Erin Cuthbert believes missing out on Euro 2022 was a blessing in disguise after it afforded her the opportunity to cement her preferred role at Chelsea.
Cuthbert’s Scotland finished third in their qualifying group and did not make the final tournament, ultimately won by England at Wembley.
The 24-year-old was disappointed not to join her Blues team-mates competing across England, but believes that allowed her to focus on a more permanent move to central midfield.
“I’m probably in the best place, best shape I’ve ever been,” said the Irvine native, who scored the second goal in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Spurs at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
“Last December, during the season, I kind of got thrown in there but didn’t really have a lot of time to work on it. But this pre-season it’s actually been a blessing. The Euros [not] happening for me, because I had a lot of one-to-one time during pre-season to actually kind of solidify and nail down that position and get to know the ins and outs of it.
“When we went on the pre-season tour especially it was really good. When there’s less people here you can have more one-on-one time with the staff, and that was really important.”
Versatile Cuthbert has bounced all over the pitch since joining the Blues from Glasgow City in 2016, but recently started settling into the more defensively-minded midfield position she revealed was fundamental to her signing a new contract last week, keeping her at Chelsea until 2025.
It still took some convincing, and perhaps the departure of Ji So-yun back to her native South Korea at the end of last season, to persuade boss Emma Hayes to hand Cuthbert the role full-time.
“Every time, she said ‘next year, next year, next year,’ was the answer I always got,” Cuthbert recalled.
“‘Oh yeah, I see you in midfield eventually’ was always the answer. But for me I’m just finally glad that time’s come and I think that was a big reason in the contract renewal as well. I wanted to be a midfielder and I know I’m best in midfield.
“You know as a player where you feel most comfortable, where you feel best, and I feel that midfield is my home, and I want to prove that to everybody.”
Sunday’s victory propelled the hosts to the top of the Barclays Women’s Super League table, though second-placed Arsenal and Manchester United in third have a game in hand.
Cuthbert was part of a double second-half substitution which saw her replaced by Fran Kirby in the 66th minute, with Bethany England coming on for striker Sam Kerr who scored the opener.
That Hayes can start with multiple European champions on her bench further highlights the depth of a squad other WSL bosses, including Spurs’ Rehanne Skinner, can only envy.
Skinner said: “I think overall every transfer window we’ve just got to keep evolving the squad to where we’re in a more consistent position to compete with these teams and to obviously take chances when we get them.
“We’ve not been in the league as long in comparison to Chelsea, so they’ve got a fantastic squad, and that’s something that we want to try and keep evolving.”