Ahead of this evening’s Continental Tyres League Cup final against Arsenal, Emma Hayes discusses the competition, hails Bethany England’s fine form and insists there is more to come from Sam Kerr.
Today is a huge day for the Blues as we compete for a trophy we are yet to claim against an extremely familiar opponent Arsenal, having played them twice in the Women’s Super League already this term.
But despite Hayes’ squad coming away as victors on both occasions, she has acknowledges Arsenal will put up a fight in order to retain the trophy that they have clinched five out of a possible eight times.
‘They have had the trophy the most amount of times,’ Hayes points out. ‘For them they have got history of winning trophies and they’ve got a history of winning that trophy and they will feel that way too.
‘This is two top teams, both have got match-winners in their own right, we’ve just played well enough the last two games to be victors, but Arsenal playing well can do the same too.
‘We have to realise there is a team that will come full-throttle and will want to prove themselves after the last two games we’ve played them this season.’
Hayes has also taken the time to share her positive thoughts on this domestic competition and believes it has been a good opportunity to help develop her younger players throughout the earlier stages of the Continental Cup.
‘I like them [fixtures] being played mid-week, it allows us to play some younger players in the earlier stage of the competition,’ Hayes explained.
‘If it is to remain then hopefully that will remain because clubs in the Champions League or clubs that have big game accumulation can then decide to play younger players and it can only be a good thing.
‘I’m an advocate of more games, not less games, more games for me means more opportunities for younger players. Less games means games for senior players and not for younger players.
‘So the Conti Cup, if it is to remain, should be to promote the development of younger players for the senior sides and perhaps for the smaller clubs, they really like the idea that it helps boost their attendances and helps develop their players.
‘We have to understand that so I think there could be a win-win with some small adjustments. Making a final is making a final. It’s a trophy I haven’t had my hands on so for me it’s as important as every other one.’
The Chelsea boss admitted she sees a side to her squad that she did not see last season, but insists she will ensure her players take nothing for granted in today's showpiece occasion.
‘How many teams can go to Manchester City at the weekend and fight back like we did, that resilience, that ability to come from behind, that belief that no matter the scoreline, we’re going to win the game,’ she said.
‘The players remind me all the time that no matter what the scoreline is there is a belief they can get a result. That’s different this year than last year, the results I can’t do anything about them but I certainly see that resilience.
‘I believe in humility and when you've beaten a team like Arsenal like we’ve beaten them, my brain is wide awake and I will make sure their brains are too to the task ahead. That how important it is to do the right things, to do them at the right time and that we take nothing for granted.
‘We don’t have our hands on anything, far from it. We’ve got even more work to do if that is to be the case.’
Bethany England, a player who has been in fine form for Chelsea since returning from her productive season on loan at Liverpool in 2017/18, has contributed to a significant amount of goals so far this campaign having netted 19 in 23 appearances. The Chelsea manager has paid tribute to the No.9 who has continued to push boundaries in order to improve as a forward.
‘You have got to have hardships, too often players think they are going to come through their journeys and it’s a straight route to the top. I think playing at Donny Belles for the time she did gave her a grounding. She was never ready in her first year here and needed that loan.
‘When I call it a rejection players can decide to go one way or the other, they either go on those loans and say I’m going to prove you wrong and I will come back and be better for it, or you don’t improve and you’re out the door.
‘Beth got her head down, did well for Liverpool, came back in and was a much more well-rounded player and as a result of that she could compete with star names per se with confidence.
‘I think she’s gone on ever since, maybe the first part of last season she got going and then in November time she really earnt her place in the team and has kick on from then.’
Another name who is a hot topic within women’s football is recent signing Sam Kerr, and as the Australian international is deemed one of the finest female footballer’s on the planet, Hayes believes the best is yet to come of her as she settles into the English top flight.
‘I think six months if I’m honest, I think it is for players,’ when asked when Kerr is likely to be performing at her best.
‘It’s an adjustment, you’ve got to realise she had no pre-season. She got the flu, had a little bit of a quad injury and then goes away, comes back, this is the first week we’ve had her train with the team. She goes away on international duty again so I think it will take the remainder of the season if I’m honest.
‘I think Sam Kerr is about 60 per cent of her level at the moment.'
Tickets for the final are still available to purchase on the gate today, priced at £10 for adults and £1 for concessions. The game will also be shown live on BT Sport 1. Kick-off is 5.30pm.