Dutch midfielder Victoria Pelova has been one of Arsenal’s standout performers so far this season. The 24-year-old joined the Gunners from Ajax in January and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Pelova was Player of the Match for Sunday’s 6-2 win over Leicester when Arsenal trailed 2-0 at half-time. Playing in her favoured central midfield role, Pelova, who can play in several other positions, has stood out this season.
“I’ve been very impressed with her,” Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall said in his pre Brighton press conference. “She’s game-intelligent, has great technique, is good both on and off the ball, and shows both here but also with the national team that she can play a number of different positions.
“Lately, we think she gives the most value to the team when she’s playing in a central midfield position, which I also think is her preference to play in. You see her in the game against Leicester for example, it was so enjoyable to see her play.
“So enjoyable to see how comfortable she is with the ball, how she can manage the one-v-one situations and I think that’s a nice example and a role model for younger players to look up to, to see how you can manage those one-v-one situations.
“I also know that that comes from her and her development, playing a lot against opposition in practice growing up with a boys team and being really challenged in those moments. I really see that when she plays, she’s comfortable in uncomfortable situations, which is what youth development should be all about.”
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Pelova has forced her way into midfield despite heavy competition in the area this season and Eidevall says it’s clear that her qualities are most useful in central midfield for the time being.
“For us, it’s of course also to be clear about what key attributes we want in the different positions, and what our preferences are. There’s no doubt that last season we needed to be flexible with the squad situation and the number of players that we had available for the games.
“That flexibility of course is about what’s best for the team for this game and how we get the best out of that, but this season is different. We have much more to choose from, which means that we can get the key attributes on the positions. I think Victoria is fitting better as a central midfielder.”
Eidevall also acknowledged that summer signing Kyra Cooney-Cross, who has starred in the last two games, is making competition in a midfield which features options such as Kim Little, Lia Walti, Pelova, Frida Maanum and Kathrine Kuhl, very tough indeed.
“The reality of it is that we have 25 players who are really good in our squad and that each one of them is going to play a big part for us this season. I agree with you, I think Kyra has been playing very well in the last two games.
“But now we have a week of practices here before Brighton, and every single one wants to play against Brighton as well. Kyra needs to be good in practice, and so does everyone else as well. And there’s always going to be competition for the spots. So Kyra’s position before these two games was strong, and it’s strong now and we believe a lot in her. And we look forward to seeing her for the rest of the season.”