Jonas Eidevall: Arsenal are ‘hurting’ but focus remains European qualification
Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall finds it fruitless to start contemplating next season’s Women’s Champions League title chances before the Gunners have even qualified.
Eidevall’s side were knocked out of the competition by two-time champions Wolfsburg in Monday night’s semi-final second leg, the 3-2 loss halting Arsenal’s hopes of advancing to the showpiece game for the first time since they achieved an historic quadruple in 2007.
While mostly fit Wolfsburg benefitted from the return of Alexandra Popp, who netted her side’s second goal, Eidevall’s long-term injured cohort includes the Women’s Super League’s all-time leading goal-scorer Vivianne Miedema, Euro 2022 player of the tournament Beth Mead, Arsenal captain Kim Little and England skipper Leah Williamson.
Asked if his diminished team’s largely toe-to-toe effort was a sign that a fully fit squad could go all the way, Eidevall replied: “First and foremost we need to try and qualify for the competition next season.
“We’re in a tough situation for the remainder of the season to get both our feet and heads back from here. We’re hurting, but already on Friday we have a really important game against Leicester who have really picked themselves up.
“I think that the way the team works, if that can be the standard for the way that teamwork is applied for us as a team, that’s a really, really good foundation to get future success. But we need to put focus on the next game, on Leicester, and we need to get the focus on finishing this WSL season as strongly as possible.
“I know we have done some great things this season. We won the Conti Cup, we were so close to a Champions League final, but I think you guys know me well enough to see that I’m always thinking about the next game, and that’s what we need to do.”
The top three teams in the WSL will book places in Europe next season.
Arsenal currently sit fourth with 38 points, having played one game more than third-placed Chelsea who are on 40 points from 16 matches.
Manchester United top the table with 47 points from 19 games, three points clear of Manchester City who have played the same number.
Arsenal will meet relegation-battling Brighton following their Leicester encounter before taking on Everton, defending champions Chelsea and closing their campaign at home against Aston Villa on May 27.
Eidevall could face an even shorter bench on Friday after defender Laura Wienroither was carried off on a stretcher during the Wolfsburg contest and later appeared on crutches, while key forward Stina Blackstenius also appeared to sustain a problem.
On how the Gunners can earn their shot at Champions League redemption, Eidevall said: “I need to push, and everyone needs to come together, and we need to finish as strongly as possible here in the league, and that is going to be a tough challenge with all the players we have away. And we really need to focus on and attack every game 100 per cent.”
Arsenal’s 2007 triumph remains the only time an English side has lifted the Women’s Champions League trophy.
Chelsea, beaten by Barcelona in the 2021 final, were knocked out of this year’s final four by the same Primera Division Femenina side, who will now face Wolfsburg in the June 3 title contest in Eindhoven.
Former Gunner Jill Roord, who also netted to send her second-placed Frauen-Bundesliga team to a sixth final, told her club website: “I’m overwhelmed. It was such a tough match. I thought it would go to penalties, but thankfully we won.
“Arsenal deserve credit, they made life really difficult for us. They could have won it at the end, but we’re the lucky ones today.”