Sarina Wiegman says this month’s Arnold Clark Cup will provide England with a crucial acid test ahead of the home European Championships in the summer.
England return to action for the first time in nearly three months when they take on Olympic champions Canada at the Riverside on Thursday, before games against Spain on Sunday and Germany next week.
All three of England’s opponents are ranked in the world’s top 10, which is in stark contract to the sides Wiegman has faced in her six games since starting the job as head coach last September.
England won all six of those World Cup qualifiers by an aggregate score of 53-0, and Wiegman said: “We need these games because we want to be exploited in everything – in defense, in possession, in transition moments.
“You need these opponents to play against, so that’s really exciting. After this tournament we will know better where we are at this moment, and that’s good to prepare for the Euros.
“Since the moment I came in, we have had games where we are really in possession all the time and I think we did really well in those games. The pressure was high, but not as high as we expect in the upcoming games.
“We have subjects we will be working on, and that is in possession and in transition, and also of course, out of possession. We’ll see where it goes – we have our tactical plan and we’re trying to develop our style of play.”
Wubben-Moy ruled out for England
Lotte Wubben-Moy will not join up with the England squad for the Arnold Clark Cup.
The defender will continue to work on her rehabilitation program with Arsenal, leaving Sarina Wiegman with a squad of 23 players.
There are no plans to call up a replacement.
England Women squad: Earps, Hampton, Roebuck, Bright, Bronze, Carter, Charles, Daly, Greenwood, Stokes, Williamson, Kirby, Nobbs, Scott, Stanway, Walsh, Zelem, Hemp, Mead, Parris, Russo, Toone, White
Williamson: Good to ‘catch up’ with Chelsea counterparts
Leah Williamson will again captain the side in the absence of the injured Steph Houghton, and the Arsenal defender says the international break has offered a good opportunity to discuss last week’s Women’s Super League clash with her Chelsea counterparts.
“We had a bit of a catch up with the girls when we arrived,” Williamson said. “One of the best games of the season and one of the toughest teams to play, but when you arrive in camp they’re your team-mates and I’m happy to be on the same team as them.”
The clash between title rivals Arsenal and Chelsea ended on a controversial note thanks to Williamson, with the Blues not awarded a stoppage-time penalty despite a cross hitting her outstretched arm in the area.
Asked if describing her meeting with the Chelsea players as a “catch up” was a diplomatic description, she said: “A little bit!”
The decision to hand Williamson the armband has been backed by Manchester City and England midfielder Keira Walsh, who described her pride at seeing her “best friend” awarded the honour.
“When I was younger and we played at U17s, U18s and U19s she was always the captain of the youth teams,” explained Walsh. “It’s always a role she has naturally assumed anyway, whether she is wearing the armband or not. We have a team of leaders.
“But I’m so proud of her and seeing how far she’s come. She’s had a few injuries recently so just seeing the strides she’s made in her game. She’s at the forefront of that now.
“As her best friend and team-mate it’s such a proud moment for me. I know her family really well too so I know they will be so happy for her. It was a nice moment for everyone.”
Bronze ready to put ‘frustrating’ period behind her
England and Manchester City right-back Lucy Bronze is determined to put a “frustrating” period behind her and get back to her best after recovering from knee surgery.
Bronze is training with the squad ahead of the start of the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup after missing the first half of the Women’s Super League season after undergoing the fifth knee operation of her career and is looking forward to making up for lost time.
“The year before was more frustrating than being injured. I played a whole year being injured and just had to carry on and not be at my best,” Bronze said.
“Both physically and mentally it was quite draining so actually, as much as it was disappointing to miss out on England games and it was disappointing not being able to help my club team with all the injuries that happened there, it was something for myself. needed to do and have the operation.
“Now I’m just slowly building back up, performances are coming, match fitness is coming and hopefully I can get back to the very top and the very best of my performances in the next few months.”
View from Canada camp
Canada boss Bev Priestman – who served as Phil Neville’s assistant during his time as England Women’s manager – is expecting a “great battle” when her side take on the Lionesses at the Riverside.
“This will be the best representation of England,” she said. “The last two times I played them there was a very interim feel to it.
“I think they’ve now got a manager they’re on a longer term journey with and I expect them to look sharp.
“She’s [Weigman] a great manager and she’s achieved great things in her career. Her players will be out for a spot, to make themselves available for a home Euros – there’s no bigger occasion in your own country.
“I expect them to be sharp, to be strong and very organized. It’ll be a great battle.”
What is the Arnold Clark Cup?
The Arnold Clark Cup is a new round-robin tournament taking place this month between England, Germany, Spain and Canada.
The competition will take place in England, with matches taking place at Middlesbrough’s Riverside, Norwich’s Carrow Road and Wolves’ Molineux.
Each side will play each other once, with the side sitting top of the four-team table after all six fixtures crowned the victors.
The cup will also serve as useful preparation for England, Germany and Spain ahead of this summer’s European Championship, which is taking place in England.
When are England playing?
Germany vs Spain – February 17, 2.30pm kick off
England vs Canada – February 17, 7.30pm kick off
England vs Spain – February 20, 3.15pm kick off
Canada vs Germany – February 20, 8.15pm kick off
Spain vs Canada – February 23, 2.30pm kick off
England vs Germany – February 23, 7.30pm kick off
Follow England in the Arnold Clark Cup this month with Sky Sports’ dedicated live match blogs.
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