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Inside the Emma Hayes-Jonas Eidevall rivalry ahead of Arsenal vs Chelsea League Cup final showdown

In this composite image, a comparison has been made between Arsenal Women head coach Jonas Eidevall (L) and Emma Hayes, manager of Chelsea
Eidevall (left) and Hayes (right) meet for the last time on Sunday - Getty Images/Justin Setterfield/Steve Bardens

It is a rivalry that has taken in everything from knee slides to black cat jibes – and now Emma Hayes and Jonas Eidevall are set for one last dance in the Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup final on Sunday.

Since Eidevall took charge of Arsenal in the summer of 2021, his team has played Hayes’s Chelsea 10 times. Hayes has won half of those meetings, Eidevall three and two have been drawn. Perhaps more significantly, Hayes has lifted five major trophies in those past two and three quarter years, compared to Eidevall’s one. Now they will contest another piece of silverware before Hayes departs Chelsea to take charge of the US women’s team.

So what of their rivalry? Hayes says it has been “fun” but insists they respect each other, while Eidevall has “enjoyed the challenge” but could not resist one last dig at his opposite number’s budget ahead of their Molineux meeting.

“What Emma has done with Chelsea has obviously been very, very good for them. You can see that they’ve been the number one winners in this period, they’ve also been the number one spenders,” Eidevall said. “That tends to have a correlation in football.

“You also see that in the [January] transfer window and when they’ve run into injuries. I think they might have spent more in this transfer window than we have for the last five transfer windows on player acquisitions. It just shows that level of investment they’ve been able to make in order to be so successful.

“I’ve really enjoyed the games from a challenge perspective. I think that it’s been really exciting to play against her teams, but rivalries in elite football, they will continue to come; one ends and another one emerges. So I don’t think there will be any shortage of rivalries in the WSL.”

Arsenal Head Coach Jonas Eidevall celebrates victory in the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Chelsea Women at Emirates Stadium on September 5, 2021 in London, United Kingdom
Eidevall celebrates victory over Chelsea in 2021 - Getty Images/Visionhaus

Eidevall celebrated vociferously when beating Hayes’s side 3-2 in their first league meeting in September 2021, falling to his knees to mark the occasion, but just three months later his side were humbled 3-0 by Chelsea at Wembley in the delayed 2020-21 Women’s FA Cup final.

Before that final, Eidevall revealed in a press conference that he is superstitious about seeing black cats and would actively drive a different route home if he saw one from his car. After lifting that trophy, Hayes could not resist poking fun at that admission, saying she was “simply purring” at her team’s performance and miming a meow.

When asked about the rivalry this week, Hayes said: “I think the relationship has been the same the whole time. I don’t see him outside of the games we have, but we always have good communication. Off camera or in the background, we’re always talking about different things, and yes, I think when you play the top teams they’re always good battles.

“I like the rivalry. It’s fun, for the women’s game. It’s been a fun rivalry between us. But that’s probably on camera. Off camera we respect each other, and I’m sure we’ll have good communication because, at some point, he’s going to have one of my players, so there’ll be a happy ending there.”

Hayes was referencing Arsenal’s United States international Emily Fox and Eidevall added: “We’re going to cooperate with a player like Emily Fox, and we want the best for her. I think that would be really interesting to have football discussions with her [Hayes] and getting her perspective on things and why they have done certain things and what they’ve learned in Europe and so on because, in essence, what they are trying to achieve and have achieved is a lot of the same things that we are trying or have achieved here with Arsenal.”

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