Soccer-Eidevall eyes Europe as leaders Arsenal resume WSL campaign


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Women's FA Cup Final - Arsenal v Chelsea - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - December 5, 2021 Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall gives instructions to the players during the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Arsenal coach Jonas Eidevall has led his side to the top of the Women's Super League table at the season's halfway point, but it is in Europe that English clubs must establish themselves if the WSL is to be seen as the best in the world, he says.

Speaking to Reuters ahead of the resumption of the campaign this weekend after the winter break, the Swede said he was delighted with his first six months in England but that there was still a lot of work to do.

"What English football needs to think about is how we can be more successful in Europe, how our schedule of games is, how do we give English clubs the possibility of being successful in Europe," Eidevall said.

"We can talk a lot about how the league is developing to hopefully become the world's best league, but talk is limited. In the end it's about getting results, and as long as English clubs aren't getting better results in Europe, it's hard to say that it's the best league."

Chelsea were superb in winning the WSL in 2021 and beat Arsenal 3-0 in the Women's FA Cup final nL8N2SQ0A6 to claim the treble, having also won the League Cup, but were thrashed 4-0 nL2N2N30HK by Barcelona in the Champions League final in Gothenburg in May.

"We've played Barcelona twice in the group stages of the Champions League and they have been incredibly good, and it feels like they have a level higher than other teams that I have met," Eidevall said.

The 38-year-old has been impressed by the competition in England as he settles in after arriving from Swedish side FC Rosengard in June.

"It's been very intensive. Working in a club as big as Arsenal, with such good players, and also coming to another country, another culture and how that is ... and when you have a family there's a lot more to be done," he explained.

"The level in England is high, just look at the names in squads like Everton or Manchester City and the number of points they have, you'll understand that there's a lot of tough games in this league."

Everton are languishing in ninth place with 11 points from 10 matches, while City are sixth on 13 points from nine games - 12 points adrift of Arsenal.

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The Gunners finished the 2020-21 WSL season in third, a disappointing nine points behind Chelsea and seven behind City, which prompted them to bring in Eidevall to shake things up.

"I've followed the club as a supporter for many years, but I can't come into a new club and think that I understand everything and how it works," he said.

"I must understand where the club comes from and where it is, and I have to understand how that forms my philosophy too, to get the best version of Arsenal.

"It's a process in two parts. Yes, I come in with a clear picture of how I want to play football, but I have to be curious, I have to have big eyes and listen and understand and explore," he added.

His Arsenal side have been imperious so far, winning eight and drawing one of their nine league games while scoring 30 goals and conceding three as they built a four-point lead over second-placed Chelsea.

"It's hard to point to one individual factor, but what I think unites the club and the team is that everyone is conscious of the proud history Arsenal have with the women's side - we're the pioneers," said Eidevall.

"We also know that in the last few years other clubs in England have invested more money and been more successful, so for us it's about building something where we can re-take that place in English football and in European football."

Arsenal, who visit bottom side Birmingham City in the WSL on Sunday, are set to meet VfL Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter-finals in March after the German club dumped Chelsea nL1N2T13DE out of the competition with a 4-0 win in December.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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