Arsenal Ladies focus on latest challenge - beating Birmingham City in the Champions League
The once dominant force in Ladies football saw two of their best players leave over the winter break
Friday 28 March 2014
European glory is not the only thing at stake on Sunday for Arsenal Ladies. They must overturn a 1-0 deficit against Birmingham City in the Champions League quarter-final second leg to match last year’s run to the semi-finals.
But there is more at stake than that. The last few months have not been easy for Arsenal Ladies, the dominant force of the English game suddenly finding that other teams have caught up with them.
Last year they relinquished their Women’s Super League title, finishing third, behind Liverpool who beat them 4-0 at the Emirates. They were not helped, either, by a three-point deduction for fielding an unregistered player. Then, over the winter break, their captain Steph Houghton signed for Manchester City Ladies while last year’s PFA player of the year Kim Little moved abroad to play for the Seattle Reign.
Arsenal Ladies coach Shelley Kerr knows that they have a fight on to re-establish their dominance, but is relishing the challenge. “We are a victim of our own success,” Kerr said. “Every single game we go into, everyone has expectations that we’re going to win. I think that’s slowly changing. Other clubs are bridging the gap. That was always going to come.”
Kerr was obviously disappointed to lose Houghton – “a fantastic role model and a fantastic player” – and Little, but is confident of building a new team. Kelly Smith is the new captain, Alex Scott the vice-captain and the club have signed two Japan internationals, Yukari Kinga and Shinobu Ohno. “We have been in since the first week in January, brought in new players and they have gelled really well in training. Some of the football we have played in pre-season has been amazing.”
With Arsenal up against Liverpool and Manchester City, this is set to be one of the tightest seasons in living memory, which Kerr is relishing. “It will probably be the most competitive WSL campaign yet this season, it’s brilliant having that challenge.”
The best way to start, then, would be to beat Birmingham in Edgware on Sunday. “We could have played a lot better in the first leg. We have got an opportunity to put that right on Sunday.”
Latest in Sport
Chelsea vs Manchester United player ratings: Match-winner Eden Hazard leads the way, but Radamel Falcao endures game to forget
Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0: Eight things we learnt as Blues step closer to the Premier League title
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Where are the tickets for the fight?
Chelsea transfer news: Jose Mourinho plays down news signings Nathan and Yoshinori Muto but talks up Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Arsenal transfer news: Mikel Arteta needs 'five minutes' to sign new contract and remain with the Gunners
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling