Jonas Eidevall was delighted to confirm that centre-halves Leah Williamson and Rafaelle will return to the squad for Saturday’s WSL game at home to Everton.
Rafaelle sustained a metatarsal injury in the win over Ajax in late September while Leah Williamson picked up an ankle ligament injury a few days later while training with England.
The Gunners have coped without their two first-choice centre-halves for the last two months and Eidevall says their return is timely for a number of reasons not just related to team selection.
“When I see us practice and these two players come into our environment again, it helps us a lot. We get two players of very high quality and that will boost any team and it certainly does for us.
“When you see a player like Leah come into the environment you can see the qualities she will bring, both on and off the ball and with her leadership- it’s the same with Rafa, it’s two quality players.”
Williamson and Rafaelle both captained their countries to continental titles over the summer and Eidevall said that the club and the players decided to use the injuries to give the players a little time off to mentally recuperate during their recovery.
“Leah is very motivated to get back onto the pitch and help the team. I sense that the motivation is really strong with all the injured players. I think you have to do the best with any hand that you are dealt, if you are dealt an injury you have to do the best with it.
“In that process, when she was unavailable, we tried to prioritise not only her physical recovery but also helping with the mental part of the game, with getting some time off and not being in a strict team environment to allow for some more freedom in the time planning.
“I think we have to remember that with National Team players, especially when they go far in tournaments in the summer, they don’t get any free time. Any human being living a life like that over a long period, I think that will restrict your motivation, so it’s really important that we planned for that as well.
“It doesn’t matter how much you love your job, you always need to take vacation to reconnect, that is something that is deeply human.”
Leah Williamson back training at Arsenal. Had been over in Dubai doing rehab work there with Elite Sports Performance, who have worked with likes of Emile Smith Rowe in past. https://t.co/HEyfCvdbFX
— Simon Collings (@sr_collings) November 17, 2022
Eidevall was asked whether he felt the playing schedule, which is increasing in elite women’s football, had anything to do with the injuries, especially as Rafaelle and Williamson played so much football during the summer. Eidevall says that isn’t the only factor but suggested more needs to be done to protect players.
“It could be how you travel to games, how well you recover and sleep between games. It could be things like the support structure in clubs, with access to doctors and physios and individualised training and loading programmes.
“The co-operation between club teams and National Teams. The more demands we put on the players with the schedule the more support we need to be able to give them.”
Despite playing without their two first-choice centre-halves for eight weeks, the coach is pleased with how his team have adapted and has warned that further adaption will be required.
“So far we have managed a difficult period in a very good way but let’s not relax, we are not done with it. I told the players that today when I selected the squad for tomorrow, I said it is great that we are getting players back but it also means that whenever we get players back, it’s a new team so we need to keep doing the basics and remembering our identity.
“It’s similar when we come back from the international periods, we need to start building from the basics and not from the top.”