What does England's Arnold Clark Cup triumph say about the Lionesses' chances of winning the Euros?

England Women Arnold Clark Cup 2022
Sarina Wiegman's side topped the standings ahead of Spain, Germany and Canada to win the tournament. What does that mean?

When the Football Association set up the Arnold Clark Cup, it was to prepare England for this summer’s UEFA Women’s European Championships.

Olympic gold medallists Canada were invited. Eight-time European champions Germany joined them on the guestlist – as did Spain, a national team on the rise.

After six games, it was England that emerged as winners, drawing with Canada and Spain, before beating Germany 3-1 on Wednesday night.

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How much did this tell us about the Lionesses’ chances of winning the Euros? It’s hard to know.

The first few months of head coach Sarina Wiegman’s tenure has consisted of World Cup qualifiers in which her team hasn’t conceded once, but has scored 53 times.

This, then, was the international window where her team would really be tested, facing three nations ranked among the world’s top 10.

There have been real positives. The first half performance against Canada was exhilarating and worth the stir it caused among the England fans.

The double pivot partnership of Leah Williamson and Keira Walsh – one of the things Wiegman wanted to test out the most in this competition – was key, with Lauren Hemp electric out wide.

In the clash with Spain, Wiegman made nine changes. Playing the strongest opponent in the tournament, it was a team few expected – but when the XI took to the pitch, the idea behind it became clear.

Pressing, harrying and running themselves into the ground, they didn’t allow Spain time on the ball. They disrupted the rhythm of a team that, when in full flow, is pretty difficult to stop.

During the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Wiegman was one of few coaches to come out with a genuinely effective plan to stop the U.S. women’s national team, who were eventual champions. This was a friendly, but it was a glimpse into the tactical nous she can bring to England.

In the final match against Germany, her tactical tweak was certainly a little more English. With the scores 1-1 as it ticked into the last 10 minutes, centre-back Millie Bright went up front and, two minutes later, scored.

After Fran Kirby put the gloss on the scoreline in stoppage time, Bright posed for a picture alongside Spain’s Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas and the Golden Boot they would share.

A moment none predicted would happen, it was also a glimpse into England’s shortcomings, which it was also important for this tournament to highlight.

Millie Bright Alexia Putellas England Spain Women 2022

The Arnold Clark Cup was a low-scoring affair for all, but there will still be concern about the lack of goals from the forward areas in this England side.

“It doesn't really matter who scores the goals as long as we score a goal,” Wiegman said earlier this week, before adding: “We want to do better in our final third and that's about decision making, about connection, about scanning how the situation is too, and then being ruthless.”

Reflecting on this tournament win for the Lionesses is also not complete without the caveat of the strength of two of the elite opponents they faced.

Germany were massively limited, missing at least 17 players, and were under-strength and without key experience – although still a good side.

Canada weren’t at their best either, with head coach Bev Priestman warning before the tournament that they wouldn’t be “perfect”.

“I think there is a reality that 50 per cent of our team just started pre-season in North America,” she said.

Ellen White Millie Bright Fran Kirby Rachel Daly England Women 2022

England could only play what was in front of them though, and they still got plenty out of this past 10 days, including a trophy.

“I think we have been able to try out things, to see players in different positions and to develop our style of play against three opponents, but also three different styles of play,” Wiegman said after her team’s triumph. “That’s really good to see.”

What does this mean for England’s chances for the Euros, then? In truth, we probably won’t know until the tournament kicks off in July, but it has highlighted plenty of strengths and weaknesses for Wiegman ahead of the big kick-off.

“I am happy with this tournament - but we got lots of information about ourselves and where we are in our style of play,” she added.

Now, she and her team have just over four months to do the work needed to take advantage of this opportunity to learn. That will be the next crucial step before they can think about turning the Arnold Clark Cup into a major tournament title.

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