Ladies: Preparing against the best

Manager Emma Hayes and goalscorer Fran Kirby saw plenty of positives from Chelsea Ladies’ friendly defeat against Wolfsburg which they can take into tomorrow’s match versus Bayern Munich.

Although the Blues fell to a 3-1 loss in our first game of pre-season, which took place during the club’s training camp in Austria, it was an accomplished performance against a Wolfsburg side we had met four times over the past two years in the Women’s Champions League.

Indeed, it was individual errors which contributed to each of the goals conceded and while Hayes would have preferred to see her side win the game, there was a bigger picture to consider on Thursday afternoon.

‘The result is not the important part, the preparation is, along with giving players opportunities,’ she said. ‘It’s another stage of our pre-season.

‘This is the first time we’ve created more chances than Wolfsburg. We dominated from set-pieces and their goalkeeper was the busier of the two, but three errors from us were the difference. They’re clinical.

‘I’m pleased with my players because we showed we’ve got two sides to us and with more fitness and more preparation we’ll get closer to them.

‘As we become more played in, hopefully we make fewer errors. On a positive note, we created an awful lot of chances to get more than one goal.

‘I want the players to understand that to play for Chelsea you have to be of the highest standard. This is not a holiday camp; we’re here to reach the levels that teams like Wolfsburg have achieved.’

Kirby was last season’s top scorer in the Spring Series, smashing in six goals despite only starting twice after returning from a lengthy injury absence.

She was also part of the England side that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2017, which meant she only returned to pre-season training last week, and she recognised the importance of players getting minutes under their belts.

‘I think we can take the basic fitness principles out of that – it’s our first pre-season game and it was really tough in the heat, but ultimately we matched them,’ she said. 

‘When we’ve played them previously, they’ve always been one step ahead of us. We’re disappointed with the result but happy to get the first pre-season game out of the way.

‘I should have scored a few more, but I’m trying to blow the cobwebs off after having a few weeks off. I’m happy to get off the mark in pre-season and hopefully I can continue my form from the Spring Series. ‘

The 24-year-old is keen to see the squad continue their progress when we face Bayern Munich on Sunday afternoon and our latest opposition from Germany will provide another stern test.

‘To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Wolfsburg are probably the second best team in Europe, so to play a really good game against them and then to have Bayern Munich coming up on Sunday, you couldn’t have better preparation for the WSL season.

‘We don’t want friendlies that we are winning 11-0, we want tough games and to play the best teams. We’re happy to be facing such strong opponents.’

Hayes echoed the sentiments of her striker, as well as reminding everyone that the Blues are also a glamour opponent for other sides.

‘Bayern Munich are probably the best defensive team in Germany, full of international players,’ she said. ‘They are stacked with quality all over the pitch – but so are we.

‘The challenge of the team is to learn from the errors against Wolfsburg, develop even more confidence going forward so that we perfect our decision making in the final third.

‘I think you can see in every position we’re now assembling a group that is going to compete with the top clubs in Europe.’