Arsenal: How Gunners delivered on potential in Champions League

Jonas Eidevall celebrates with his players

It was not that long ago that Arsenal were being written off as contenders this season after suffering an injury crisis.

What a difference a few weeks make; now they are firmly in the hunt to win three trophies.

A stunning first-half display against Bayern Munich on Wednesday saw them overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit and book their place in the Women’s Champions League semi-finals 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 5 March.

“It’s been a long-term goal of mine to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League,” said manager Jonas Eidevall. “It’s 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 we had potential [to win] when we get things perfect. It doesn’t mean it’s easy and we can do every time, but if we have that potential wouldn’t it be incredible and beautiful to bring that to this competition too?”

Buoyed by their north London derby victory over Tottenham at the weekend, Eidevall’s side were purring with intensity at the Emirates and blew Bayern away with two brilliantly worked goals.

They can now look forward to a European semi-final – and with just a three-point gap to WSL leaders Manchester United with seven games remaining, winning three trophies is not out of the question.

“Process is really important and results create belief,” said Eidevall. “It means the things you are doing, you are more inclined to do again when you win football matches from it.

“This month has given us [the results] and hopefully that creates a lot of belief as well.”

Emirates ‘a realistic vision’ as our home

Arsenal players and manager in a huddle post match

Victory gave Eidevall and his players a “special” moment in front of more than 20,000 fans – a record crowd for a women’s European game played in England.

It was a performance the Swede described as their best game at the larger 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 that was limited time we had worked here,” said Eidevall.

“This feels like 20 months’ combination of work going into 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 it was a “realistic vision” to make it a permanent home for the women’s team in the future.

“It’s been absolutely fundamental, that without us being able to experience playing here so many times, but also to get supporters here to experience it so many times with us,” said Eidevall.

“I really hope that it continues to push. I get the sense of belief that we’re seeing history getting created very quickly in front of our eyes when I see how the attendances and the culture is here at the Emirates Stadium.

“Five years ago, if someone would have said that Arsenal’s long-term plan is to move permanently to Emirates Stadium, people would probably have asked ‘how is that going to happen?’

“But now I think people understand that might be a realistic vision for the future.”

‘They won’t fear whoever is next’

Beth Mead celebrates with Kim Little

What makes Arsenal’s recent form even more notable is it has been done without star forwards 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 up at the Emirates, delivering the second goal and impressing with her overall play.

“That’s a really big turning point for this Arsenal team because previously she had not been doing that. The level of performance she delivered was really impressive,” said ex-England defender Laura Bassett on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“What impresses me the most about 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 can get used to this feeling, the more it can drive you on.”

Back-to-back European finalists 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 tough opposition remains – 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 the whole way”.

She added: “Eidevall is confident Arsenal can beat anybody.

“If they get the gameplan right, they’re confident. They were unbelievable and thoroughly deserved the win. They won’t fear whoever is next.”

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