a player, or a coach, we can’t stand still.

on how the WSL can maintain the level of interest from the summer…

In the end, it’s about creating a product that means so much to people that you go there and you watch the game even if it’s a snowstorm! You go there and watch even if it’s not convenient because you care so much about the team and you want to be there so much. We try to do our best on the pitch to create that.

Of course, if I speak just about Arsenal, as a whole club, we try to work together with all the departments so we can reach out to all our potential audiences and bring them to the stadium so we can experience that together. That’s not a quick fix just to do one thing, but it’s about creating that connection with people so they want to go and they feel that they have to go because it’s their first priority and then you don’t have to worry about the weather in January when you have created that.

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Every word from Jonas’ pre-Brighton presser

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