Togetherness with Frida Maanum

Frida Maanum celebrates a goal with Victoria Pelova

For every home game, we speak to our first-team players about what togetherness and team spirit means to them. 

From our final programme of the season, here's Frida Maanum on our squad's closeness, teamwork in difficult moments and her connection with the supporters. 

What do you think is the most important ingredient of a team?

I think to have the individuals working collectively towards the same goal like we have here at Arsenal. Also, an environment you create where you can be yourself, that’s quite crucial in a high-performance team because you’re together every day and basically your whole life is here with the girls so I think that’s quite important and understanding everyone is different.

I think from there it’s easier to work together as a team on the pitch because you know each other and you’re willing to work well with each other because this is what means the most to you.

Frida Maanum celebrates with the team after scoring a goal against Aston Villa

What does team spirit mean for you? How would you define team spirit?

I would say energy, I think you can tell when we play with energy and an aggressive style of play where we work together and work for each other. We’re willing to take those extra metres for each other for that team spirit and together as a team. 

Tell us about the very first team you played for.

It was actually with boys, I played with boys until I was 14 so obviously playing with boys is a bit different in terms of culture. They’re a bit tougher in the way they speak and more direct, so I probably learnt a bit from them while playing at Stabæk.

Are you still in touch with anyone from Stabæk?

I am because my uncle is the coach and I played with my cousin. I’m in touch with many of them.

What position did you use to play?

I played as a centre midfielder. We played with two 6s. 

What position did your cousin play?

He played midfield and then converted to a full-back position. We actually played in midfield together in the beginning!

Who would you say that you’ve been able to form some closest relationships with at Arsenal? 

I would say Stina. I knew her a bit before and we created that relationship off the pitch as well. She’s someone who’s easy to speak with about everything as well. It’s important to have people around you on the training ground where you can joke a bit and be yourself. With Stina, I feel like I can be myself and of course, I can speak Swedish which is easier for me, and I think she’s one of those players.

Stina Blackstenius and Frida Maanum warm up for a game

How would you describe Stina as a person?

I would say obviously around people she’s a bit quiet but once you get to know her, she’s a really funny person and she jokes a lot which is really funny to be around. Most of all, she’s just a really kind and warm-hearted person, she really cares about the people around her which is a nice person to have and see every day. 

What would you say you’ve picked up in terms of language and cultural learnings from football and your teammates?

It’s quite interesting, I think about that a lot. For example, you play with players from Australia, from the other side of the world, and they have their culture but that’s the cool part about playing football. You get to know cultures from around the world and get to know how they are. There are similarities between English culture and Scandinavian culture which is quite interesting and I find it cool to be able to play with different nationalities and together, create an environment where we’re all included even if we’re from different backgrounds.

How important do you think it is to have diversity?

It’s really important. Everyone brings different things to a team. If you’re younger, you’ll be a bit braver, because you don’t think about the consequences or if you’ve been in the game for 10 years. Obviously as a young player, like when I came to Arsenal, I learnt a lot from players who have been here for ages. You create that environment when you learn from each other, even if you’re 34, that player would learn a lot from a 22-year-old girl too which is nice to have that environment. It’s just nice to have that where we can learn from each other every day.

How would you describe your own personal team?

It’s obviously family and close ones that mean the most, so it’s them you miss when you’re away too but that’s 100% my support group. 

Frida Maanum and Victoria Pelova ahead of the Conti Cup final

Can you think of a time the team has been there for you during a difficult moment? 

Obviously, I think the Conti Cup final was a moment where the whole team was there. The way they also kept playing after what happened in the final, I would point to that as a huge thing. They went out there and won that game, and I’m really happy the way they did and obviously what they said after the game, to do it for me was just really nice. 

When you see all your teammates caring for you and having you front of mind, what do you think that says about the team?

I think that says a lot obviously. It’s nice from Jonas also to say that to his team, just being fully aware of that situation. I think it says a lot about us as a team, being there for each other which is important in any team. You saw it on the pitch and that’s an example of what it is off it too, so I think that reflects a lot about how our team is. 

Did you feel the support a lot in the world of football in the days that followed?

Yeah, I did, not just from the people I know but obviously from a lot of our fans and the fanbase around women’s football. I want to point out that the Arsenal fans are always there and support us in different ways which is nice in those moments, where you feel it’s a lot to go through, and then seeing the love from the fans and them being there since it happened. When I came back playing for the first time at the Emirates, the ovation I got when I came back on the pitch was just so good thinking about it. 

Beth Mead hugs Frida Maanum in the Sobha Realty Training Centre gym

Does it make you really appreciate the simple things more coming back from what you experienced? 

Yeah, definitely. I think it puts life a bit in perspective when things like that happen, both on and off the pitch. It’s been a tough time, but I feel like I’ve always had the support and love and everything around that, from close ones and the people that always come to the game, in tough moments too, which is really important and I’m really grateful for.

What can that energy of togetherness gives you after such a tough time mentally?

