Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes‘ media conference today looking ahead to Sunday’s big game against Manchester City at Kingsmeadow (23/9/22).
Above: Emma Hayes – the Chelsea head coach is confident her team can bounce back from an unexpected opening day reverse at Liverpool. Photo: The Times.
Following a surprise opening day loss against newly promoted Liverpool, Chelsea are looking to bounce back against rivals Manchester City on Sunday.
The clash at Kingsmeadow is the first meeting between the first and third place sides of last season, and a rematch of the epic FA Cup Final which Chelsea won.
Speaking to the media before the weekend, Chelsea coach Emma Hayes is confident that her team will respond from the 2-1 last weekend.
“I never worry about that with my group,” said Hayes. “I always think, there’s so many leaders in the dressing room, they’re so accountable, and they’re so mature.
“That’s one thing I’ve seen as an improvement in the team is their response to things collectively, not going inward. I think everybody is going to give the best they can this week.”
Chelsea may be without Pernille Harder. The Danish attacker is still in doubt due to a hamstring concern, but otherwise, Hayes has a full-strength side to choose from.
Manchester City’s loss came in dramatic fashion. They conceded four times against Aston Villa, but looked dangerous in attack, and scored three times in rapid succession to open the second half.
Hayes is eager to avoid a shootout with Gareth Taylor’s squad, even though it might please neutrals and the media.
“We know there’s two top teams on show, and I’m sure we want the advert of a nine-goal thriller. I hope we don’t satisfy you and it’s a little duller than that. But it’s a sell-out crowd and I’m sure both teams will create great entertainment.”
Kingsmeadow is expected to be near capacity for the encounter. It is one of many games in the round where large crowds are expected. Arsenal and Tottenham are set to play in front of up to 50,000 fans in the North London Derby.
Hayes is delighted at the public interest but has always been consistent that long-term planning is the key to growing women’s football sustainably.
“I’m just so happy to hear about the increases in attendance across the board because the league has to be strong for everyone. I think we just need to keep thinking about the support we give every club to make sure they can keep fulfilling their own objectives so that we can grow to the next base.
“You’ve got to keep building one block at a time, you’ve got to keep doing that instead of looking for something like ‘why don’t we have 41,000 every week’, I don’t think we’re at that stage yet.
“The question is how we turn that 51,000 at the North London Derby into more consistent fans that will sell out every game every week?”
Large one-off crowds have occurred in the past, but things are starting to feel different following the Euros as if this is the beginning of a new normal. That the Tottenham versus Arsenal game has been the result of paid tickets is significant.
Hayes has always maintained that women’s football is often too cheap. The product is worth paying for and should not be undervalued. The key she says is to capitalise on every opportunity such as the men’s international breaks which would make ideal times for big women’s club games.
Gradual expansion of the FAWSL is also important to Hayes. She does not want it to remain “stuck” on 12 teams.
“For me it’s critical that the next level is sponsorship coming directly into the women’s team and if not, overt transparency that when a commercial sponsor contributes that a portion of what is going into the women’s section so that we can have some tangible numbers beyond the metrics and the demographics.”
City and Chelsea have had very different pre-seasons. While Chelsea was on a tour of the USA, and playing friendly matches against the likes of Portland Thorns, Manchester City was competing in Champions League qualifiers and trying to replace the likes of Caroline Weir, Georgia Stanway and Kiera Walsh who all departed.
Both teams are in a state of transition, but Chelsea added to their squad and have begun integrating Lauren James into the starting line-up. Hayes urges patience for her new signings.
“It’s tricky. I think it does take time for the new players to settle in,” she said. “I actually don’t mind being in that position and our new players understand that they have to adapt and learn, play their roles until they understand the philosophy, the methodology, and everything within the playing principles.
“Sometimes that’s really difficult when you’ve got a short pre-season. Some only had a week or two weeks, it takes a little bit of time for that to happen. I’m someone who constantly prepares for the future too. Sometimes it takes six months to settle and you see the benefit of Lauren James from last year to now.
“I don’t think that the fans and the press are always kind about what it takes to produce and perform at this level. There’s just this automatic assumption that there’s this great player who’s great for her club or country elsewhere. How can she not be performing at that level at this place?
“The intensity of our game is so quick. The intensity of our training is so quick. There’s a process of adaptation across the board not just our club.”
Although Chelsea have beaten Manchester City in each of their last two encounters and City appear vulnerable, Hayes is taking nothing for granted.
“I think the minute you run into that place where you say ‘this will be easy’ it’s such a dangerous statement to make. You have to treat every opponent with respect because they have quality throughout.
“I think they were improving their performances with every game they played against us last year and I think that will give them confidence. For us, we’re at home and as cliched as it sounds if you spend so much time thinking or worrying about the others, not only do you put that worry and anxiety into your own players but there aren’t enough hours.
“You’ve got literally four sessions a week to nail all the details you need before a game. My philosophy is just focus on us, just get us right. Get our game plan right and if we execute that then you have a good chance of competing.”
Chelsea face Manchester City at 4pm local time on Sunday