Press conference

Every word from Jonas' pre-Spurs presser

Jonas Eidevall spoke to the media ahead of tomorrow's North London Derby at the Emirates.

The boss fielded questions on squad versatility, Spurs' physicality and why our history in the women's game is so special. 

Here's everything he had to say:

On the importance of starting the season strong…

Yeah, [Brighton] felt like a million years ago because since then we’ve played Ajax as well. I think that’s why every game is important because you need to roll with that momentum in the game and you have to understand that nothing is granted in football and every game starts from the foundation that you need to put into it. Your gameplan, how much you’re going to run, how hard you’re going to work with each other and how prepared you are for that...

Of course, we’ve practiced that a lot and we did it last season as well with the schedule, but before Brighton, it was four months since we'd played competitive games and we’re now playing almost three games in a week and it’s so nice! You feel so alive, your brain switches on in a totally different way and you have to find out what things we are going to continue to do and what solutions we need to find for the problems we have. It’s very nice to be back playing.

On whether the schedule feels tight…

I love it. It allows you to be switched on all the time and when you have been away from it for four months and you get the taste of it, you want to continue doing that. I really enjoy it.

On whether he’s been keeping a close eye on other results…

No, not really. Of course, I’ve seen some of the games. It’s a competitive league and every game will live its own life, but the good thing also about having a hectic playing schedule is that you also have to focus on yourself and prepare for yourself and you can’t be thinking too much about other teams that you’re not playing and what they’re doing.

On a potential attendance of more than 50,000…

Also remember, it’s 50,000 sold tickets! It’s not giveaways, it’s not sold for a discounted price: it’s sold tickets. I think that’s really, really special because that means that doing this in the way that the club has done it, it’s sustainable. It shows that the interest is for real and the investment that we have as a team, but also what all the past generations and past teams before us have done to put us onto this stage here. It’s phenomenal, so we feel that we want to go out and make the most of it so it can happen again more frequently.

On the latest team news…

Preparations have gone very well. The only player that missed the squad in the Champions League midweek was Mana and she was ill. She should be able to return to the squad for tomorrow’s game, so we should have full availability.

On whether our players will be able to handle the occasion…

They have [played in front of big crowds] before. We’ve been to the FA Cup final which was a similar attendance, they’ve been playing with high attendance figures with the national teams, and many of them in the squad were playing in the north London derby two seasons ago that has the current WSL record. For us, it’s not something that we do every weekend, but it’s not new for us. We have experienced that and we are looking forward to it.

On Beth Mead being one of the best players in the world…

She is when she takes her opportunities and that’s what I speak to Beth about. For her, playing her best game will involve a lot of actions and that means you can’t be having positive actions all the time. The thing as a forward is that you will always fail more than you are successful, but for Beth, it’s about having that self-confidence and doing those actions. That can be pressing, that can be challenging 1v1, for example, but that’s where she needs to go to every game and when she does, I think she’s one of the best players in the world.

On whether our team no longer relies on Vivianne Miedema’s goals…

I think any team needs to have a number of ways that you can score goals and hopefully, you have a number of players that can score goals for you. Any team that can only do it with one player or only with one way will always become predictable for the opponent, so I think it’s the key in football or any team sport to find a way to do it in many different ways and with many different players as well because that makes it much harder for the opponent to prioritise in terms of how they’re going to defend against you.

On how we will handle the pressure of being favourites…

We won’t think about it that way because when you do come out in that way, then of course you will already be stressed from the start because it starts 0-0! If you think that you’re entitled to win or expected to win then that result will stress you straight away, because you don’t have the result that you want at the beginning. That’s not the way to go about a football game: you have to respect the opponent and you have to respect the game.

It’s 90 minutes plus added time and we have to focus on the things we need to be doing well in defence and offence, in the transition, and in the set pieces. That’s our objective, that’s our duty and that’s what we’re here to do. It doesn’t matter what team we are playing against. If someone thinks we’re favourites or not favourites, should that impact the level that we have on our way of playing? I want us to be 100 per cent no matter the score or no matter the opponent. We just need to be 100 per cent in everything we’re doing.

On whether the biggest win tomorrow will be retaining a high attendance for the next Emirates game…

I think it is so important for growing the game to not have these occasions as a one-off, and that's what I'm speaking about sustainability for it. I think that's what the club has really shown in this situation. For them, it has not been just about providing as many people as possible for this game by, for example, giving away tickets. Instead, we have promoted the game in a sustainable way. And if you're doing that, then I think the chances increase that you can repeat it again because of course, it's not going to be a sustainable solution to give away tickets for games. Let's be honest, football clubs need revenues and ticket sales are important for revenues. 

On whether this game will provide better preparation for the second leg against Ajax…

Yeah, in some aspects. We see some things that we can expect from Tottenham and we saw Ajax were a very physical team. We know Tottenham are as well. They're the team that fouls the most in the WSL and they have been doing so consistently under Rehanne Skinner. It's very much a strategy that they have to foul a lot and they try to be very physical.

So, of course, we are prepared for that and we could see that Ajax were doing the same. Maybe we knew it but you still have to experience it. So that's prepared us in a good way. But you see that different teams, they see our game and they try and find solutions on how to deal with it and it's very interesting to see that almost more than 50 per cent of the time when we are preparing for teams, the teams that come out do something different against us than what they had been doing in their previous five games. Because, for some reason, they think that they need to change formation or the way that they prep for us.

