Tobin Heath’s dream of playing for the club she supported may have ended prematurely, but her impact on North London will be long lasting.
After joining Arsenal on a one-year contract last September, the 33-year-old suffered a minor hamstring injury which will rule her out of the break-in, a fact which has resulted in her release.
Injury setbacks have limited Heath to just 13 appearances for Arsenal in the Women’s Super League and Champions League – without a single 90 minutes completed – and the decision to let her go was mutually made this week to help get her career back on track. rails.
However, the two-time World Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist with the United States was never signed just for what she could do on the pitch. The vast experience of a world-class striker with nearly 200 senior caps was seen as invaluable, particularly for Arsenal’s return to European competition and how it could help the dressing room. And it worked, according to head coach Jonas Eidevall.
“I can see she’s done a lot of things, on and off the pitch, that live through other players,” Eidevall said after Heath’s departure.
“The way she approached situations – like at half-time against Brighton when she said, ‘It’s better when it’s harder’. It’s a brilliant mindset to have. It all depends of that mindset to say, whether you like the situation or not – it is what it is. It’s a close game, it’s just a matter of how you look at it.
“Do you walk out in fear thinking, ‘What if we lose this game? or are you really motivated by it and say, “It’s better when it’s harder”. It brings out the best version of meit’s more fun to win when you’ve fought for it and that spirit, I hope, even when Tobin isn’t there, will live on through me and the team.
That match against Brighton in January was a defining moment. Led 1-0 at home at halftime and in the midst of a winter lull, this message was heard. Within 15 minutes of the second half kicking off, Arsenal were 2-1 up and secured three crucial points in the title race – where Eidevall’s side now trail Chelsea by four points but has a game in hand with three (for them) to play.
Talk to Athleticism in October, Beth Mead highlighted conversations with Heath that helped improve her performance.
“I’m maybe wider on the wing and Tobin can say, ‘Look, Beth, there’s so much space for you inside to run and receive the ball and be on goal if that ball is properly in your feet”, Mead mentioned. “At half-time in the game against City, she turned around and said to herself: ‘ this. It’ll be okay, I promise” and I did it once and had a little bit of joy right away.”
On the pitch, there was a memorable assist against Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter-final first leg tie before Arsenal were beaten 2-0 in the away tie tie, and in January , she scored a 92nd-minute equalizer against Manchester City.
Eidevall did his best to explain the weight of his impact.
“That could be a really bad analogy,” he said with a nervous laugh. “But (do you know) the movie Avatar? When they connect to this tree with their hair? I kind of think that’s kind of (like) the way it works with a football team.
“We all come to a team with experiences from different countries, coaches, etc. We share all of these things with each other and whether we like it or not, forever after leaving each other and going to different spaces, we will have had an impact on each other.
“The next person that comes along will impact me in my future and it’s a really beautiful way to look at life and the impact you can have on others. It’s so much bigger than just the specific moment, it’s actually what it makes you as a person and how it can live through you for many years and even generations to come.
Heath’s stay at Arsenal lasted less than a season, but that won’t lessen his impact.
Arguably the biggest indicator of this was the effect she had on waiting fans, yelling at her at games as they sought autographs and selfies. With so many cries of “Tobin!” Coming pitchside at Meadow Park and the Emirates, it was clear the fans wanted to meet the most.
“She will always be part of the team,” Eidevall said. “That’s the beautiful thing about working with people, even when they’re not there physically, they can still live through your actions because of how they’ve inspired you.
“If we won (the title) this season, she certainly would have played a very important role in that. It just came to this situation (of) which would put Tobin in the best possible position to get back on the pitch as quickly as possible. . It was to return to the United States; nothing more, nothing less.”
(Top photo: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)