Swedish journalist and analyst Mia Eriksson gives us the lowdown on Arsenal Women’s new signing Amanda Ilestedt.
From a Swede’s perspective, (mine) Amanda Ilestedt to Arsenal seems like the perfect match. In this article I will explain why.
Ilestedt is a Swedish national team player that can play both as a centre back and as a fullback. With the World Cup just around the corner she is one of Sweden head coach Peter Gerhardsson’s seven defenders selected to play in the tournament this summer.
Till now, Ilestedt has 64 appearances for Sweden and she has scored eight goals. As a part of the golden ‘born 1993’ generation she has played a significant role in Sweden’s recent success since Gerhardsson replaced Pia Sundhage as the Swedish national team’s head coach back in 2017.
Previous links to Eidevall
Ilestedt made her debut at the very highest level in the Swedish top-flight, the Damallsvenskan back in 2010 with LdB Malmö- who later became FC Rosengård. She was coached by Jonas Eidevall between 2012 and 2014 before he left FC Rosengård the first time after the 2014 season.
Ilestedt stayed with the Swedish multiple Champions until the 2017/18 season, when she left to play in the Frauen Bundesliga with Turbine Potsdam. After three years in the classic German women’s football club Potsdam she bloomed and took the massive step to sign with FC Bayern München for two years in 2019.
She joins Arsenal after having played two years in the D1 Arkema in France with Paris Saint-Germain but to say that the years in Germany are essential in Ilestedt’s way to become one of the absolute best defenders in Europe is not an understatement.
Ilestedt’s player profile
Many Scandinavian defenders, who learn how to defend as a team, face a steep learning curve when moving abroad to more fast paced styles of play where they are challenged 1v1 more often. The years in the Frauen Bundesliga has developed Ilestedt into mastering the defending part of her game such as her ball playing abilities.
She is probably the best centre back among the ones selected to represent Sweden in 1v1 situations and she is also a good tackler. That she has been brought in to replace Rafaelle Souza is not a coincidence looking at her ball playing qualities. The spider graph below compares these two players looking at their data from the current season.
In the Swedish Football Analysis platform PlaymakerAI, she is described as a ball playing centre-back. Her AI detected qualities are as the pass progressor, safe passer and carry progressor. She might not be a Brazilian dribbler but she does a good job in the progressive parts of the game in other ways. That Eidevall wants to replace Rafaelle with abilities that Ilestedt has, is therefore not a surprise.
Both Rafaelle and Ilestedt hold power in height and physical traits that gives Arsenal an opportunity to continue building on the same path moving into the new season. Ilestedt is good in the air, both defensively and offensively. This clip below is from the friendly game that Sweden played against France and won 3-0. Surrounded by several French defenders, she beats them to the ball and heads it home for Sweden. I would say that this is typical for Ilestedt and she will do this plenty more times.
Ilestedt’s flexibility and experience
Playing for FC Bayern München she was also used, from time to time, as a fullback. In recent years Gerhardsson has implemented a way of using her in a back four as a fullback if needed. She is a right-footed defender but in FC Bayern München she was often found on the left-hand side.
Eidevall wants a strong centre back who can participate in the buildup, who is confident in defending ‘alone’ and that can play a main role in attacking set-pieces. The signing of Amanda Ilestedt offers all that plus that she comes into the Women’s Super League and English football with a lot of experience, both from national team football and from Champions League football.
Ilestedt’s argument for the move to London and Arsenal is that she wants to win titles. With LdB Malmö/FC Rosengård she won five Swedish league titles and she won the Frauen Bundesliga with FC Bayern just before she moved to Paris.
After her first season with PSG she said that the difference between playing in Germany compared to France was that in the Frauen Bundesliga, the games were very competitive and physical with a lot of counter-attacks. In France she experienced that the players were more technically skilled and quick. She explained that she had developed a way to handle the ball playing part of her game when coming to France and learned that as a defender in D1 Arkema, you were forced to trust your individual abilities in defending more.