Anna Patten: “I really do appreciate working under female coaches and I haven’t done that much in my career so I’m really going to take this opportunity, especially with someone like Carla”; The defender also chats settling in at Aston Villa, playing at centre back and England
Football journalist
Tuesday 11 January 2022 17:00, UK
Anna Patten is enjoying new horizons in her loan spell at Aston Villa, including working under an experienced female coach in Carla Ward – something that has not been the norm in her career.
“It’s been great, she’s made me feel very comfortable here and set out the plan of what it’s going to look like going forward,” Patten said in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports’ Charlotte Marsh after joining the club from Arsenal.
“The relationship she has with all the players is something that excites me and it’s always something that’s really good within a team.
“For me as well, I really do appreciate working under female coaches and I haven’t done that much in my career so I’m really going to take this opportunity, especially with someone like Carla.
“There are lots of female coaches here in the Women’s Super League, but I personally haven’t played under many. She’s played before, she understands what it’s like to play in a female team and things like that. Although I hope it isn’t too much of a unique situation, for me, it is. I just look forward to that and that player-manager relationship you can have.
“I had some good chats with Carla. She was really helpful in telling me to come here and to help me develop as a player.
“I saw Aston Villa as a club where I could develop, along with the assistant coach being a centre half in his playing days, I knew I’d get those little words of wisdom as well so it seemed like a good fit.
“Also along with watching how the girls have played throughout the season and the ability the team has to play, I think that’s important, and the quality within the team. That was another factor in choosing Villa.”
At the age of 22, it is the right time for Patten to spread her wings. The defender began her career at Arsenal – a childhood fan of the club – before playing college football in the United States. She returned to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League a year ago, but has found game time hard to come by in an Arsenal squad jam-packed with stars.
Patten explained: “Although it’s been great at Arsenal and training with the quality players that they have, I just felt like I needed to start getting game time now in the WSL, putting my name back out there and showing people what I’m about.
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“It seemed like the right step to come to a club that will help me develop greater as a player and get those minutes.
“What was a bit different is for our first week, we were split up a little bit for Covid reasons, which makes sense coming back from the break and we were put into separate changing rooms.
“The facilities are great, the chef is insane, I’m loving the food. The coaches have been in and out a bit, but this week, we’ve started with everyone and it’s really starting to take shape.
“Maz [Pacheco] has been really helpful, she’s one of the players I know the best here. But everyone has been very welcoming, I know Ruesha [Littlejohn] quite well through Katie [McCabe] and she’s definitely a fun character to be around, helping me feel very welcome in her own special way.”
Patten could make her Aston Villa debut this weekend against Manchester City. Her aim for that game – and the remainder of the season – will be a clean sheet and three points as Aston Villa look to push up the WSL table.
“I’m really excited,” Patten said of her potential debut. “It’s obviously a challenging game to start, but I think that’s always the best way to start as well, throwing yourself right into the deep end.
“I think it’s going to be a great game, there’s quite a few girls I know at City as well, which I think will make it a bit more fun. I look forward to it and hope I can perform in the Villa shirt.
“City have always been a team with lots of quality and I think it shocked a lot of people with the patch they had. But if you look at City through the years, it’s their trend of coming back after the winter break and being pretty unstoppable. But we’re definitely going to look to stop them this weekend.
“This season, I want to get really good minutes under my belt, develop as a player and I think this is the right club for that.
“With Villa, the aim is to get as many points as we can and keep lots of clean sheets. I think that’s something that every defender should pride themselves on, that’s something we’ll definitely look to do and it’s a focus of ours in this part of the season.
“Another reason for me coming on loan and getting in minutes is because I’ve been with the England U23s recently, and they’ve been trying to emphasise that they watch every game, so if you’re not playing, how can they judge and asses you?
“So for me, now having the opportunity to play lots of minutes and prove myself, I’m hoping it will put my name a bit more out there and take an opportunity that I can get.”
So much is Arsenal’s strength in depth, Patten has been used as a secondary right-back for much of the season under Jonas Eidevall, with Noelle Maritz the number one choice.
But the 22-year-old sees herself as a centre-back, with Arsenal also having Leah Williamson, Jen Beattie, Simone Boye, Viki Schnaderbeck and Lotte Wubben-Moy vying for the same spots.
As Arsenal prepared for their Champions League campaign in early August, Patten also had a spell in midfield – somewhere she also played during her college days – but is still targeting that defensive role.
“It’s always good to be versatile, but moving forward, centre half is probably the position that suits me best,” she said.
“I’ve also had those chats with Mo Marley with the U23s, and I’m not saying now that it’s the only position I’ll play, versatility is great, but I think it’s a position I can really star developing and do well in.
“Not going to lie, I love attacking so if I ever can sneak up the pitch sometimes, I don’t mind it. But for now, I’m happy with centre half.”
The influence of England U23s – coached by women’s football legend Marley – is a theme that continues to permeate throughout the interview. But with the senior side preparing for the upcoming home European Championships, is Patten hoping to stake her claim?
“In the senior team, there are so many strong players that are in contention and lots of players that are coming back,” she said.
“For me, the focus is just to keep playing now, hopefully keep going to U23s camps. Hopefully if you play your best, that does lend you to a situation where you might get an opportunity where you go to a senior camp.
“I will definitely take that with both hands and jump right into it, but I’ll also realistically think that Sarina [Weigman] has probably got a pool at the moment and purely based off how little minutes I’ve played so far this season, it’s probably hard to put myself in there.
“But you never know what is going to happen over the next four or five months and I’m just going to perform to the best that I can and if it creates an opportunity then it does and I look forward to that, but you just never know.”
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