Swedish coach’s side edged Chelsea in WSL encounter and leans into superstitions to try to land trophy on Sunday
Jonas Eidevall has just given away his biggest superstition two days from his first FA Cup final, at Wembley against Emma Hayes’s Chelsea. “If Emma sees this she will probably buy a thousand black cats with the money Chelsea have and send them all over our ground,” Arsenal’s manager says. “I’m going to be invaded by black cats.”
It is said with a big laugh but Eidevall has not finished. “I don’t let any black cats cross my way, ever – I don’t harm any black cats either, it’s important to say. But I have sometimes driven around, rerouting for a couple of miles, just to not cross a black cat. You feel a little bit silly when you’re doing it.”
The 38-year-old Swede is more coy on what he learned from Arsenal’s Women’s Super League opener against Chelsea, which his team won 3-2. “That’s a very interesting question and one that it would be a bit stupid of me to answer before the game,” he says with a grin. “So compliments for a good question but you will not get anything further from me on that. After the game we can discuss it.”
Predicting which team are in a better place is hard, he concedes. Chelsea had not had much of a pre‑season but have found their flow and are perhaps better off this time. Equally, Eidevall says: “We had a number of additions to our squad, me coming in as a new coach, with very limited time. Now the players have had more time to adjust during the season, Chelsea have too, so these are two teams that have developed, have learned things as the season has gone on and I’m excited for the game.”
In that 3-2 victory, Eidevall was particularly animated, pictured on his knees, fists pumping, in celebration. “I don’t pre-plan – I’m not that smart – how to act on the sideline,” he says. “I like to be more calm; I think that helps with decision making.
“There were a lot of things going into that game. We’d had a very short time together, I had been in England for a very short time. I came back [from sorting visas for his family] for the last two training sessions before the Chelsea game, which was the first two training sessions when we had the whole squad.
“It was a lot of work in a short amount of time going into that game and of course it felt like we were out of control in some aspects of that game. But you could see how massive the heart the players had was, how much they were fighting and trying to get the details right and that [celebration] was being proud of being together with them and the staff in that moment shining through.”
Sunday’s final, for which the attendance is expected to reach at least 45,000, comes straight off an international break that presented both managers with various challenges, not least whether to worry about players picking up injuries.
“I try not to get on to that emotional rollercoaster,” says Eidevall. “I remember one week in Germany some years ago when I was coaching in Sweden, I was sitting in a very nice restaurant with friends and text messages started to drop in with players being injured, from their national teams, and it completely ruined the whole evening with this eight-course dinner that we were having, I just went home early.
“After that I decided I can’t control it so why would I spend a lot of energy on it. Those things that happen will happen – the important thing is how we respond to it.”
One player he didn’t have to worry about was Kim Little, who retired from international football in September and feels Arsenal are benefiting from that decision.
“I’m using the time to put me in the best place to perform for Arsenal,” says the midfielder. “It’s hard to tell [how much] as it’s only been the first few months. But because we’ve had an accumulation of games, with the Champions League change of format, I’ve played a lot of minutes and once that international break comes I do feel a bit overloaded and I’m able to manage that with days off, I do think I’ve benefited.”
Little’s reply to Hayes having said that Manchester City are seen as their rivals and not Arsenal? “I think she’s just playing games. That’s all I’ve got to say.”