My philosophy is simple: there's only one ball and it's our ball. We want to have it.
This is one of the most beautiful things about football for me. There are so many ways to win football matches and trophies, but in the end, it all comes down to whether you truly believe in that idea, and whether you’re willing to work harder than anybody else for it.
Allow me to use an example that I’m sure will be familiar to all of you. When I used to watch Arsenal growing up I always wanted them to win, but when I saw the way that Arsene Wenger’s team played, the way they moved the ball collectively and worked for each other, that filled me with pride as a fan and soon I shared that same belief for the way that they played. That nurtured my football philosophy to take it to where it is today, and my ambition is to do the same with the staff, the players and all the fans here at Arsenal Women.
My passion for football is very, very intense, and I’m a very hardworking coach. I have high demands of the people and the players working with me, because I want us to achieve success together and that’s the only way we’ll be able to do it. But above all else, I love football, and one of the most important things for me is that we enjoy every day together and don’t take it for granted. You see, we’ve been practicing, fighting and developing ourselves all our lives to reach this point of playing at the top, so let's enjoy it - especially at a club like this.
In terms of my philosophy and beliefs, I view football as something that is everything together, all the time. What I mean by that is that I don't think you can view attack in a separate way to defence. Everything sits together. The way you attack will impact the way you defend because you will inherit the positions from when you lose the ball, and vice versa when you’re defending. You need to have a clear idea which allows you to use all the parts of football together.
I want to play a high-paced possession game, that’s no secret if you’ve seen my teams play before. If we lose the ball, we need to have a structure, and we need to have methods to win that ball back as soon as possible. Any team in the world will show at least one weakness if the pressure is intense enough, and we need to make sure that we bring every team we face to that choking point.
The one thing I’ve realised in football is that it’s a business of fine margins. The margins between success and failure are so small, and that means you need to work as hard as you possibly can to ensure those margins are on your side. This high pressure and high intensity style can certainly help us do that – it definitely helped me at Rosengard.
I had two spells at the club and my first lasted for two-and-a-half years. It was the first club that really gave me a chance on a professional level. I had been coaching in the men's second division in Sweden. I was a young coach, only 28 years old, and Rosengard gave me the chance to work as an assistant, working with a lot of international players and a team competing in the Champions League.
After a year as an assistant, I moved on as a head coach and I got the opportunity to win the Swedish league, which was incredibly strong back then. We were winning it and Tyreso, the team that was runner-up, were in the Champions League final. It was a league really consisting of the top, top internationals and therefore a fantastic achievement that we were able to win the league. I'm forever grateful for that.
Afterwards, I had a few spells in men's football and got the chance to return back to Rosengard and help them build something new, but obviously the Swedish league had changed since my first spell. It still had a lot of good players and was a really good league, but the competition among the leagues is much, much higher right now, especially a league like the Women’s Super League, which is attracting a lot of the top talents today.
I had an amazing time at Rosengard because we rebuilt the team, we competed for the championship every year and we were successful in winning the cup in 2018, the championship in 2019 and we were able to progress into the final eight in the Women's Champions League this year. I don't think many people still think that's possible for a small club that's located in Sweden, to be among the other top clubs in the world. I think that's an achievement that everyone around the club should be incredibly proud of.
Rosengard is a special club and Malmo is a special town. In Malmo there is a saying which goes, 'You win gold, but you get silver'. Nobody celebrates a silver medal over there. When I came over and walked into the locker room, I saw a trash can which had two silver medals in there still that the players had thrown away. It's a special club in that way because you only celebrate when you win. The expectations are always there. They were there when I came and they are there now as well. I think it's the way that we like it in Sweden, to be that ambitious and to do everything to win. In the end that's what counts.
During my time at Rosengard, we had some key principles of play that always remained consistent. I wanted us to create with the ball, I wanted us to have the ball, and I wanted us to win the ball back quickly. That is always a constant. But in other parts, I'm very, very flexible as a coach. At Rosengard, I've played four different formations on a regular basis. We've had a lot of different pressing schemes that we've used depending on which players we have had available and the opponents we were playing against. I think that's a crucial part in football, that you need to be tactically flexible with your positioning. But you also need to be constant and those are your main principles of play.
But now I’ve got a new project, a new challenge, and I can’t wait to get started here in north London. I already knew a lot about the squad beforehand, but when talks with Arsenal began I started taking a closer look, and wow, we have a fantastic foundation to work with. There are a lot of players who have been able to play brilliant football here in the last year, and who were also a part of winning the title in 2018/19.
I think the foundation is there to achieve something great. Then of course we're going to be playing in a very congested playing schedule in the autumn, so we need to stay injury-free and also have good depth in the squad, and a good competition among the positions in order to bring out the best versions of ourselves.
The most important thing for me is for us to keep the foundation and the playing style. What really amazed me when I saw some of the games last season were the skills the players had to play combinations, to play in such small and tight spaces, with such good quality and high standards in their passing game. We need to keep that.
But in order to win more games and to beat the top teams in the league, we also need to develop our way of playing against teams that are pressing us high. We need to be much more resilient against that, to have much more effective strategies to get out of those situations. But we also need to be pressing more as a team, we need to put our opponents under more pressure to make them commit more mistakes. I think we have players who think so quickly in offence and I think they will be able to think just as quickly in defence as well, which will make us a really strong, pressing unit.
But for now, I just can’t wait to get started, and I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing you at Meadow Park soon.
Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.