100%, it gives you that confidence. The team is there any time: whether it’s good moments, bad moments, tough moments - they’re always there. I think that shows a lot that they’re not just there when we win a trophy or win a game or when things are going well. Even when things are tough, they’re there to show their support. Even the love I got from the fans when I came back on the pitch, it shows a lot. 

What would be your message to the supporters for what they’ve done this season and what we as a collective can do next year?

I would just say that the fans have been brilliant, they’ve been there not just for home games filling out the Emirates several times but the way they sell out every stadium when we’re away. That means the world to us, it means so much and means that we can play with that confidence and belief that it’s one club.

It’s not just the players and the staff, it’s the whole club that has the supporters and fans that are there for us all the time. It’s easy to fall out when things aren’t going your way, but they’ve been there to support us the whole time and we as a group are thankful for that. I am hoping that will keep going into the next season. 

In your mind, what do you think it would take for a team to go Invincible (like the 2006/07 team)? What qualities are needed?

It’s a big question and hard to answer with just a few words. I think we would need to consistently train better than all the other teams. I think a lot of it can come from what we do on the training pitch: if we train harder than say Chelsea or Manchester City, I think we’ll be on a higher level during the game.

A lot can come from that but then it's also about creating a winning culture by building momentum from training and taking that out in games. Games are never easy but if you train the right way and train hard, games should be easy because you know what you’re doing. You trust the process and know your goals. It sounds easy but it’s not. A lot can come from what we do on the training pitch and consistently doing well there, gives us everything we need to perform on the pitch too.

Frida Maanum warms up for a match in Australia

Did you play any individual sports growing up?

No, I didn’t. I have never gotten that question before and I’ve never actually thought about that. 

Why do you think team sports were always the thing for you?

I don’t know, I like that togetherness and you have to rely on each other to not do things by yourself. I think that’s what creates a successful team as well, and we do it together. I like that you do it as a team and not as an individual, because you want to develop as an individual but at the end of the day, it’s what you do that can change what the team achieves too. It’s a good question, so I’ve never reflected on it before, but I think that’s why I’ve never ended up playing an individual sport.

What mental challenges would separate a team sport player and someone on a tennis court out there for five hours by themselves?

When you’re in a team, if you make a mistake, someone is there to pick you up and either help you with that or fix that mistake. Say I’m losing it in midfield, I know I have a back four and a goalkeeper who are going to try and fix that mistake by not conceding a goal for example. I think those small things mean that you always have someone who has your back.

Obviously, you still have a team around you in tennis, but at the end of the day, it’s only you on the court and that’s quite a different sport because you’re all alone. I love that with football because you’re together as a team, work hard and even in training, you can have a bad day but then three other girls having a brilliant day can make you a bit better too. 

Leah Williamson hugs Frida Maanum after she scores against Brighton

With the growth of women’s football, we have almost a team behind the team. How much impact can staff members have in creating a dynamic in the team?

I think that means a lot. It’s not just about the players but the staff too, it’s about one team. When we speak about the team, it’s the staff too. It’s funny when you think about it, when you were younger you’d have just a coach or assistant coach and that was it. I remember the other day, I sat in a meeting with another player about working on the press and I counted the staff. There were seven members of staff and two players. 

You have staff helping you develop every day, both as an individual and as a team. I think Arsenal is quite special in terms of being one group of players but there's also a lot of staff too, which makes it one big group. It’s nice. 

How open are you to engage and start those meetings? Is that something the staff comes to you, or do you have moments where you feel like you need them?

I always try to develop myself but if I can see that there are more areas to develop, I can speak to different coaches and they’re all good at certain things. For example, Renee Slegers, she’s played as a 10 herself so I know that she knows that role in and out, so it makes me want to ask questions about that. 

Usually, it comes from me watching my games back, seeing what I have to develop and then asking them questions about what I can try to develop. It’s important to create a culture where it comes from not only the staff to the players, but also the players to the staff. Creating that environment where you can ask questions and you can be engaged in your own development and not just staff standing on the pitch, trying to teach you what you’re going to do. It works both ways.

Renee Slegers in training

How much of a good addition do you feel Renee has been to the staff here?

Really good, I really like Renee. She just understands the game in a different way because she’s played herself, so she can relate if you have small things you worry about on the pitch. Say if you’re stressed before a game, she’ll know how that feels. It’s not 20 years since she played either, which makes quite a big difference. 

She's been really important to me since she came in. She’s tried to help me during the games I don’t start. She comes up to me, says a few words to make me stress a bit less and knows all the right buttons to press, so she understands the game really well. We speak the same language which makes it easier to understand each other too. It’s been a really nice thing to get Renee into the team because she’s adapted straightaway. 

What would you say is the best example of togetherness with our supporters?

That’s a hard question – I would say every time they come to watch us, obviously at Emirates Stadium and Boreham Wood, but also the away trips. I remember the Liverpool game, there were probably even more Arsenal fans than Liverpool, which says a lot. You travel five hours up to the north so they’re there always, even when we lose or win. It’s crazy that they sing for 90 minutes, there aren’t many fans that do that. We want them to know that we hear them all game. 

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