Thursday, June 13, 2024

Exclusive: Pedro Martinez Losa interview

On Thursday, Arsenal Ladies boarded a flight to Tokyo to take part in the International Women’s Club Championship. The tournament is by invite, but works loosely on the basis of the men’s World Club Championship. The ladies took a post season tour of Japan in 2011 and since have acquired two of Japan’s most feted women’s footballers, Yukari Kinga and Shinobu Ohno.

The tournament represents a good chance for new manager Pedro Martinez Losa to stamp his authority on the squad, having joined the club in September. New signing Lianne Sanderson will also be joining the squad. Tim Stillman caught up with Pedro on the tournament, his plans for the season, the acclimatisation of Kinga and Ohno and on his plans to professionalise the setup at Arsenal Ladies.

Pedro, firstly welcome to Arsenal Ladies. It’s a great club and I’m sure you will enjoy the challenge, as you probably have already. Arsenal advertised for a new manager when Shelley Kerr left in June and had no applications in the first round. How did you come to become ALFC manager? Did the club contact you did you initiate contact with them?

First of all I am really enjoying the club and the culture here, there is a real football culture here. We have a football culture in Spain too and I have been to many countries, but the mentality here with football is so enjoyable.

With the job I was working in Spain and I had been working professionally in America and I had a long experience in Europe. I have contacts all over women’s football and in America I knew Laura Harvey (ex Arsenal Ladies manager), women’s football is quite a small circle. I had a couple of conversations with people and they told me I would be the perfect person for Arsenal and that they would be happy to have me, so they gave me a contact in the club and we started talking.

The men’s first team came to New York City over the summer and I had a very positive conversation with Ivan Gazidis and Clare Wheatley (Arsenal Ladies’ Operations Manager) in New York and from there we moved forward, they explained the project and what Arsenal want to do and I explained what I think and how we can move forward and improve in some areas. Players are the most important thing, but performance is a consequence of all that the club do. I was very excited to come here.

You’ve had a chance to have a look at the team now ahead of next season. Your spell has been a good one because Arsenal Ladies weren’t in a good place when Shelley left. Their form in the second half of the season has created some optimism that Arsenal are in a position to challenge for the title again in a very competitive league. What do you think are the improvements that need to be made ahead of 2015?

There is a big project with the F.A. about improving all aspects of women’s football and when you see last weekend that 55,000 people came to Wembley to watch England Ladies you can see it’s really progressing. We want to channel that energy of what England is doing well and to keep growing as a club. Women’s football is growing so quickly in England now and the club needs to keep growing at the same rate.

All the clubs are investing money and trying to do the right things, so I think we need to be at that same level in all areas. Not just with players. I am not just focused on players because when you put the players on the pitch, their performance is a consequence of all that the staff do. We can improve in giving them more professionalism off the pitch. Giving them professional staff, training full time and using the facilities more. (TS- within three hours of this interview taking place, Arsenal Ladies had appointed their first ever full time goalkeeping coach and advertised for a full time strength and conditioning coach). We want to use the tools and resources available to the men at London Colney, video analysis, sports science and to go in the direction of professional football. Obviously, the second part is to have good players.

As a supporter, I think Arsenal have needed a striker to take the pressure off of Kelly Smith for around 3 years now. Arsenal have moved to re-sign Lianne Sanderson, which looks like an excellent move. I know Vic Akers has tended to work on the recruitment side. What do you know about Lianne? How did the signing come about?

I knew Lianne very well from when she was playing in America, she is English and has fantastic potential and it was one of the first decisions I made to bring her back here. She was willing to negotiate very quickly and was very happy to come back. For me, this is a very important player. I think this club needs to mainly be based on English players and I think this country has a very good bunch of players with a good national team coach.

I think too I can bring a lot of knowledge to England, I had a very good experience working in America, which is the top country for women’s football. I want to be focused on English players and I also want to focus on young players, to give them opportunities. We have an excellent development team here and young players are very responsive to coaching and you can model them. I feel we have the most talented young players in England with players like Leah Williamson and even Jordan Nobbs, who is still young.

The recruitment needs to be based around respecting the group that we have, to respect the big players that have made history here and compliment them with young players and English footballers if we can. We are open to consider one or two more pieces for players that can come in and add something. Recruitment isn’t my top priority right now, but we should consider all the areas.

Will Kelly Smith’s role next year be predominantly as a player or as a coach?

