Leah Williamson ‘shouldn’t be too far off from returning,’ says Arsenal’s Jonas Eidevall

A London Colney derby awaits the Gunners this coming Sunday, with Arsenal set to host a highly anticipated clash with Barclays Women’s Championship side Watford at Meadow Park. Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall previewed the clash in Friday’s official press conference.

Eidevall spoke on Arsenal’s upcoming opponents in Watford, lashing on praise for the Gunners near neighbours. ‘I think they’ve been true to their style of play, they’re brave, I think they’ve been keeping their heads up high,’ he explained.

‘I am willing to give up a competitive advantage’

Three in-contract Gunners are currently signed to loan spells with Sunday’s opponents, though Jonas Eidevall made it clear that Laila Harbert, Katie Reid, and Michelle Agyemang will all be free to play against their parent club in the upcoming fixture.

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‘The sole reason we have them on loan at Watford is to get first team experience. And if I then look at it from their perspective, to get to play in a FA Cup in hopefully a sold-out Borehamwood, that’s probably as big as an experience it can be. And if I deny them of that experience, do I also deny them of their potential development?’

‘And when I start thinking about those two things short-term and long-term, for one of the few times in my career I am willing to give up a competitive advantage, in order to invest for the future for Arsenal women.’

‘Leah is going very well

The return of Leah Williamson looms on the horizon, as Eidevall spoke on her recovery and when Arsenal fans can expect to see the England captain make her return to football.

‘Leah is going really well, she shouldn’t be too far off from returning to play. She’s been basically returning to full training here now, so that’s very pleasing. So she needs a little bit more of that, but after that I think we can introduce her to more minutes.’

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‘Ideally we bring someone in to help us during that period

With the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup set to commence in the closing weeks of Febuary, Arsenal will be without Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo for the tournament’s duration. Eidevall spoke on the prospect of bringing in a short-term solution for the looming tournament, with specific mention of former Lyon goalkeeper, Sarah Bouhaddi.

‘Ideally for us with given goalkeeping situation now here, we will be looking for a short-term solution, that will be spanning over this international period where the Gold Cup is being played.’

‘Regarding the goalkeeper, Sarah, she would also be a player here that we would prefer getting in. But, with both these things here, we need to wait until things are finalised, but she could be an ideal candidate coming in short-term. With her experience, leadership qualities, and her experience as a goalkeeper as well.’

‘Really excited to see what Fox can do’

Arsenal released an official club statement yesterday afternoon, announcing the long-awaited signing of US international, Emily Fox. The defender arrives in North London from NWSL side, North Carolina Courage. Eidevall spoke on the USWNT star in high praise, excitingly previewing her new contract with the Gunners.

‘Really excited to see what she can do here in the team, I think she has a lot of attributes that make her a very strong full-back for us. She’s good on the ball, she’s comfortable with both her right and her left foot, she can play wide, she can play inside the pitch. She has an explosiveness that comes as a really key strength when it comes to one-on-one situations, but also transitional moments during the game.’

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Anti-knife crime campaign is ‘a really powerful message’

Sunday’s clash will see Arsenal wear an all-white kit drained of their iconic red, in support of the ‘No More Red’ campaign that was launched in partnership with Adidas in order to keep young people safe from street violence. Sunday’s fixture will mark the first time that the Arsenal Women’s team will participate in the campaign by wearing the match day kit, something that Eidevall spoke of with pride.

‘It’s the third season that we are running the campaign, but it is the first time that we’ve been able wear the No More Red jerseys for the women’s team as well and I think that it’s a really powerful message because it is such a visual campaign.’

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‘Having both first teams wearing the jersey, but also secondly to see that it’s not a one-off campaign, it’s the third season that we are running the campaign. I think in order to change things, you need to be able to invest long-term in them as well and it has been really pleasing that the club and Adidas have been willing to do that.’

Arsenal’s Adobe Women’s FA Cup clash with Watford will kick off at 2pm on Sunday at Meadow Park, Borehamwood.