Arsenal Women's 2023/24 campaign finally gets underway this afternoon with a UEFA Women's Champions League qualifier against Linkoping.
Our Gunners came agonisingly close to reaching last year's final and will now kick off our season with a number of fresh faces in the ranks.
Back in action
After a summer of unmissable World Cup football that saw 15 of our Gunners make the journey over the Australia and New Zealand, our squad returned for a pitstop at London Colney before shooting off to Sweden for the Champions League round 1 qualifiers.
Last season's rollercoaster saw us break records on and off the field, with exhilarating comebacks, an incredible Champions League run and our very first Emirates Stadium sell-out.
Our third-place finish in last year's Women's Super League secured European football for yet another year but we'll need to progress through both rounds of qualifying if we're to repeat last year's success in the competition.
Linkoping last featured in the UEFA Women's Champions League in 2018/19 where they reached the round of 16. They have made it to the quarter-finals three times in their history: in 2010/11, 2014/15 and 2017/18.
The last time our Gunners met the Swedish side was back in 2011 when goals from Katie Chapman, Rachel Yankey and Ellen White helped us progress to the Champions League semi-finals.
Whilst we played our last league game back in May, Linkoping's campaign is already in full swing as the Damallsvenskan season runs from March to November. The three-time Swedish champions are trailing BK Hacken by just three points in the table and last week's meeting of the two teams ended in a stalemate.
Historically one of the best sides in the country, Linkoping is already a very familiar name to some of our Gunners as Frida Maanum, Stina Blackstenius and Lina Hurtig all previously played their football there.
Over the years, Linkoping has boasted some generational talents in their ranks including Pernille Harder, Kosovare Asllani, Magdalena Eriksson, Hedvig Lindahl and Fridolina Rolfo.
How qualifying works
The first round of Champions League qualifying consists of two knockout games. If we defeat Linkoping in the semi-finals, we will then take on the winner of Paris FC v FC Kryvbas on Saturday, September 9 for a place in round 2.
Round 2's format differs in that there is only one opponent between us and the Champions League group stage, but we will have to play home and away legs. Last year, we entered the competition in round 2 qualifying, beating Ajax 3-2 on aggregate.
The following teams will enter at this stage: Wolfsburg, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Sparta Praha, BK Häcken and Manchester United.
These knockout matches will take place in October and decide which 12 teams will join automatic qualifiers Barcelona, Lyon, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea in the group stages in November.
The UEFA Women's Champions League qualifiers will be the first opportunity to see our summer signings Alessia Russo, Amanda Ilestedt, Cloe Lacasse and Laia Codina in the famous red and white.
After nine long months on the sidelines, Beth Mead has travelled with the matchday squad for the first time since sustaining her ACL injury against Manchester United back in November.
In another morale boost, we'll also see the return of skipper Kim Little, who was injured during the conclusion of our 2022/23 season.
Leah Williamson, Vivianne Miedema, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie remain out of action and did not travel to Sweden.
What Eidevall says
"First and foremost, we need to start with who we are. And that's more not on a football level, that's more on a cultural level to see what does it mean to represent Arsenal? What are the behaviours? What are the actions that we want to define this group as? That's the first thing to try and instil that, but then of course, we need to implement our game model.
“We want to want to make our players really aligned on the pitch. And for them being predictable, what is their teammate going to do both on and off the ball? And that requires time and time we haven't had. So we have needed to have a lot of quality in the meetings and training to get be as effective and efficient as possible with the time that we have.” - hear more from the boss
How to watch
Our first match of the season kicks off at 4pm GMT (5pm local time) and you can watch every moment here for free on Arsenal.com or our official app.
Tune in from 3.55pm, with commentary provided by Max Jones and former Gunner Gilly Flaherty.