After four brilliant years in England, split between Bristol Academy (now City) and Arsenal, Natalia Pablos Sanchon has returned to Spain – and rejoined Rayo Vallecano, the club for whom she starred for many years.
“I’m very excited. I was looking forward to coming back home – I am here, and happy!” she said.
Her last season at Arsenal was a disappointing one, where Pedro Martinez Losa’s squad rotation policy, plus sizeable squad, meant that she got few opportunities to start. Still, even with seven full appearances, she still managed six goals in 2016 – not bad going.
“It was a hard year for me,” she admits. “We had a lot of players in the squad, really good players, and it was so difficult for everyone to play.”
That failure to establish a settled starting line-up may have gone some way to Arsenal’s lack of league consistency and less-than-stellar performance this year.
“We didn’t find our best way to play, so it was a bit frustrating, not just for me but for everyone,” admitted Natalia.
“It’s hard to be a team when you are rotating so many players, but everyone wanted to play, and Pedro needed to find the best way to put the best eleven on the pitch.”
An unerring goalscorer like Natalia must have watched chances going begging – and thought that she should be on the pitch to convert a few of them.
She’s complimentary of her team-mates, though, and emphasises her commitment to the cause, suggesting that she made so many appearances from the substitutes’ bench because the coach knew she would always make an impact when required.
“Scoring goals is my talent,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Pedro knows I can score even if I play 20 minutes. I just wanted to help the team as much as I could.”
Now back in Spain at the age of 31, she’s hopeful that she might now have the opportunity to work her way back into the national team in time for next summer’s European Championships.
She added, “I think coming back to Spain might help a little bit.
“I need to get minutes, and I’m going to work so hard to be in the Euros – but it’s complicated for me because I haven’t been playing for the last year so much and there are so many players here in Spain at a high level.
“I’m going to work so hard – but it’s up to the coach.”
*Carrie Dunn is SHOOT’s Women’s Football correspondent. Her book ‘The Roar of the Lionesses: Women’s Football in England’ is out now – available in all good bookshops.*