England boss Sarina Wiegman has said she is “very worried” about the playing calendar after naming her squad for this month’s Women’s Nations League double-header.
The Lionesses return to action, after their defeat in the World Cup final on August 20, by facing Scotland in Sunderland a week on Friday and the Netherlands in Utrecht four days later to open their campaign in the new competition.
The Arsenal players in her squad – forward Alessia Russo and defender Lotte Wubben-Moy – took part in Champions League qualifying matches last Wednesday and Saturday.
Wiegman, whose players started their pre-World Cup preparation camp on June 19, told a press conference on Wednesday when asked if she was concerned about the calendar and time off: “Yes, I am very worried.
🎙 "I like to play finals. Our players do too. But it starts next week, so let's first have a good start." 👏 pic.twitter.com/kmlnmYARmY
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) September 13, 2023
“I was worried before the World Cup, and we knew this was a very short turnaround.
“It’s a bigger thing – we’re all talking about the calendar and we really have to get connected with FIFA, UEFA, the federations, and we have to make that better.
“Of course the game is growing, which is really good. But it has to grow together and players need some rest too.
“Next week they come in and some players only had six days off, which after such a high-level, high-pressure competition is not good for them. And that has been going on for a long time, because we have major tournaments in the summer all the time. So the urgency to solve it and make it better is really, really high.
“The players will come in and we first have to see how they are physically, and we have to get them fresh, and do everything to do that. That’s going to be a challenge.
“Of course you have the team and you want to perform at the highest level, and also you want players to be fresh. For me and my staff it’s balancing (the) two – is this player fit enough, fresh enough, to play the game? That’s balancing, it’s so intense, and players are not robots.”
She added: “I’ve talked to coaches. I think everyone’s aware that we have to speak with each other and we can do a little better, and we all know it’s pretty complex.
“But I think conversations are going on, and we just need to keep doing that and hopefully find better solutions than we had.”
Wiegman’s 24-strong squad features 21 of the 23 players who were at the World Cup.
Midfielder Keira Walsh is missing due to what Wiegman described as a “small calf injury”, while forward Bethany England also drops out, after hip surgery.
There is no recall at this stage for Beth Mead or Fran Kirby, who both sat out the World Cup because of knee injuries.
Mead returned to Arsenal’s matchday squad as an unused substitute in their games last week, and Wiegman said: “Beth needs to take the next step, to get games, get consistency in that, and that’s what we have to see to be ready for selection again.”
On Chelsea’s Kirby, she said: “Fran is really close, she’s played some friendlies, did well, but it’s just a little too early to bring her in.”
Maya Le Tissier, Lucy Staniforth and Jess Park come back into the fold after being on the standby list ahead of the summer’s showpiece in Australia and New Zealand.
England, who are in Group A1, can secure Paris 2024 Olympics qualification for Great Britain via the Nations League.
Wiegman was also asked about the ongoing bonus payments dispute between the Football Association and the England squad, and expressed her optimism for “a good outcome”.
“The players and the FA didn’t get an agreement before (the World Cup), they agreed to disagree, then start the conversations again after – those conversations will start again and I’m very positive it will have a good outcome,” Wiegman said.
“I am very hopeful because I think the environment has been good, the way they have been talking with each other has been really good. It just needs a little more time.”