Jonas Eidevall at Arsenal: how Arsenal’s playing style can improve under the Swedish head coach – tactical analysis
Jonas Eidevall has just joined Arsenal Women recently to be their head coach after he was at Rosengard Women for four years. The Swedish head coach won the Swedish league title back in 2019 and finished second last season after he had experiences at Malmö FF and Lunds Bollklubb. Moreover, he had the chance of playing in UEFA Women’s Champions League regularly and meeting big teams like Bayern Munich and Chelsea. This experience at a high level has surely made Eidevall aware and familiar with the level of such big teams and therefore he knows what to expect when competing in FAWSL.
In this tactical analysis article, we will explore Eidevall’s footballing philosophy, his tactical ideas and how can he apply them at Arsenal. This will be done while keeping in mind that it is so unlikely to change Arsenal’s tactics in one go, this process will surely take time, especially if Eidevall is already happy with some of the already existing tactical ideas at Arsenal.
Preferred formations and line-ups:
Eidevall is a flexible head coach who is comfortable in changing formations and relying on numerous ones for each opportunity. For Rosengard, he mainly used the 3-5-2 and the 4-3-3 but he also tried these formations with a lesser degree: 3-4-1-2, 4-1-4-1 and the 4-4-2. This means that he will not have problems in choosing an adequate formation for Arsenal based on the players and on how he wants to play. Eidevall will most probably rely mainly on the 4-3-3 since he has the suitable players for this formation, but at the same time, he can switch to other formations when needed, especially if the results don’t follow. He would more likely resort to the 3-5-2 at times if he finds the adequate players for it since it gives him a plethora of ideas especially in attack, this will be explained further below.
It is true that Arsenal will be missing valuable players like Van de Donk and Jill Roord, yet the transfer window is still open and we will more likely see a midfielder or two joining the team soon.
But at the same time, they have signed Mana Iwabuchi and she would be a great addition in attack, either as a winger or as a sub for Miedema as well.
And as you can see below, Eidevall will more likely keep using wingers since he has some excellent ones while the only issue will be to replace the leaving midfielders with quality players in that area. In defence, he will most likely keep using the same players too since they are the best at the team actually.
Eidevall believes in the importance of mastering counter-attacks and exploiting possession in the best way to surprise and break the opponent’s defence. This was clear in Rosengard’s performances as they were able to score many goals according to this pattern. Most of the time, Rosengard keep possession until they reach the final third and then look for individual attempts from wingers or strikers. Yet, the kind of possession that Rosengard use is a quick one, relying on vertical passes and trying to use horizontal ones as less as possible in order to gain time and avoid giving the opportunity for opposing defence to organise their lines.
For instance, in this goal action Rosengard circulated the ball from defence to attack with nine passes to reach Olivia Schough who scored the goal. These passes included a few horizontal ones but the most of them were vertical ones, and that’s what enabled Schough to have some space to advance and shoot.
In addition to these “counter-attacking based possession”, Eidevall also wants his players to know exactly when to initiate attacks and when to keep passing the ball to tire the opponents and make their lines distant. In other words, he wants his players to use possession in a creative way and not just keep the ball for the sake of it. And at Arsenal, this type of football will be applicable given the quality of players existing in the squad as well as their tactical maturity. We expect to see an Arsenal team that knows what to do with the ball whenever they are in possession, and not just a passive team waiting for opportunities to come their way by hazard.
In the example below, we picked this goal action to show how many players Rosengard use when attacking. Six players were close to the penalty area with two wing-backs among them who were key to scoring this goal. In fact, in this match Eidevall played with the 3-5-2 formation and wing-backs have a fundamental role here especially in attack. They advance a lot and oblige defenders to defend wide, this will then create space for the players already positioning themselves centrally inside the box or just near it. In this action, the left wing-back crossed the ball attempting to find a header, but the ball wasn’t touched and came to the right wing-back who found a free player inside the box and passed to her, assisting a goal.
Eidevall’s attacking plans also rely on short passes and not many long ones, as he also instructs his players to play “simple” football by not exceeding two or three touches whenever possible in order to keep possession quick and gain more time. This, along with the reliance on one two combinations to exclude opponents, makes his players efficient in overcoming defences in their own half.
At the same time, he also relies on key crosses in the final third and off the ball movement especially in attack. Since Eidevall took charge of Rosengard, the team’s possession rate didn’t go under 60%, which proves the efficiency of such style and the importance of not holding the ball for so long since, which can result in numerous interceptions per match, therefore, less possession and more threat.
Pressing and defence
Concerning defence, Eidevall’s team performances surely had some positives and some negatives as well. His team was able to win the large part of the Swedish league games yet they failed in beating the big European teams or stop them, which is understandable. In fact, Rosengard reached the quarter-final of UWCL last season before getting knocked out by Bayern Munich and that’s already a good result. Playing against such big teams has surely enabled Eidevall to know more about this high level and prepare defending alternatives for such powerful teams. And we’ll wait to see how he can apply his defensive ideas at Arsenal to stop teams like Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
For instance, he will have to be attentive to counter-attacks when facing such teams and instruct his players to not allow 2 vs 2 situations or 2 vs more than 2 to happen in order to avoid conceding goals like the one shown in this example.
Moreover, allowing opponents to move without the ball at the back of the high defensive line can cost a lot especially against clinical strikers. And in FAWSL, Eidevall needs to warn his defensive players about such errors to avoid conceding goals from these situations, something that happened when he was at Rosengard.
Like you can see below, the Rosengard defender was looking at the ball and leaving an attacking player at her back asking for the ball and moving towards the box. Even though her marker was following her, this defender should have retreated to have a clearer view of what’s happening and cover for her teammates instead of enabling the opponent to run towards the free space left behind the defensive line and receive a key pass to score.
It should be said however that Rosengard’s most conceded goals came from penalties or set-pieces last season and they did not concede many goals especially when compared with the scored goals. And with more experienced players at Arsenal, Eidevall can build a very solid defensive phase to secure the team’s goal. If he will use the 3-5-2 formation so often however, he will need some extra effort from both wing-backs who will have to join the three centre-backs constantly while supporting the attack as much as possible as well, which will not be simple for players who are not used to such plans.
When it comes to pressing, Eidevall works a lot on this aspect and always wants his players to be efficient in executing the pressing instructions, since applying them was often fruitful for the team. At the start of the game and even in the course of the match, Rosengard players often press in a smart way so as to oblige the opponent’s defenders to find no passing option and give the ball away. Just like you can see below, the strikers press on defenders and midfielders mark their direct opponents while one of them advances to make an extra pressure on the holder of the ball and at the same time she hides the passing option to her direct marker, as you can see with the red triangle.
Jonas Eidevall is an intelligent choice by Arsenal as the 38-year-old head coach is a successful and passionate one who will surely bring his footballing ideas and try to apply the suitable ones at Arsenal, hoping to make greater results than their previous ones. Nevertheless, Arsenal are in need of some recruitments in order to compete with the big FAWSL teams and be able to challenge for the title.