This week marked a year for football without supporters in the stands. It has been a challenging year for the world but as a footballer, top performances are still expected to be carried out.
Sweden international and defender Jonna Andersson joined Chelsea in the middle of the 2017/18 season. The Blues’ left-back has been an important asset to the reigning champions’ backline.
Andersson is not only known for her strong defensive skills, but also her running and crossing abilities. This is shown in her frequently delivered extra passes to Chelsea’s attackers in developing actions.
A special year
Chelsea are currently sitting at the top of a league that is more competitive than ever.
This means that there’s more pressure than usual to keep performing at the highest possible level to stay at the top of the table. But how has it been to play football and live abroad whilst not knowing when you can see your friends and family back home again?
“It has been a special year,” Andersson told Her Football Hub. “Although, I feel extremely grateful that we as footballers can still play the game and that I still am allowed to go to work every day.
“I know that there are so many people struggling right now, people that aren’t as lucky.”
Last season, the Women’s Super League ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was later decided that the league would terminate early and the winners would be decided on a PPG (points per game) system.
Chelsea came out on top and were announced as title winners for the 2019/20 season.
When the league returned in September, it did so with with strict protocols. For Andersson, this has included not being able to travel back home to Sweden to see friends and family as she normally would.
“It has been tough, I’m not going to lie about that,” the defender admitted. “It was extra hard to not be able to go back home for Christmas, due to the fact that London was put in Tier 4 just before the Christmas break.
“I’m trying to tell myself that I’ll make up for lost time with family and friends when the season is over. Also, as I said before, I feel lucky to play football even with the circumstances.”
Keep on performing
With all the current uncertainty, you never know what is going to happen from one week to the next. How do footballers at this level cope with that whilst still pushing to develop their game and become better during a season like this?
“If I’m going and try to find positive sides of this situation, one thing about being in lockdown is that I can really focus on my football,” Andersson said. “At Chelsea, we are 100% focused on our goals and you can see that in every training session we have.
“It’s all about quality and to prepare ourselves for every single game we play.”
“I feel that since Christmas and the new year it has been a little easier to deal with everything. I’ve sort of accepted the fact that I can’t control everything that is happening around me right now. If I let myself relax in those thoughts it makes it easier to motivate myself and focus strictly on football.”
No international break
At the ongoing international break, Andersson and her fellow teammates Magdalena Eriksson and Zecira Musovic weren’t allowed to join the national team. This was because of travel restrictions other countries have been setting up. As it stands, no one from the United Kingdom can travel into Malta, where Sweden were headed to play a friendly tournament.
It’s the first time, in a long time that Andersson hasn’t been able to join the Swedish squad. The team are currently preparing themselves for the Olympics in Japan this summer.
“We were prepared or the fact that we probably couldn’t go this time,” Andersson revealed. “But of course, we hoped that it was going to be solved so we could go.
“Mentally it would have been nice to go with the national team and to have a break with a change of environment since we couldn’t go home for Christmas. Instead, we have to focus on the things that we can influence at the moment to not waste energy on the wrong things.”
The season so far
It’s clear that Andersson forms a vital part of Chelsea’s backline with her contributions in attack and defence. This season, the full-back is among the top five players with Alex Greenwood, Katie McCabe, Lucy Bronze and Ona Batlle who create the most shots for their respective teams.
An interesting thing to note is how Andersson’s role and involvement seems to have changed this season for Chelsea. She’s taking less touches overall, but her touches in the attacking third have increased and she’s playing less progressive passes but is on the end of more of them.
This highlights how Chelsea’s ball-carrying impetus has shifted from their full-backs to the central midfield. With Sophie Ingle, Ji So-yun, Melanie Leupolz and Pernille Harder in the midfield, they have incredible creators in the engine room. Andersson can be freed of that task which makes us see that Andersson is an increased presence in the attacking end of things in the final third.
Her heat maps show the difference as well if we compare the 2019/20 season with the current one.
The second goal Chelsea scored against Arsenal a couple of weeks ago shows Andersson involvement in the Blues’ attacking play when she passed the ball to Kirby who then assisted Harder who scored.
“Overall, I feel that my performance this season is good,” Andersson said of herself. “Although, I should also add that it feels that I still have more to give – my performances have been fairly even.
“I always want to provide the best I can so I quite often go back to look at the games we play to study small details so I can go back and train even harder to take more steps forward in my development. I always want to become better and better and I feel that I have already taken several steps this season compared to the last season. My hunger to improve will never stop!”
The Swede went on to express how excited she is to finally see supporters back in the stadiums again.
“I miss our fans dearly right now,” she said. “I can’t wait to be able to welcome them back. They create such an amazing atmosphere and it’s impossible not to notice their absence.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about it at the moment. But I hope that they know that we really feel their support from home and hopefully, we will be able to give back by making them proud of us and of our performance at the end of this season.”