Search

Arsenal Ladies must step it up a level for cup challenge

12:15 01 May 2014

Kirsty Linnett of Birmingham City Ladies scores the first goal

Kirsty Linnett of Birmingham City Ladies scores the first goal

Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Editorial Use ONLY - FA Premier League and Football League images are subject to DataCo Licencing restrictions

Manager Shelley Kerr knows Arsenal need to raise their game as they defend their two cup titles over the next few days.

The Gunners begin their Continental Cup campaign at home to Watford on Thursday night before facing their European conquerors Birmingham City in the Women’s FA Cup three days later.

Birmingham knocked Kerr’s side out of the Champions League quarter-finals a month ago, but their hopes of glory were ended by a 3-0 defeat to Swedish side Tyreso in the last four.

And the Arsenal boss accepts that, while her team are expected to beat Women’s Super League Two side Watford at Meadow Park (kick-off 7.45pm), they will go into Sunday’s quarter-final tie at Solihull as underdogs.

“It’s like facing a wounded animal,” said Kerr. “There’s no disgrace in losing to a quality side like Tyreso and no doubt Birmingham will come back from that.

“I’m sure they’ll take a lot of confidence from the fact they beat us twice and arguably they’ll be favourites to get a result again. All credit to them – they were the better team over both legs.

“For us, it’s not about revenge. The manner in which we lost was very disappointing and it’s about trying to improve on that.

“Cup competitions have been instrumental in the club’s past success and we want to continue that. We’ve probably been a bit spoiled in the past, when we were dominant and there wasn’t the level of competition there is now.

“We need to work harder because other teams have bridged the gap and what we’ve seen so far in the league bears that out.”

Since their Champions League defeat, the Gunners have been unable to get into any sort of rhythm, playing only two matches in April – a 2-0 FA Cup win over Gillingham and a 1-1 draw at Notts County in the Women’s Super League.

However, that light schedule has also helped them to ease injured players back into the fold, with experienced attacking pair Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey both likely to shake off niggles.

Dutch international Anouk Hoogendijk continued her return to fitness with a run-out for Arsenal’s development team last weekend, although England midfielder Jordan Nobbs remains sidelined with a stress fracture of the back.

“In the second half at Notts County I felt we were back to normal, with free-flowing attacking football, and it’s a pity we haven’t had a game in the last couple of weeks to continue that momentum,” added Kerr.

“But if you flip the coin the other way, we’ve had injuries and this has given us the chance to get players fit, so maybe the lack of fixtures has helped rather than hindered us.

“The girls are really keen to give our loyal supporters something to smile about and hopefully that starts against Watford.”

Defender Niamh Fahey, who has been out for almost a year with a cruciate ligament injury, has now returned to training.

n Tickets for the Watford game are available at £5 (adults) and £2.50 (concessions).

Latest Sport Stories

Yesterday, 22:35
Manchester United's Robin Van Persie (left) and Arsenal's Mikel Arteta (right) battle for the ball

Captain Mikel Arteta is adamant that Arsenal’s first home Premier League defeat in more than a year was thoroughly undeserved.

Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen (right) celebrates scoring the winner with Jan Vertonghen. Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire.

Christian Eriksen scored a 90th-minute winner as Tottenham came from behind to win on the road in the Premier League for the second time in a row.

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere reacts after suffering an injury during the game against Manchester United

Arsenal 1 Manchester Utd 2

Friday, November 21, 2014
Mauricio Pochettino. Pic: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Mauricio Pochettino admits his Tottenham tenure has not started as smoothly as he imagined in the summer, but he insists he has the support of chairman Daniel Levy.

Most read sport

The final GP in the UAE may not have been a thriller, but it did kind of sum up the season for a lot of drivers.

Protesters have been warned they are banned from setting up camp at the landmark.

John Cantlie features in the new IS video, in which he talks about a recent failed military attack.

From Britain First’s Facebook posts, you would assume they’d won the Rochester by-election. They didn’t, but they’re claiming it anyway.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition