With a Champions League group stage this season for the first ever time in women’s football and the final rounds of last season’s FA Cup finishing during this winter, there are an unprecedented number of games for Arsenal Women until Christmas. That has a physical impact on the players of course and the summer appointment of Gary Lewin as Head of Medicine and Sports Science will go some way to addressing the increased physical load on players.
How about the preparation for coaches, though? With three games a week, it must be increasingly difficult to conduct detailed preparation on each opponent. Arseblog News asks Jonas Eidevall how he and his staff manage the backlog when it comes to preparing games in a condensed schedule.
“Right now we have two people who work specifically on opponent analysis, Jonny Dixon and Donna Newbury and they alternate so that they prepare every other opponent. If we look at this week where we have Barcelona and Aston Villa, they will have started to look at them around two weeks ago during the international break.
“They will start to build up a picture of them and then for me and the coaches, we get involved a little bit before we play those teams. So, for example, just before we played Tottenham, they (Johnny and Donna) will share information with me about Aston Villa and I started looking at them in the two days before we played Tottenham to decide what will be important for us to work on after the Tottenham game.
“We will only present it to the players probably the day before the game, they were off on Thursday so they are in today (Friday). We will never present anything to our players until we have played, so they only get the information on the next opponent. The coaching staff know how we are going to prepare before the Villa game, like the information we want to give them and how we plan our practice.
“Then we will meet on Sunday to do some recovery but only then will we do a walk through with the players about our tactics for the Barcelona game. We train on Barcelona’s ground on Monday so we can’t show them anything. That session will be more about activating the players and getting a feeling for the pitch.
“It’s a process where, for me as a coach, I need to have two games in my head at once, the analysts need to have more than two, the players though only need to think about one.” Eidevall was also amused to hear that Aston Villa coach Carla Ward said she had been preparing her players by asking them to defend against 12 players in training.
“That’s funny because when I started out and I wrote my coaching thesis, the name I gave it was ‘the 12th player,’ because my aim is always to make the opponent feel like they are playing against an extra player. That is the basis of my football but if she is setting up her training like that, it’s a really nice compliment.
“When you have results like we have had, you have to be prepared for the fact that other teams will prepare for you very hard and we have to train for that. But unless they trick the referee to get an extra player on the pitch, I am pretty sure it will be 11 v 11 on Saturday.”