Emma Hayes says it will just be business as usual for Chelsea Women when we face Arsenal in the weekend’s big Women’s Super League fixture, but is glad to welcome two members of her squad back from injury.
The Women’s Super League returns this week following the international break this week and Chelsea are back in action with a tough trip across London to take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Emma Hayes will be able to call on two players who have been missing recently in that game, Melanie Leupolz and Guro Reiten, although she confirmed that Millie Bright and Jelena Cankovic remain out of contention due to injury.
‘Millie’s still out and Jelena with her calf injury, she’s been out for a little over two weeks so far,’ said Hayes. ‘Melanie’s back and Guro’s back, they’re available for selection, both of them.’
Even at this early stage of the season, some have been billing this fixture as a potential title fight, with Arsenal currently the closest challengers to our spot at the top of the WSL table, sitting three points behind us in second place.
However, Hayes insists she isn’t treating this match differently from any other due to the magnitude of the occasion or the quality of our opponents, staying focused on playing our usual game as well as we can.
‘I’m just thinking about getting the team back together after being away for two weeks,’ she explained. ‘Everyone in our environment knows the way we play and what their roles are and as long as they’re clear that’s all I care about.
‘You can’t approach any game as bigger or smaller than another, you have to approach everything in exactly the same way. You want to do your best in everything you do, because that’s what top pros do, be consistent all the time.
‘It’s just business as usual for us. I’m very routined. When you’ve experienced it a lot of times, and I’ve played this fixture so many times, it isn’t something we’re unfamiliar with. We just look forward to them.’
Similarly, the Blues manager has no fears about how her players will handle the occasion, given the large crowd expected at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
‘We’re the away team, there are things you have to factor in when you play away from home and we get all of that clear. We’re used to playing so many high-level games, we just approach them as we always do.
‘I think my team’s used to the large crowds, to be honest, in the Champions League and domestically. These girls all play international football. The crowd is something we focus on the least amount but we’re very grateful it’s going to be packed, because it’s always much more enjoyable when it is.’
While she may be treating this as just another game, regardless of opponent or the potential impact on the league table, she admits the Gunners will pose a serious challenge for Chelsea, highlighting their threat on the counter.
‘Arsenal have the most counter-attacking shots in the league, they’re an unbelievable counter-attacking team,’ Hayes added. ‘They can cut you open in two or three passes and have such a threat on the last line.
‘I think they’ve got more depth than ever. It’s a team that’s been together, a lot of them, for a period of time, so they’ve got a lot of experience, but they’ve also got a lot of new players who are adding qualities to their team.
‘They’ve scored the most goals in 90-plus minutes in the league. They’ve fought their way to be in the position they are but they have outstanding qualities. They’ve recruited and signed a lot of players and they’ve got players who are good enough to play for any team in the world.’