Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord set to make Champions League debut

Arsenal Women huddle before a match at Meadow Park (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Arsenal Women huddle before a match at Meadow Park (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord is set to make her Champions League debut for Arsenal in this evening’s clash with French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Arsenal's Caitlin Foord (left) and Chelsea's Sophie Ingle battle for the ball during the FA Women's

Arsenal's Caitlin Foord (left) and Chelsea's Sophie Ingle battle for the ball during the FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup final at the City Ground - Credit: PA

Foord who arrived in North London in January from Sydney FC netted in her debut against Lewes in the FA Cup before featuring in the Continetal Cup final but hasn’t played since due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to she said: “It is weird playing the FA Cup game and the Conti Cup game and now the Champions League and not making my debut in the league yet, It’s a bit weird and it’s a bit odd because that’s not normally the way things go.

“Obviously with the lockdown situation and all that it is a very unique situation but I’ve just been trying to make the most of it and take what’s been happening as it comes.

“I think the lockdown period if anything gave me the opportunity to almost integrate into the team a bit more.

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“Without being around the team during the Lockdown it definitely feels like I’m more involved in the team now than I was before which is strange because we weren’t training or anything like that.

“I’m really looking forward to competing with the team in the champions league as these are the big games that everyone wants to play”.

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Foord has praised teammate Lia Wälti for helping her settle into life in London saying: “Having two Aussies around the club now in Steph Catley and Lydia Williams is nice because I’m not the only one anymore.”

“But living with Lia has helped me massively coming into the team and I’m very fortunate and thankful.

“During the lockdown period she was living alone I was living alone and she had a spare room so she invited me to move in with her.

“It was great just being able to train with her because you could only train with your household, and to have company was fantastic because it would’ve been a very, very long time to be by myself.

“I got to know her and a lot of the girls more on a personal level through her as well. That definitely helped me integrate into the team and get to know the players on a personal level, which at times can take a little bit longer normally in the season.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s clash with PSG at the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian, Foord says the Gunners have watched video analysis of their opponents: “We’ve started watching some video clips of them as they had a recent game against Lyon, it was a good game just to see.

“The coaching staff have had a lot of time during lockdown to prepare for this game and make us familiar with what we’re going into and where we think we can exploit the game and where we have to be careful as well.

“We’ve definitely been working on that and that’s going to put us in the best shape possible heading into the game.

“We’ve seen them and we know they’re a young, quick, powerful team, that’s something we’ve been aware of and watching them against Lyon we witnessed the effect they have on teams as well.

“For us, that’s something we have to be aware of but we just want to focus on ourselves and our style of football. On the day it’s going to be whatever team is the best team and it’s a challenge we’re excited for.

“We haven’t focused too much on individuals as a whole they have a load of good players but when you start focusing on individuals that’s when you start losing what you have.

“ We want to focus on us, our playing style and we know they have quality players but we have a lot as well.

“I think it’s going to be a good competitive game and I’m just excited to be there and to be involved.

“It’s going to be extremely hot and fortunately enough in the UK we’ve had a bit of a heatwave these last couple of weeks, which has been good for us to train in and prepare a little bit.

“What Arsenal’s been lacking before is the depth in the squad, in the sense of people being injured and having an unlucky run.

“But touch wood right now everyone’s fit and healthy and the depth is really strong. I think heading into this game that’s one thing we could hope to have.

“We’ve not played in a while and the game possibly going to extra-time and penalties, that’s where this will play a really key role in this game and even further into the tournament as well.

“That’s reassuring and promising to know that everyone’s there, everyone’s fit and everyone’s ready to go.”

Arsenal are playing in the champions league for the first time since 2014 and Foord went on to explain how important this tournament is for the group: “For me personally, coming to a team that’s already made the steps they needed to take to get to where we are it’s a bit of a weird situation.

“But the team’s worked extremely hard to get to where we are now and moving forward, with how the season finished last year, we know we don’t qualify for the Champions League next year.

“We know in our minds that we have to win this thing to still be in the champions league, which is massive for us.

“As footballers you want to be playing in the Champions League, so that definitely gives us something to drive towards but in saying that you don’t need too much motivation to get up for it and be excited for those games.

“On top of that, we haven’t played football in such a long time that it’s even more exciting to have a game because we haven’t had a competitive game in a very long time, It makes it a bit more special.”

Being Australian Foord was joined by international teammates Williams and Catley in North London this summer commentating on those additions she explained: “In a way, I’ve been playing with Steph since under-17s so for 10 years.”

“We’ve known each other a very long time. I guess in a club environment you see them day in, day out and I know them pretty well as footballers so it’s all about getting to know them as people as well.

“That’s something I hadn’t really had the chance to do. It’s just good to have them around and they’re always two players that I hated playing against in club football so it’s nice to have them finally on my team.”

Arsenal had several friendlies before jetting out to Spain on Thursday, on those games and how useful they have been Foord said: “It’s been massive for myself but also for the new players as well. There’s quite a few of us so it’s been good to get some minutes, but also to learn the philosophy and the style that we play at Arsenal.

“To become more familiar with that, to get more of an understanding of your team-mates and then for them to have a chance to understand you as a player which does take time.

“Obviously we’re limited with time and with a lot of new players, it does take time but it is what it is and it’s been good to get minutes, to have sessions and a good build-up to get a little bit more familiar.

“In an important pressure game that’s where these things show, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team gels and how the game pans.”

The rest of the champions league campaign will be played in a one off game format on preparing for that instead of the traditional two legged tie associated with the champions league the Australian international said: “I can only speak personally and I’ve never experienced a home and away series layout, so for me this feels normal to just have one game.”

“But I’m sure for a lot of the girls who have been involved and have experience of champions league football it might be a bit different for them.

“But they’ve all played in World Cups and that’s how the tournament is formatted, and the Olympics too. In a way it might be strange but it’s also something we’re all very familiar with.”

Meanwhile Arsenal confirmed that summer signing Lydia Williams won’t be available for the tournament with an ankle injury.

A statement on Friday read: “Lydia Williams injured her ankle during pre-season and has since undergone surgery.

“The surgery went well and she is working hard on her rehabilitation at the club. She is expected to return in the coming months.

“Everyone at the club wishes Lydia a speedy recovery.”

Joe Montemurro also confirmed in his pre-match press conference that Catley will be available for tomorrow’s game despite not featuring in any of the lead up friendlies.

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