Published 08 February 2022 6 min read
Sarina Wiegman

Sarina Wiegman: 'Arnold Clark Cup is what we need'

Written by:

Frank Smith

England head coach discusses the importance of facing Canada, Spain and Germany plus some of her key squad selections, including the inclusion of Lucy Bronze and absence of Steph Houghton 

Sarina Wiegman believes the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup will be crucial in knowing ‘where we stand’ as England Lionesses build towards this summer’s home EUROs.

Wiegman officially took charge of England women’s senior team on September 1 and has enjoyed a successful start to her reign, winning all six of her matches.

Whilst November’s victory over Austria was by one goal, England have enjoyed at least 71 per cent possession in each of their matches under Wiegman and have recorded comfortable winning margins in the other five games.

The Lionesses will face much bigger challenges later this month though when they take on three of the world’s top ten sides in the first ever Arnold Clark Cup.

Olympic champions Canada, growing force Spain and European powerhouse Germany are all heading to these shores for a round-robin tournament, taking place at three stadiums across the country.

And speaking after announcing her 24-player England Women’s squad on Tuesday afternoon, Wiegman acknowledged: “This is what we need. We had a very good Autumn with the three international camps and now we need these games to really know where we are. Then from there, we can continue [working together] before in April we go into our World Cup qualification matches.

“This is a tournament where we can really have a starting point for our preparations for the EUROs – obviously we have already done that – but now with these world-class opponents, we will really know where we stand and from there, we can continue to prepare for the EUROS. So it is necessary for us to play these matches.”

England star Lucy Bronze is back in the England squad but team-mate Steph Houghton is still working her way back to fitness
England star Lucy Bronze is back in the England squad but team-mate Steph Houghton is still working her way back to fitness

The opening game of the competition will be Germany v Spain at Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough on the afternoon of Thursday 17 February, which will be followed later that day by England Women v Canada at 7.30pm.

England Women v Spain will be hosted by Norwich City’s Carrow Road on Sunday 20 February at 2.30pm, with the other two sides squaring off later than night.

And Spain take on Canada on the afternoon of Wednesday 23 February at Wolves’ Molineux Stadium, ahead of the final match-up of the tournament, England Women v Germany, at 7.30pm.

It is a chance for England Lionesses to visit three different areas of the country, following other home contests on the road in late-2021, and tickets are available from £10 for adults and £5 for under-16s from here.

Wiegman said: “Every international camp is an opportunity for us to connect with the England fans. 

“We are going to parts of the country where we haven’t been to a lot lately so that is really good and hopefully we can play well, play well in games, which we obviously want to win, and we can show how good we are and give the fans in the stadium and in front of the television a good evening.”

Wiegman was speaking on Tuesday afternoon, immediately after naming her 24-player squad for the tournament.

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There were some notable inclusions, with Manchester City duo Ellie Roebuck and Lucy Bronze both fit enough to be called up by Wiegman for the first time, whilst there is also a return for Leah Williamson following her own injury.

“Lucy is delighted to be back and I am delighted too. Finally we can start working together,” Wiegman replied when asked about Bronze.

“Ellie has not been able to be in the squad either and now she is back playing and she has done well. So I am really looking forward to starting to work with her.”

Wiegman has yet to name a full-time captain, with the likes of Williamson and Mille Bright taking the armband in the Autumn.

So the return of Bronze led to the coach being asked if Bronze was likely to captain the team during the Arnold Clark Cup.

“I haven’t talked to the players yet – I was expecting this question again!” Wiegman said, with a smile.

“Firstly, we will speak to the players when they are here and then after that I will tell you.”

Leah Williamson is also back in the squad after recovering from injury
Leah Williamson is also back in the squad after recovering from injury

As for Roebuck, the 22-year-old is one of the most highly rated goalkeepers in the country, with seven caps to her name, but Mary Earps impressed when called upon in the Autumn, having started all six of Wiegman’s games so far.

Wiegman spoke of playing different players in the three games due to the quick turnaround of the fixtures in the Arnold Clark Cup but said she is yet to decide who will feature in what contests, with the Dutch coach keen to speak to the players upon their arrival at St. George’s Park first.

When asked about the battle for the No.1 jersey, Wiegman said: “We have very good goalkeepers and a very good squad. Mary got some tests against Austria and she was there, so she did a great job. 

“It is going to be very exciting to get the squad in and then see how the goalkeepers relate to each other.”

One of the most talked about omissions from the squad was that of long-time England captain Steph Houghton.

The 33-year-old had been in Wiegman’s first England squad in September but after suffering an ankle injury, only returned to action for Manchester City last month.

Wiegman explained: “You are always disappointed when you can’t bring in a player who you really want to bring in – Beth England isn’t available either.

“But with Steph, it is really disappointing because she has been out for a long time already. 

“She came in in September but then had to leave. When she came out of the winter break, she played well but she needs a little more time to get fit again. So it was disappointing for her in the first place but also for our team.”

She continued: “Steph was really, really disappointed of course but you need to do smart things too. If you need more time to get fit then you have to take that time, otherwise you will be out for a longer period and that is not what we want, not what she wants, and not what Manchester City want. So she needs time and hopefully she will recover.”

Tickets to Arnold Clark Cup