Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Chelsea boss Emma Hayes at her media conference today ahead of their FA Cup Semi-Final against Arsenal on Easter Sunday (15/4/22).
Above: Emma Hayes talking to the media this afternoon. Photo: Chelsea FC Women.
Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes goes into Sunday’s semi-final at Boreham Wood against Arsenal unsure of who is available for selection.
With members of her squad returning to club training from international duty at different times at the end of this week, final decisions will not be made until tomorrow (Saturday). However, The Blues boss was able to confirm that Pernille Harder is likely to be available, but there is contrasting news about Fran Kirby.
Hayes revealed that it is still likely to be some time before the Lionesses star will be able to return due to long-term struggles with exhaustion that the club’s medical team are still investigating.
“Not everyone is in full training today (Friday) due to arriving back from international duty at different times. Pernille (Harder) will be back. I can’t name the team until tomorrow as, due to the nature of the international break, some of them are still recovering from their games.”
In terms of Kirby, the Chelsea head coach went into a bit more detail about the difficulties that the player is experiencing.
“There is no chance of Fran playing. She has been taking some time in the background, suffering with a lot of fatigue. I don’t have a definitive reason why. We are trying to get to the bottom of it and find the right solutions. It’s been ongoing and until we do get to the bottom of it, she won’t be available for selection.
“Forget the athlete. There is a human being involved and she is struggling. We need to get to the bottom of that. Until we understand some of the underlying reasons for the fatigue, I would be just speculating. It’s a process of elimination to try and determine why she is struggling the way she is.
“This is not the first time, it’s been going on for a lot of years if I’m honest. We need to give the time to find the right support so we can come up with a diagnosis. Then we can come up with strategies. Right now, I don’t have any answers other than to say she won’t be available for club or country for the foreseeable future.”
Hayes was though able to provide some reassurance about Beth England and Niamh Charles who missed England’s international in North Macedonia due to testing positive with COVID by saying: “We have a medical briefing later today. I don’t believe that there is any fall-out from those who got COVID during the international window.”
Focusing specifically on the occasion of Sunday’s FA Cup Semi-Final, the Chelsea head coach is revelling at the challenge, which she feels is additionally complex this time round due to coming immediately after the international break.
“This is what you go to work for, to compete for these special occasions. There is no greater privilege than to play for a place in an FA Cup Final. Playing against Arsenal, we’ve had a lot of battles against them over the years. I certainly enjoy those games.
“I always think that the first game after an international window always makes things difficult. Normally you get a week’s build-up. We only have one training session when we all come back together.
“Performances can take a while to gel again, so the qualities for us to build on are the clear sheets that we’ve worked on this side of January. Most importantly we need to be clinical. It’s a big area for us. The conversion rate is a big difference – the number of goals we’ve put away in recent games compared to previous performances.”
This is a cup semi-final, it’s two really good sides who have battled it out all year. We’ve been in this position enough times to know what to expect. We have a top group of players here.
“I have a game plan in mind, but we need everyone to recover. Tomorrow at training I will be able to pick a team. As long as everyone knows their roles and how to make the impact we need, we’ll be fine.”
Whilst the two teams know each other very well, most notably from December’s 2021 FA Cup Final which Chelsea comprehensively won 3-0, Hayes doesn’t see any way that the previous encounters will influence what happens on Sunday.
“There have been good battles between us and Arsenal over the years. I think they have had a tremendous season. We’re neck-and-neck with them in every competition. They are at home, it’s sold out. We’ll have to suffer at times in the game. We will cause them problems. Previous results are not indicative of what happens.”
With the match at Boreham Wood FC a 4,500 sell-out, the Blues boss believes it is time to reconsider the venues for FA Cup semi-finals to allow more fans in.
“I supported the move in the past to play semi-finals at the home ground stadiums because the neutral venues that were available were so poor as better ones couldn’t be booked in time. You played in places where the pitches weren’t brilliant and the fans couldn’t get down to.
“Maybe we need to have conversations now about whether we need neutral venues just because of the way that our game is going. Perhaps those semi-finals could be more well attended if we open them up. Not necessarily Wembley, but elsewhere for fan reasons.”