Amanda Ilestedt on Ballon d'Or and more

Amanda Ilestedt claps the fans at Meadow Park

Every home game, one of our women's first-team shares their insight into life at Arsenal in our matchday programme.

This time around it's summer arrival Amanda Ilestedt, who shares how she's settling into life in north London.

Hi everyone! It’s lovely to meet you all properly. My first game at Emirates Stadium with that record crowd was such a good feeling so I’d like to thank you for that. I hadn’t ever experienced something like that before so personally, it was special. I have to say that our supporters are fantastic wherever we go and it’s always a thrill to play in front of you. 

It’s only been a few weeks since my very first Ballon d’Or ceremony and what an experience! As it clashed with the October international break, we didn’t know whether I’d be able to attend or not until the last minute. In the end, a small injury meant that I wasn’t available for Sweden’s second Nations League game so it was possible for me to go to the gala after all. It was such a fun night and everyone has been so kind with their support.

I actually found out that I’d been nominated when we were out in Linkoping for the Champions League qualifiers. After our team meeting, Jonas asked me to stay behind for a chat and that’s when he told me that I was up for the Ballon d'Or. It was especially lovely that he was the one to share the news because he was my coach back at Rosengard. He’s seen me grow from a young player training hard to the footballer I am today. A real full-circle moment. 

Amanda Ilestedt at the Ballon d'Or ceremony

I haven’t been an Arsenal player long but I could tell from day one that it was a very special group to be a part of. Everyone is so kind and lovely and friendly. I’d heard about Arsenal’s team spirit before I arrived but it’s rare that the reality exceeds your expectations!

Sometimes in football, the culture can feel more individual. Once you’ve put all your effort into getting a result, everyone heads home. But it’s not like that here at Arsenal. I really appreciate being a part of a team like this because it makes everything so much more rewarding and fun when you do win. It’s a great environment to be in.

I’ve never experienced this level of unity on a club side either. Our women’s team is so connected to everyone and when you’re at the training ground, you have the feeling that you’re part of something big. The staff around our squad are so special too - so many people in different departments all working together. It’s brand new for me and I love it.

The Women’s Super League has been just as competitive as I expected and it’s such a physical league too. Every team plays a fast kind of football which I always enjoy so it’s been cool to experience that. The women’s game in England is just exploding right now and that’s great to witness and be a part of. 

We’re in a unique situation where we have so many players who can play at the back in different formations with different styles of football, which is great! It just takes time to build relationships as a backline and we’re never going to get everything right after one game.

Amanda Ilestedt walks down the tunnel at Emirates Stadium

I can already feel the difference since I joined and with every game, I feel more comfortable. I know the players around me and have started to predict how they’ll operate on the pitch. Together with our goalkeepers, it’s important that we have a good relationship and a nice, calm connection. That will keep getting better and better with every match. 

When it comes to playing as part of a back three or a back four, it’s great to be flexible depending on the demands of the opposition. With a back three, you can be a bit more aggressive as a centre-back and step out of your line a bit more because otherwise, it’s too passive and too flat.

Every defender is used to playing as part of a back four so that system probably has a bigger emphasis on those individual connections and working with our full backs. But I like playing in either system!

It will be a very cool first experience when we kick off our Conti Cup campaign against Bristol City. I really hope we’ll be as successful in that tournament as we were last year because the girls have shared what it meant to them to beat Chelsea and lift that trophy. 

I’m particularly excited about playing in my first London derby soon. Of course, we always take one game at a time but that match against Chelsea is certainly something to look forward to. I really hope we can sell out Emirates Stadium for it too because that would be the craziest experience. 

Read the rest of Amanda's blog, as well as a host of other fantastic content, by buying a copy of the Arsenal v Bristol City programme either around the stadium or online. 

You can also subscribe to Arsenal Women's matchday programme to get every issue this season delivered straight to your door each matchday.

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