Jonas Eidevall: ‘We can create something special together,’ says Arsenal boss ahead of Chelsea clash at Stamford Bridge

As Arsenal prepare to face Chelsea in front of more than 30,000 fans at Stamford Bridge on Friday, Jonas Eidevall carried out his pre-match media duties at Sobha Realty Training Centre. The Gunners boss discussed a multitude of topics, including Amanda Ilestedt’s recently-announced pregnancy, team news and what to expect from a side of Chelsea’s calibre.

Arsenal announced on Wednesday that Amanda Ilestedt will no longer be available for selection, with the Swedish international defender now expecting her first child. Eidevall told reporters that ‘everyone is really happy and excited by the news for her and as a club, we’re really committed to helping her the best way possible through the whole journey. Both here until she gives birth, and then of course, after to return to play.’

The Gunners are able to sign a replacement outside of the transfer window, with FIFA regulations now offering clubs more support during a player’s maternity leave. Despite this allowance, Eidevall pondered whether it would be feasible to pry a player away from a club mid-season.

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‘I think it’s great that you have that option to go outside the transfer window because to relate to the question earlier, how do you make it easier for players and clubs to have situations like this? This is definitely one of them, to not be restricted by a transfer window. It’s still of course very difficult at the time because a club that would release a player to us wouldn’t have the same option to be able to release that in a chain reaction, which makes it very tough to get any club to realistically want to release a player with being at the business end of the season.’

While Ilestedt is now ruled out from squad selections moving forwards, Eidevall assured reporters that ‘we’ve come from a situation where we looked a little bit shallow a couple of weeks ago with squad depth, but we’re looking much more with more competition in more positions, which is very pleasing.’

Asked specifically about Laura Wienroither’s return to play following her ACL injury, the Gunners boss explained that the Austrian is ‘progressing very nicely and I would imagine, if everything goes to plan, that she would start being available at the end of this block for squad selection.’

Friday’s match could see Arsenal move level on points with Emma Hayes’ Chelsea – but conversely, the Blues could move six points clear of the Gunners if they can muster up a victory on home soil. Eidevall does not think that the result will decide the title race though, insisting that ‘the only thought that is in my head is what do we need to do in order to maximise our way to win the game? And that’s where 100% of my focus is on.’

Arsenal cruised past Chelsea at Emirates Stadium in December, and Eidevall took the opportunity to highlight the performance as ‘one of the better ones’ this season. ‘I’m under no illusion, we will need to get the performance like that again on Friday to be able to win the game,’ he continued.

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But the Blues have been plagued by injuries in recent weeks and months, and while that offers Arsenal a great opportunity to play against a weakened side, Eidevall assessed that ‘it’s definitely harder to predict their starting lineup than it was two seasons ago.’

Eidevall also spoke openly about Emma Hayes’ upcoming departure from the Barclays Women’s Super League, with the Chelsea boss heading to the United States this summer to take charge of the national team. ‘You have two managers who really want to win with their respective teams, and of course, that’s how it should be, but it doesn’t mean you can’t communicate, learn and exchange ideas outside, so hopefully I won’t miss that and I will still be able to do that when she’s in her other role,’ he told reporters.

‘To be honest, the one thing I am going to miss is the competition. I really like to compete. It’s never easy to compete against a team that she will coach because they will also be flexible, they will always have a plan for any scenario or instance and will have players who will be so dedicated to winning the game. I just like the challenge of that, to be playing against the best.’

The Arsenal boss also urged fans to ‘create something special’ at Stamford Bridge on Friday night, offering a reminder that ‘our fans have been lifting us through the whole season home and away, and we hear them, and we hear every single one of them and to hear that we’ve been selling out our away allocation at Stamford Bridge here on Friday. It’s amazing, and let’s hope we can create something special together.’

Chelsea host Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Friday, with kickoff scheduled for 19:15 GMT. The match will be broadcast live in the UK on Sky Sports.