Emma Hayes has described Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson as “one of the main reasons we’ve been a winning team for years” and praised her influence over her three-month return to help Chelsea navigate to a third consecutive league title and Sunday’s FA Cup Final against Manchester City.
Eriksson suffered an ankle injury during Chelsea’s 4-0 Champions League defeat to Wolfsburg in December, which has put her out of action for a significant part of the season. “We knew it was an injury that would take some time,” says Hayes. “Of course the team would lose something. In Aniek [Nouwen] we have a player who doesn’t have the experience but stepped into a space that helped develop the team in a number of different ways. But Magda isn’t our captain for nothing.’
When Eriksson was fit again in March, Hayes was reluctant to put her right back into a team with a winning streak, despite her quality. “I appreciate and respect Magda, but we had conversations about patience and I knew that moment would come. Neither of us thought that would be when we went to 10 players at Tottenham.
“I have Magda’s leadership back on the pitch and I don’t want to take anything from Millie” [Bright] because Millie was great, but the fact that they’re both together gives us another dimension to dealing with really tough moments. Especially when the stress rises.”
Getting out was “a challenge,” Eriksson says. “It was my first long injury in a very long time. It was no fun being out of action for three months and not being part of the team.
“But seeing the team play and see players grow over that period, every player stepped up, so that made me really proud. I was sad not to be part of it, but it made me really proud to see how many younger girls on our team came up and really took on that responsibility.”
Coming back to Chelsea was a test. “You want to be back where you left off, but you have to respect that your body got injured and you’ve been out for three months. I have very high standards, so I had to try and be kind to myself.”
Captaining from the sidelines was another role for the Sweden centre-back. “It’s important to know when to step back and when to let the team figure it out for themselves with their new roles,” she says.
“Millie had the bracelet and she did a great job and the team performed really well. So I tried to focus mainly on my injury, make up for myself first because that’s important, you have to focus on yourself sometimes. But I was always there when someone needed a chat or someone wanted to talk to someone who might not have been playing that much.”
Eriksson’s absence was clearly felt for Chelsea in their 3-1 defeat in the Continental League Cup final against FA Cup final opponent Manchester City. “They’re back now, they’re back to their old selves,” said Eriksson, who has been in touch with Chelsea men’s captaincy César Azpilicueta, and said the two Chelsea teams would encourage each other.
Sign up for our new women’s football newsletter!
“Their track record of late has proven that they look incredibly strong. They were also strong against us in the final of the Conti Cup, we want to take revenge for that match. We know we can do better than that.”
The 2018 FA Cup final was Eriksson’s “first real big game for Chelsea” and the competition means a lot. “That’s the game I’ll always remember, it’s one of the coolest I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know how many were in the stands but it was a lot of people and then I wasn’t used to playing in front of so many people and we expect an even bigger crowd on Sunday. The fans are great and the history of the Cup is great. There are so many things that make you want to win it.”