Arnoldsen wants Skanderborg-Aarhus on European map
For the first time, the EHF European League Men has welcomed Skanderborg-Aarhus to its group phase. Youngster Thomas Arnoldsen can’t wait to put the new Danish club on the European map of handball, playing against HC Motor on Tuesday after an almost perfect first round last week.
With the national team being the two-time defending world champions and the 2016 Olympic gold medallists, and with Aalborg Håndbold making it all the way to the EHF Champions League final in 2021, Danish men’s handball is clearly on a high.
Still, maybe you have not seen much of Skanderborg-Aarhus and their talented centre back Thomas Arnoldsen, yet?
That might change soon.
Arnoldsen impressed with 144 goals in the Danish league last season, earning him the title of Talent of the Year, and the made the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2022 All-star Team in Portugal last July.
Arnoldsen will switch to Aalborg in the summer of 2023, likely opening the door for him the Machineseeker EHF Champions League.
His current club was formed in 2021 with the merger of Skanderborg Håndbold and Aarhus Håndbold, and now takes part in their first European group phase.
Already in the first game, Skanderborg-Aarhus showed their class by winning 30:27 against HC Eurofarm Pelister North Macedonia.
So, what is next?
“I think we have ended up in a very interesting group where we are going to Portugal, Spain, North Macedonia and Germany twice. It will be exciting to meet such talented teams with another style of playing than we are used to in the Danish League,” said the 20-year-old Arnoldsen about group D, which Skanderborg-Aarhus share with teams like Füchse Berlin and HC Motor – their upcoming opponents on Tuesday (live on EHFTV at 18:45 CET).
“It will definitely be hard to meet teams like Füchse Berlin, Bidasoa Irun and HC Eurofarm Pelister, but we believe that we are able to tease them and compete with them on a good day.”
Skanderborg-Aarhus are the only team in the group without previous international experience. However, that does not mean the Danish team does not believe in success.
“I have big expectations from the competition. I am looking forward to trying myself out against some of the best teams in Europe and at the same time to play against some teams we usually do not face,” said the Danish international, who has been a leading player in the YAC national teams.
“I think we have okay chances to move on from the group phase, even though it requires a really high level of handball from our side in all matches. We will see how far it can take us – but moving on from the group is definitely our aim. Also, it is a goal to put Skanderborg-Aarhus on the European map.”
I have big expectations from the competition. I am looking forward to trying myself out against some of the best teams in Europe and at the same time to play against some teams we usually do not face.
Skanderborg-Aarhus made the headlines even before the group phase when they beat IFK Kristiansand, a team that featured in the EHF Champions League in recent seasons. Skanderborg-Aarhus won both in Sweden (32:31) and at home (35:33) to qualify for the group phase.
There, it beat another internationally experienced side in the opening round last week.
“You can say that our first game was more or less perfect. We knew that we were going to face a very strong team from North Macedonia with a crazy home court. It was nearly impossible to hear the player next to you shouting during the match,” Arnoldsen said about his team’s match at Pelister last week.
“Actually, we got a bad start of the game, but we managed to stay focused and score a lot of easy goals – which is also the reason why we were leading by four goals at half-time. At the end the match became pretty close again, also here we succeeded by keeping our minds clear. So, I am really happy and proud about the two points – but extremely proud that we, as a relatively young team, on their home court were able to stay focused in the essential times.” said Arnoldsen, who contributed five goals to his team’s 30:27 win.
Now facing their second straight away game, Skanderborg-Aarhus have to wait until round 4 on 29 November for their first home game – against former EHF Champions League winners Bidasoa Irun.
There is no doubt how much the home court and fans mean for the team.
“Our fans mean a lot to us. We have a youth academy where a lot of young players support us from. They are a big part of creating a great atmosphere in our arena,” said Arnoldsen, whose twin brother Frederik also plays at Skanderborg-Aarhus – as a line player.
“It is always an advantage to have amazing fans while playing at home since it puts pressure on the away team, which makes them insecure in crunch time. Our fans are putting pressure on our guests and that is giving us a lot of energy during the whole game.”
But first up for Skanderborg-Aarhus are HC Motor – a game that will be played in the German city of Düsseldorf.
“I see our chances as pretty good. I don’t know everything about HC Motor yet, but I know that they have been playing internationally in Europe in a lot of years. With that background I think they have an advantage, though they also lost some important players before the new season,” said Arnoldsen about Motor, which started their group phase campaign with an 11-goal defeat against Füchse last week.
“It is a game we are looking very much forward to play,” Arnoldsen said. “And also a game where we have to find our best sides and highest level if we want to end with two points once again.”