The deck is stacked against Arsenal as the title slips closer to Liverpool

Some weeks ago I said that even the span of a few
days makes a difference (for better or for worse) in a situation.

The last week
has shown that you can’t take things for granted and that the Women’s Super
League is set to go down to the wire with only two games remaining for the end
of the season.

Arsenal Ladies
have had two back-to-back goalless draws which effectively means that they will
need to win both their remaining fixtures and hope that leaders Liverpool lose
at least one. Last Thursday saw them on 25 points after 10 matches with a game
in hand, just two behind Liverpool’s 27. Just 2 points from a possible six
means that they trail Matt Beard’s side by three points with equal number of
games to be played.

Shelley Kerr and
the team would have definitely preferred to make things easier for themselves
by winning against the Lincoln
Ladies
and Bristol
Academy
and thus staying in control of
proceedings. Alex
Scott
makes it very clear that her
teammates aren’t about to give up yet, emphasising that it’s been a competitive
season where other teams (particularly Liverpool) have strengthened. She is
happy about the performance of Arsenal’s back four, with seven clean sheets
since the return after the summer break but adds that winning games is their
utmost priority.

Kerr, who took
over from Laura Harvey at the start of this WSL season, has the responsibility
of motivating her team and ensuring that they do their best to retain the title
they’ve won every season since its inception in 2011. She also has to deal with
injuries to two key players –  defender Steph
Houghton (knee injury) and goalkeeper Emma Byrne (who picked up an injury in
training prior to the Bristol Academy game), but with a full week since Sunday to
recover before the next match versus Birmingham City, the manager is hopeful of
at least Byrne being available. Youngster Cherie Rowlands debuted during the
Sunday game in her place, and while she put in a fine performance to continue
the Ladies’ string of clean sheets, the question remains of whether she can
handle the pressure of the approaching crunch-time.

The last two games have
highlighted ALFC’s sudden lack of finishing – both performances were good but
they failed to have that clinical edge to take their chances or break down
their opponents. Lincoln Ladies in particular (who boast of a disciplined and
well-organised defence) haven’t allowed Arsenal one win this season with all
three of their encounters ending in draws (1-1, 1-1 and now 0-0) and the team
will want to remedy this when they face them in the finals of the Continental
Cup on October 4, 2013. (Barnet FC will host the final. Ticket and venue
details can be found here).

But first it is imperative for
them to focus on a successful defense of the WSL. Kerr acknowledges the need of
the hour – to rediscover their cutting edge. Arsenal have never been shy of
scoring goals and the same has characterised much of the current season. It is
now simply a question of drawing on the vast experience present in the squad,
working on getting the goals by taking their chances better, all the while
continuing to be defensively solid.

We
need to make sure we get six points from our next two games and that’s not
going to be easy either. We need to try and work on things that maybe eluded us
today which was our finishing when through on goal. It’s been a difficult
couple of games but we will work on that in training this week.

The entire
Gunners Town would like to wish the Arsenal Ladies and Shelley all the best in
the next two games against Birmingham City Ladies and Everton Ladies. To the
readers of this blog, please make sure you do the same as fellow Gooners and
support our team in their chance for further glory (Arsenal host Birmingham
City on September 15 with a 2pm start, while the final away game versus Everton
Ladies isn’t until September 29 with the same 2pm KO)

I’d like to end
this with a piece of good news. Forward Danielle
Carter
(who has scored seven goals since
the summer break) has been called up for the first time and will be in Hope
Powell’s squad for World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Turkey later this
month. She will join fellow Arsenal team-mates – striker Ellen White, defenders
Steph Houghton and Alex Scott, central midfielder Jordan Nobbs and winger
Rachel Yankey. Congratulations!

Until next week.

Clear Eyes. Full
Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Anushree Nande


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