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Sarina Wiegman: Arsenal exhibition match in Melbourne ‘not good’ for players

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 26 Mar 2024

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England boss Sarina Wiegman is “surprised” at Arsenal’s plan to play an exhibition match in Melbourne on May 24 – a trip she feels is “not good” for players.

The Gunners last week announced their women’s team will head out to Australia to face an ‘A League Allstars’ side in the end-of-season fixture.

England are set to play Euro 2025 qualifiers against France at St James’ Park on May 31 and then away on June 3.

Wiegman told a press conference on Tuesday: “I was surprised about that trip. I think for all the players, with an already complicated calendar, it’s not good for them to go to the other side of the world.

“It’s very short term, not having the time to adapt and play a game and come back and go for us. I would say for every European player that goes into the qualifiers, that’s a thing that will be hard for them to take, and to perform at the highest level.”

Wiegman – whose European champions open their qualifying campaign by playing Sweden at Wembley a week on Friday, then the Republic of Ireland in Dublin four days later – said there have been “very good conversations about the summer” with Arsenal, adding: “We’re on the same page.

“I’m in contact with Jonas (Eidevall, the Arsenal manager) all the time. They haven’t announced yet who is going and who is not.

“I think this is a matter for Arsenal and the last thing I would do is dictate a club or a coach, that’s not my job or what I want to do. I think this is a wider thing, and Arsenal hasn’t announced the team yet.”

Eidevall last week said of the trip: “It is now about making the most out of that opportunity. That means that for some players it will be the right thing to go, and for others it will not be the right thing if we talk about it from a loading and welfare perspective. We need to make good and deliberate decisions on that.”

After the France double-header, England are scheduled to then conclude their Group A3 matches with games against the Republic and Sweden on July 12 and 15 respectively.

It has been reported that the Football Association intends for players to be recalled on June 19 ahead of those games and that several clubs were angry about that plan.

Wiegman said of discussions with clubs: “We are in a very good place with that. Every club we are in contact with is really aware of what we want to do, and how and why.

“You can’t… have a little more than five weeks and don’t do anything and then play Ireland and Sweden. That’s impossible to perform, and everyone acknowledges that.

“We’re in the final (phase of talks) with the clubs, so I can’t be really specific, but it’s not a full three weeks – it’s similar to what we did before the Euros (in 2022) and (2023) World Cup, and giving them some proper time off too. And that’s all in contact with the clubs.

“They’re not angry. In the conversations we have, there’s no anger at all. They’re just very good conversations. The clubs are not angry with us and we are not angry with the clubs.”

Wiegman was speaking having named a 23-player squad for next month’s matches, which includes Leah Williamson.

The Arsenal defender, who captained England to Euro 2022 glory, returned to the international fold in February for the first time in nine months having recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, but subsequently had to withdraw before friendlies against Austria and Italy due to a hamstring issue.

Chelsea’s Fran Kirby is also back, having missed the February games after pulling up in the pre-Austria warm-up with a knee problem, while club mate Millie Bright – England’s skipper at last summer’s World Cup – remains out injured.

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