Arsenal: How the Gunners fulfilled their Champions League potential
Not too long ago, Arsenal were written off this season after suffering an injury crisis.
What a difference a few weeks make; now they are determined to hunt for three trophies.
A superb first-half performance against Bayern Munich on Wednesday saw them overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit and reserve their place in the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League for the first time in a decade.
It caps an impressive month for the Gunners, who ended a four-year wait for silverware by beating Chelsea in the League Cup final on March 5.
“It was one of my long-term goals to reach the Champions League semi-finals,” said coach Jonas Eidevall. “It is an incredible achievement that we are so proud of.
“I told the players before the game that our performance in the League Cup final told me that we have the potential (to win) when we get things perfect. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. and that we can do it every time, but if we have that potential wouldn’t it be amazing and beautiful to bring that to this competition as well?”
Fresh off their North London derby win over Tottenham at the weekend, Eidevall’s men purred with intensity at the Emirates and blew Bayern away with two brilliantly crafted goals.
They can now look forward to a European semi-final – and with just three points clear of WSL leaders Manchester United with seven games to play, winning three trophies isn’t out of the question.
“The process is really important and the results create trust,” Eidevall said. “It means the things you do, you’re more likely to do them again when you win football games from them.
“This month has given us (the results) and I hope that also creates a lot of conviction.”
Emirates ‘realistic vision’ as our home
The victory gave Eidevall and her players a “special” moment in front of more than 20,000 fans – a record crowd for a women’s European match played in England.
It was a performance which the Swede has described as his best game at the biggest stadium during his time at the club.
“It was special when I came here and we beat Chelsea 3-2 in my first game, but it was a limited time we worked here,” Eidevall said.
“It feels like a combination of 20 months of work for a double header against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment. I’m very proud of that.”
He said he believed the familiarity of playing at the Emirates this season had played a part in their success, and that it was a “realistic vision” to make it a permanent home for the women’s team in the future. .
“It’s been absolutely fundamental, not only getting the experience of playing here so many times, but also getting the fans here to experience it so many times with us,” Eidevall said.
“I really hope it keeps pushing. I feel like we’re seeing history being created very quickly before our eyes when I see how the spectators and the culture are here at Emirates Stadium.
“Five years ago, if someone had said that Arsenal’s long-term plan was to move permanently to the Emirates Stadium, people would probably have asked ‘how is it going to be? “
“But now I think people understand that could be a realistic view of the future.”
“They will not be afraid of the next”
What makes Arsenal’s recent form all the more remarkable is that it was achieved without star strikers Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead, who they lost to anterior cruciate ligament injuries before Christmas.
After initially struggling for goals, they now seem to have found answers. Striker Stina Blackstenius stepped in for the Emirates, scoring the second goal and impressing with her all-around play.
“It’s a very big turning point for this Arsenal team because before they didn’t do this. The level of performance they delivered was really impressive,” former England defender Laura Bassett told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“What impresses me the most at Arsenal this season is the amount of adversity they have overcome. To reach the semi-finals of the Champions League is huge.
“The more you get used to this feeling, the more it can drive you.”
Back-to-back European runners-up Barcelona remain in the competition, while holders Lyon must come from behind to beat Arsenal’s WSL rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in Thursday’s semi-final.
So the opposition remains tough – but can Arsenal recreate history and win another historic crown?
Former England defender Gilly Flaherty told BBC Radio 5 Live they “believe they can go all the way”.
She added: “Eidevall is convinced that Arsenal can beat anyone.
“If they have the right game plan, they are confident. They were amazing and fully deserved the win. They won’t be afraid of the next one.”