Saturday, May 25, 2024

‘Our fans are amazing…I have never really experienced something like this before.’ Amanda Ilestedt relishing life at Arsenal

Arsenal defender Amanda Ilestedt says that the Gunners have spoken at length about improving the team’s defensive record in the second half of the season. Arsenal have conceded an XG of 8.3 in the WSL so far this season which has translated into 11 conceded. A theme that Jonas Eidevall has identified is that Arsenal don’t give up many chances but, when they do, they tend to be big chances.

Ilestedt says this is something the team and coaching staff have been reviewing. ‘The opponents are not creating that many chances but when they do, they are really, really good ones. It is something we really want to prevent. Obviously our goal in defence is to end the game with zero goals conceded and that is something we are striving for and we have a lot to work on because we need to be better.’

Ilestedt joined the club from PSG this summer and has been a mainstay in the Arsenal defence, starting alongside Lotte Wubben-Moy in all but one WSL game so far. The pair have started the last nine WSL games together.

‘I have played with Lotte a lot now and our relationship is really good on the field and it has been growing,’ Ilestedt explains. ‘I have had a good season so far and it takes a while to build relationships, it is not like *snaps fingers* everything is perfect. It is something you work on every day in training and in games.’

Ilestedt is forming a new relationship in defence with the January signing of right-back Emily Fox from North Carolina Courage. ‘With Emily, she is adapting really well. It is an every day development and something we work on a lot and she has been doing really well.’ Ilestedt said the swift restart after the World Cup, in which her Sweden team reached the semi-finals, was a hindrance to the team earlier in the campaign.

‘When we played in the Champions League earlier in the season, we had no time at all, I don’t even think we had a week together before we had to play. It takes time and one of the main things is that the relationships have been getting better and better on the field, we know each other better and have a lot of new faces in the team.

‘That had an impact in the Champions League and in the opening game against Liverpool but we have been growing a lot. I think we are progressing in the right direction.’ Ilestedt was signed, partially, due to Leah Williamson’s ACL injury in April. Williamson is nearing a return to the squad and could be in contention for a place on the bench in Wednesday night’s Conti Cup game against Reading.

‘I am really happy that she is close to a comeback, she is a great player and we really need her,’ said Ilestedt, who has been playing on the right side of the centre-back partnership where Williamson usually plays. ‘But who is playing or not playing, or playing on the left side, we don’t really talk about that. That is just Jonas’ decision and we will see.’

Amanda has played in her native Sweden, as well as for Bayern Munich and PSG. She says the WSL is the toughest league she has played in. ‘In general, I think the defending in this league is really good, it is more physical in the opponent’s box and I can tell!’ Ilestedt scored four goals for Sweden during the World Cup, all from setpieces, highlighting her threat from those situations.

She has two goals from corners for Arsenal so far this season. ‘That was something I had to work on in the beginning to get that extra move and it’s something I am still working on. In general it is tougher in this league than any other league I have played in before. Every game is so competitive and that is a big part of the reason I came here.

‘Also there are things around, our fans for example, I have never experienced anything like that. It has been amazing playing in front of sold out stadiums and at the Emirates we have already broken the attendance record and hopefully we will do it again soon. We have two home stadiums and I really enjoy playing in both of them.

‘Our fans are amazing, you really feel you have that extra support in every game and I have never really experienced that before, it’s great news that we are playing at the Emirates again before the end of the season.’

Arsenal play Reading in the Conti Cup on Wednesday night at 7pm at the RG2 Stadium. A full match preview will be available on Arseblog News at 7pm on Tuesday.

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Amanda is fast becoming a new favourite of mine. Powerful and passionate. Love it.

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