Kelly is a special case for the club in my opinion, we need to be very respectful with her. Every year she is coming closer to the end but she will decide when it does end. If she feels she doesn’t want to play more, she won’t. I’m not going to make that decision. We had a conversation and she still wants to be a player and I don’t want her to lose playing minutes because it’s a short career and she’s a great player of this club. She will be more of a player at the moment, but she will assist as a coach.

Pedro, you and the girls fly off to Japan this week to take part in the International Women’s Club championships. How are you viewing this competition? As a trophy in its own right to go and win? Or as part of your preparations for next season?

We are bringing Lianne Sanderson with us and we have a guest player from America too, Yael Averbuch. She is just helping us for the tour and it won’t be permanent. We are bringing young players like Carla Humphrey and Leah Williamson too. We are going to try to compete as much as we can, but we know we have been training, but not competing for more than a month. Melbourne Victory are playing and they are in the playoffs in Australia at the moment, so they will have good momentum.

We want to win it and it’s only three games, so we can do it. I won’t tell you it’s a priority, but we’re not going to Japan to lose. It’s good preparation for next year and it’s a big event for our players too. There is a World Cup coming up and some of our players want good preparation and we want to give them that because they are still representing our club when they play for their countries. Their success will be our success.

Arsenal took a post season trip to Japan in 2011 and now we have Yukari Kinga and Shinobu Ohno on board. Japan is a real hotbed for women’s football talent. Any chance you’ll use the trip to do some scouting too?

We are open to it! Since I have been here I am watching players, receiving emails from agents. We are in a position where a lot of players are interested in joining Arsenal. Maybe last year it was a little different with so many players leaving and it was a bit more difficult and it was hard to find top players. I think now we are in a different position.

I know a lot of American players who would love to come here, from Spain and Europe too. But like I said, that’s not my priority at the moment. We have a good squad and we need to respectthem, they played a difficult season last year. I want to focus on the group and their confidence and the chemistry, and we want to create a more professional environment for them.

Obviously it’s been very different for Kinga and Ohno coming into such a different language, culture and league. Do you see this trip as part of their further acclimatisation into the group? Because obviously a lot of the girls will be looking to them in Japan. Can this help develop the bond?

The language and the culture is very different for them. Japan is one of the top countries in women’s football and they’ll really compete again at the World Cup. I understand it is not easy for them, I moved to America three years ago and in the beginning it was not easy. After a period of time you adapt and feel comfortable, but it is not easy. Especially coming from Japan to Europe, which is a big change. Sometimes it’s not just a case of bringing in a player, but of putting them in an environment where they are comfortable.

I was asked about this trip when I first joined, because it’s a long trip at a time when we have no competition, but I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to get to know the players and the personalities too. The style of football has been very different for the girls. I was watching Japan v Canada recently and Japan played phenomenally and won. But the style of football in England is so different. There is a physical component that Japanese players are not always used to.

They are improving and working hard in the gym, but it’ll never be their talent. But there is not a bad word to say about either of them, they have a fantastic, professional attitude, they never cause any problems and they are always working hard and following instructions. It’s a big year for some players with the World Cup coming up, not least the Japanese players.

Lianne Sanderson was keen to come back to England with the World Cup in mind. In Ohno’s case it might be her last World Cup. We’ll decide early next year whether they want to go back to Japan or to stay here. We want to respect them as people and treat them well, because when you treat people well they will respond to you too.

Do you see it as a chance to develop your bond with the squad? I spoke to Casey Stoney a few weeks back and she said you had been keen not to change too much due to all the upheaval last season. Is this a good chance for you to start stamping your style onto the players?

Yes of course. Since last week we have started to step up training. I don’t want to speak too much about change, football is more about dynamics. We have started on a different dynamic now in preparation for the trip, more positive and intense. Tactically we are giving them a little more information all the time. But we are working with other areas off the pitch too; the organisation of the team, what we expect from the players.

When you have the professional basis settled down, everything else is easier. I’m very excited to start the season, we have a good opportunity to prepare with competition so we can see the real Arsenal. Now I have a real impression of the squad and the club and where are strong and where we can improve and that’s what we’ll work on in Japan.

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We wish him all the best. I’ve known nothing but praise and admiration for our women’s team.

It’s always consoling our women’s team won a game when the men loses.


Good luck Pedro!
Please tell Hoogendijk I love her!


What? She’s left already?!
Nooooooo lol

von Bigglesworth

People might not know this, but Pedro used to work in America.

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