This means that we need to always put a lot of focus on what we are doing and also build almost a database of solutions for us, so we can pick that out quickly and say "okay, we thought they were going to play like this, but actually they did this. But you know what, two months ago we played against that. And this year, this was really important for that." And that's two things. As a coach, you need to do that but also as a player when you have experienced that, it will be so much more powerful and that's what I'm feeling as a team. We're constantly experiencing things that help us go forward as well because that will help us adapt and react and master situations better in the future as well.

This hopefully goes into goal scoring and finding many ways to score. That's also about finding many ways to play within your identity on how to solve the situation. And in the end, it shouldn't matter to you what the opponent chooses to play against because you should always have a solution for it. That requires time and it requires experience. But that's what we are doing and we feel we have made progress with it.

On whether team selection is based on an opponent’s threat or our style of play… 

And I think both would be relevant to look at. When you make a team selection, you can't look at only one of the things: you have to look at both of them. I think we have a similar situation at left-back. We also have two very good left-backs with Steph Catley and Katie McCabe, and they're also not exactly the same type of players. They have different qualities like Noelle and Laura.

Of course, sometimes just that quality as a player will fit really well against an opponent or the style we've decided to play in. But there's also competition. I believe that competition brings out the best in people long term. I think when you're practising with a line behind your back, that will give you the last 2%. Very few people without competition can drive that standard by themselves every day. That's why you need a coach, but you also need competition to constantly prepare and constantly practise well to get ahead. So I'm very happy about that situation and we'll see who gets to play tomorrow.

On what his proudest moment for Arsenal has been…

That's a deep question. I think that the proudest moment is probably not what you guys would think it would have been because you will probably have picked a game and a result. For me, it's not. For me, it would be one of those moments where you have felt like you have been struggling on the pitch. We had to unify the group and we had to go behind an idea and the preparation in doing that and the meeting and how you start to connect with people in order to get them behind an idea. That moment there, for me, that's where you can feel that you can turn things around.

If you look at January last season, we had a tough time. We had some players unavailable, we were not playing particularly well and we had to fix things. We went about that on a day-to-day basis: we kept on finding solutions and kept on working and believing in that. That's probably my proudest moment so far, and I think that's always what's going to define you as a player, as a coach or as a team, is how you handle those moments, because they will happen to everyone.

There's a famous quote by Arsene Wenger, when he spoke about character and personality. He said that "what you see in football is that everyone can speak on who they are and what they stand for." But football always reveals the true character of who you are. Because the game will put you in so much stress and stressful situations that you can't hide. The game will show who you are because you will be in a situation where you can feel like you have everything to lose or all your fears can come running over you and you have to be saying "I have to be true to myself. I believe in this and this is what I will do." You will always see people reverting back to that in those situations. 

On why Arsenal have always been at the vanguard of the women’s game…

I don’t know! Because I don’t know how the club was back then because I wasn’t here. But I was reflecting on it the other day that Arsenal is the only English club that has won the Champions League. Then I was thinking about what other clubs at that time won. And I remember the Swedish club Umea that was in the Champions League finals. There was a German side, Turbine Potsdam, and what they all had in common was that they were women’s only football clubs. At that time it was only women’s football clubs that were successful in women’s football.

Today, when you look at the clubs going into the quarter-final of the Champions League there are no only women’s clubs left. They are all clubs that also have top teams in men’s football. What you have to see here is that there is only one consistent member of that, and that’s Arsenal. That’s class and that’s history and that’s something that you can never change, that you were a first mover. That you were a believer in something before, and that’s something that the club and all the fans should be very, very proud of.

On Steph Catley being encouraged to shoot more…

She scored in the last game of the season against West Ham, so maybe she felt a little bit encouraged from that one. But to be honest, with our full backs being in more attacking positions, I think it comes as a natural thing that she gets into more of those positions. I really like when I have Steph Catley as an attacking full-back, because I think her timing for runs is exceptional. So when you get that right, she will get into even more situations for both finishing and the final pass.   

On whether this is the closest Arsenal and Tottenham have been in terms of quality…

I think it’s a hard question and to be honest, I haven’t thought about it so much like that. With transfer windows in general, people always look at the players who have been coming in, but not so much with players coming out. For me, one of the best midfielders last season was Maeva Clemaron for Tottenham. She was a very, very important player for them in almost all aspects of their game and that’s very hard to replace and that will require some time to do that as well. I don’t think that people value that enough when they are trying to evaluate how a club’s transfer window has been. But with that being said, I have lots of respect for Tottenham. I had that last season as well, and I don’t expect anything less from us that we need to be 100 per cent to win the game.

On using the physical approach to motivate his players…

I don’t know what the motivation would be for it, like “go and enjoy being kicked down when you get the ball”! I think it’s about preparation to know what you expect from the opponent. But also hopefully, there is a chance, people who officiate the game need to be aware that this is the team that fouls the most in the league. It’s a strategy. For me, that’s something you need to look at as an official and say “if you want the game to be that way, let go of it. But otherwise, you have to caution earlier and that will protect the players and make the games flow a bit better.” But that’s the referee’s call, not mine. We need to be prepared for it and not let it get into our heads, and just focus on the way that we play.

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