Blackstenius: ‘I’ve never played in a team where we’re so close’

Stina Blackstenius celebrating against Bristol City earlier in the Conti Cup

Arsenal’s top scorer this season has a relentless drive to succeed, embracing the challenge of competition with the likes of Alessia Russo.

And despite the reduced playing time that comes as a result of the Gunners having multiple top-class centre forwards, Stina Blackstenius has always been ready for her chances, and seized them when they’ve come her way.

Yet the Swede isn’t just about scoring goals; she epitomises the team-first mentality of the Gunners, fighting tooth and nail for each other on the pitch while fostering a close bond off it.

“I don’t think I’ve played in a team where we’re so close to each other before,” she said.

“There is a really good group here. In tough times as well, we stick together. I’m happy to be a part of this.

“It means a lot to have fun and to enjoy the time we spend together no matter if it’s in training, a camp, or playing the game. We also have the opportunity to win something together.”

In reflecting on her bond with team-mates, the forward also highlighted a special connection to two certain players: “Laura [Wienroither] came to Arsenal at the same time as me so she’s one of the people I’m closest to. Frida [Maanum] and I are really close as well. We both speak Swedish so you don’t have to think about the language, which is really nice.”

Blackstenius’ efforts in the 2023-24 FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa, a first-half hat-trick in a 4-1 victory, helped book her side’s place in Sunday’s Final versus Chelsea.

“To get the goals was good for my confidence and I was happy to give something to the team,” she reflected.

“After last year’s Final we know that we have something special to play for. I feel like there’s always something extra when you’re playing in a final, knowing that you can win a trophy. That’s where we want to be as a team and where we should be.”

Stina Blackstenius

Last year’s 3-1 Final win against Chelsea marked the end of Arsenal’s four-year trophy drought, a moment that holds significant importance in Blackstenius’ tenure in North London:

She said: “It ranks high of course. It’s the only trophy that I’ve had with the team so far. I hope we can add another one, as it would mean a lot for me personally to experience that again, but also for the team.”

Blackstenius is no stranger to the intensity of this match-up. She relishes the special feeling that comes with facing their London rivals once again.

She said: “We prepare for every game in the same way. But with these games, being a London derby as well, you get this extra oomph feeling.

“We know what it’s like playing against Chelsea, but if we play our best, and I know that we can play on a really high level, then I see a really good chance here to win this game.”

But the last time these two teams faced each other, Arsenal came off second-best, enduring a 3-1 league defeat at Stamford Bridge. Despite the setback, the reigning champions have their sights set on redemption.

“There’s so much to learn from games where you don’t get things right,” she explained. “We can give so much more than we did at Stamford Bridge. It’s hard to say what you learn, but I think you get this feeling that’s not the team you want to be and that’s not what we want to give the fans either.

Amidst the anticipation surrounding the Final at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux Stadium, one thing is clear: for Arsenal, this isn’t just another chance at silverware; it’s an opportunity to reaffirm their status as one of the top contenders in women’s football.

With a record six wins under their belt, the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup holds significant weight for Arsenal, and Blackstenius reveals that at the start of the season, head coach Jonas Eidevall set out to make it seven:

“It’s a trophy we’re talking about and everyone in the team wants to win. We always want to be in a position to play for the trophies and that was something we spoke about before the season started and now we’re here.”

Tickets for Sunday’s 2023-24 FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup Final at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux Stadium are still available here, with adult tickets from £15, concessions for £7 and kids for £5.

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