Arsenal coach Jonas Eidevall has asked for greater clarity on match postponements, after the Gunners most recent WSL match against Brighton was called off in December at the request of the visiting team.
He says that his team were prepared to play the game, which was called off 48 hours prior to the match due to covid cases and injuries in the Brighton team. Eidevall expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of information dispensed to clubs on postponements.
“If you have a club where you don’t have double vaccinated players, those players would be deemed as a close contact if you would have a positive Covid case,” Eidevall explained in his pre-Birmingham press conference. “That would mean that you have a lot of players unavailable to play at the weekend.
“But you have another club that will have all their players double vaccinated so even if you get one positive case they wouldn’t be deemed as a close contact in that case. I’m still asking the question, what club should be punished for it and not being able to play the games?”
Eidevall also revealed that Arsenal will have a couple of players unavailable for the game with Birmingham on Sunday in addition to the injured Leah Williamson and Tobin Heath, as well as Caitlin Foord, Lydia Williams and Steph Catley who will play for Australia in the Asia Cup.
However, he would not reveal names and bristled at the lack of transparency in the league, “We have a couple of unavailable players but we want to play football matches, I take real pride in playing the matches. Every team has injuries or illness and right now there is very little transparency about that.
“We wanted to play Brighton before Christmas, I still don’t know why the game wasn’t played or what was going on. You don’t get any transparency from anyone on which players are available, you just get the message from the FA that the game will be postponed.
“So I’m not going to share anything, games can be called off and as a direct opponent, you can prepare for a game all week and you don’t get any reasons as to why it is called off. We have the players we have and we are prepared to play games, simple as that.”
Pressed on whether other clubs might be gaming the system, he responded, “I don’t have any transparency into the decision making process. I do find it very weird that you can’t play games because you have big squads, you have young players in the academy that probably are up practicing with the first team and come in and play.
“For me, I think a football game should go on if it’s scheduled. I think it should be extreme conditions that you don’t play a football game. I just hope that the decision-making process where they are postponing games, that they can stick with that all season. The end of the season will come at some point and what happens if the team has not been able to play all the games then?
“Are you going to have the same decisions in May regarding the situations as you do in January when you have lots of time to schedule these games? I don’t know because I don’t know the reasons or the processes behind why some games are getting postponed or not.”
Eidevall also suggested that the current protocols reward teams that don’t work to limit covid cases in their squads, “The way you manage player availability and injuries is a big part of being a manager. It’s also important to not have players ill so you can have many different protocols in place.
“You can be really consistent with your testing, your social distancing and having digital meetings instead of physical meetings. It’s complicated in a football environment, but you can take it to an extreme to minimise the risk of spreading covid.
“So you have one team who is doing that and avoiding spreading cases and then you have another team who has zero control over their environment. They might practice in a way that means they get five players with muscular injuries and then have no social distancing at meetings so they get covid spread and then they say they want to postpone a game because they don’t have players available.
“So now the game is postponed until another transfer window is open. Taking our Brighton game as an example, we are doing everything in our power to be ready to play and now we are postponing that game into a period where we are losing four players to the Asia Cup and into a transfer window where they can register new players to play in the game. Is that fair? Why would the club that are ready to play be punished?
“I understand in some cases, it might be so extreme that you cannot play the game because it is still a pandemic. That is why I think it is important to be really transparent so we know that everyone is doing everything in their power to play football matches.”
Eidevall was also asked about Vivianne Miedema not being included in FIFA’s three player shortlist for the BEST award for 2021, with Alexia Putellas and Jeni Hermoso from Barcelona and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr nominated. “I couldn’t care less about those awards lists. Football is a team sport and what matters is how you perform with the team. I’m not a fan of individual awards so I don’t have a good answer to the question, I haven’t even looked at the lists.”