Summer break frustrates Arsenal boss amid title pursuit

I’m back with another installment for Gunners Fair.
The dreaded international or summer break kicked off at the start of this week and
there won’t be any football until Arsenal Ladies play Liverpool away on August
3, 2013.

With their final
game of the WSL’s first half of the season (Doncaster Rovers away) postponed,
Arsenal only had 3 points to fight for. And fight they did, with a determined
2-1 win against the Chelsea Ladies at Meadow Park. At the start of last week,
both Shelley Kerr and the team had stressed just how important it was to go
into the break on a winning note:

“Every game
that we’ll play until the end of the season will be a cup final now … We know
that Chelsea have strengthened and we know how good [Chelsea coach] Emma Hayes
is from her time at Arsenal. They’ve got a good set-up and they’ve started
well. It’s a game that we need to get three points from.”
(Gill
Flaherty)

Kerr had also
expressed her desire for an entertaining football performance, with the match
being telecast live on ESPN,

“It’s
very important that you provide an attractive and entertaining game. Hopefully
everyone tuning in will see a really entertaining game.”

The team (unchanged
from the one that secured the Ladies first WSL win over Bristol last week) happily
obliged. Goals from Gill Flaherty (24) and Alex Scott (59) on either side of
the half time whistle were enough to ensure the three points. Arsenal were the
better team but Chelsea ensured it was a good contest. In the 64th minute,
Eni Aluko capitalised on a defensive slip from Jennifer Beattie and scored
Chelsea’s only goal. It was only fitting since she had been involved in most of
Chelsea’s pressing and attack throughout the game. But the Arsenal back-four
and goalkeeper Byrne then put up a spirited display to ensure the scoreline
stayed 2-1 in their favour.

The points were
well deserved, however the game was not without its drawbacks. In spite of good
possession and play, Arsenal struggled to create many clear-cut
chances
. But even then, they could have
scored more when the chances did come. Finishing has emerged as one of the
areas the team and manager need to work on this season, and no doubt we will
see the effect of that when August comes around. The second blow was a
suspected ankle ligament injury sustained by captain Steph Houghton following a
collision with Aluko in the first half. She was replaced by youngster Jade
Bailey, who to her credit turned in a fine performance and was one of the
standout players in the second half.

She
displayed that she has all the makings of a quality player.
(Shelley
Kerr).

Everyone at
Gunners Town would like to wish Steph a speedy recovery so she can lead the
Arsenal Ladies to another trophy in a few months time. Match highlights
of the 2-1 win are available here and you can see the official Photo
gallery
here.

As we head into
the summer break, this is how the current WSL table looks like.

Due to a wide
range of reasons – bad weather leading to postponed fixtures, qualification
into the latter stages of both Cups and the Champions League etc – Arsenal are
going to have to play catch-up to the rest throughout the remainder of the
season. When the second half gets underway, they have to play 10 games
(including the semi-final of the WSL Continental Cup), something that is a bit
frustrating as Gill Flaherty points out, because they want to make the most of
their current form and keep going.

Arsenal and
Doncaster are the only two teams that have played four games each. The rest
have played either six or seven. If Arsenal are to keep pace with the leaders
of the pack (Liverpool edging out Bristol on goal difference), and add yet
another Women’s Super League title to their trophy collection at the end of the
season, they will have to be on top of their game from August.

That’s all for
this week, hope you’re not getting two swept away in the Twitter madness. After
all, silly season hasn’t even officially started yet! Clear Eyes. Full Hearts.
Can’t Lose.

Anushree Nande


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