Arsenal ladies show character to bounce back v Blues

It’s a commonly
held belief that it’s the start that’s the hardest, that once you begin and get
through that initial barrier or whatever is holding you back, things will get
easier and fall into place. In my personal experience as a writer, it’s the second
and third time that’s more difficult. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, here
I am for better or for worse, attempting to live up to what I started last
Thursday.

There is happier
news about the Arsenal Ladies this time around following a 2-1 comeback versus
the Birmingham City Ladies in the FA WSL Continental Cup and a 1-1 away versus
Lincoln Ladies in the Women’s Super League.

After a
shattering 0-4 loss to Liverpool at the Emirates to start off the season, there
were potential danger signs about the threat to their continued dominance in
English women’s football. Their opponents Liverpool had finished at the bottom
of the table for the past two years but following a summer where they were
fully integrated into the men’s club, they have had a significant injection of
money and the benefit of being the only club in the division who train on a
full-time basis. After signing six foreign players and two England
internationals, they are ‘arguably
Arsenal’s biggest rivals this year’

according to manager Shelley Kerr, who puts them ahead of Chelsea, who themselves
have signed a host of internationals this summer.

However, if you
refer to my column from last week, you’ll find that I maintained my faith and
belief that they had more than enough quality and experience to bounce back.
And that’s exactly what they did in both their games following the defeat.
Trailing 0-1 to a 48th minute penalty (scored by Birmingham City
Ladies’ Rachel Williams), they immediately restored parity through a 50th
minute Gemma Davison equaliser. The latter period of the game saw many chances
but it was fairly scrappy with both teams cancelling each other out. All it
took was a moment of brilliance from Ellen White to score the winner in the 88th
minute. 

Houghton played
a great pass to Carter on the right flank and White powered home a header from
her cross.
(Arsenal.com)

The celebrations
showed just how much the goal and the three points meant to the players who
were obviously hurting from last week’s defeat. It shows a lot of mental
toughness and desire to get back and fight for the right to be called the best.
One of the main reasons for this is the immediate identification of their
weaknesses and the ability to put aside emotions and work on them rationally.
In the Liverpool game, Arsenal managed to create many chances but weren’t
clinical enough, while their opponents were. And the conceded goals were those
that could have been easily avoided.

Similarly in the
game last night, there were several moments of profligacy combined with some
inspired defending from the home team that almost denied the Arsenal Ladies any
points. It was only Steph Houghton’s 89th minute stunner that
rescued a vital point after Lincoln’s Roberts had scored in the 88th
minute.

 “ … (the way Arsenal play is) about keeping it
consistent throughout the 90 minutes and I don’t think we’ve been doing that.
The goals we’ve conceded can be easily avoided so we’re keen to make amends for
that.”

It’s refreshing
to see that Kerr refuses to blame the Liverpool defeat on missing crucial
players through injury, though she acknowledges that any team would miss the
experience of players who have about 350 caps between them (Katie Chapman,
Rachel Yankey
and Kelly Smith).
She makes it clear that she (and the team with her) prefers to look forward,
and with them still having the treble to play for, you can bet that’s where
their focus is. They are currently seventh in the table having played two games
and if we have learnt anything about their mental strength, we can say that
they will be fighting to get back to the top.

In my
nervousness at writing my first ever column for Gunners Town last week, I
forgot to mention two pieces of information and my apologies for that!

The first one was about Arsenal’s
Kim Little. The 22-year-old midfielder, originally from Hibernian came to ALFC
six years ago and has been going from strength to strength. She was part of the
British Olympic team that reached the
quarter-finals of the London 2012 Olympics.
And was last season’s WSL top
scorer in spite of being a midfielder (topping the 2012 assists charts as
well). It is also the importance of her goals that should be taken into account
– she scored a late winner in October’s Continental Cup final and the winner in
the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool a few weeks ago, among others. With
women being allowed to join the players’ union (PFA) from next season, it was
an honour for the club and Kim that she was awarded the inaugural PFA Women’s
Player of the Year award recently. When asked what could possibly beat this,
she said;

“The
way to top it is pretty simple. I want to win the treble with Arsenal, which we
didn’t quite manage last year. Unfortunately the Champions League is no longer
attainable, but we want to win every other competition we are in. For me
personally, I want to score more goals, make more goals and perform at an even
higher level more consistently. There’s plenty I can work on and I plan to.”

The second piece
of information was regarding a free girls football festival that will be hosted
at the ALFC’s home ground of Boreham Wood on May 19, 2013.

Under-nine
and under-11 five-a-side teams are being invited to get involved in the day,
which involves a tournament and coaching from some of the Ladies’ top players.

All
participants will receive a free ticket to attend Arsenal Ladies v Bristol
Academy, which will be played at Boreham Wood FC straight after the festival at
2pm.

To
register your team, email ewhite@arsenal.co.uk for more details.

Please
note that the deadline to register your team to be entered into the festival
has now been extended to WEDNESDAY, MAY 15.

Immediately
afterwards at 2pm, the Arsenal Ladies will play Bristol Academy in a
Continental Cup match that (though no less important) will serve as a sort of
dress rehearsal for the Women’s FA Cup final on May 26, 2013. With our men’s
team playing their final game of the season away for a 4pm kick-off, those of
you not travelling to Newcastle should try to make it down to Boreham Wood to
cheer on our Ladies. I know I would!

That’s all from
me this week. By the time you see me next, our top four fate will have been
sealed. If Tuesday’s performance is anything to go by, Sunday should hopefully
be a cracker (a sublimely nervous one at that). I believe we can do it so stay
strong Gooners! Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Anushree Nande


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