Arsenal Ladies are shaping up for a double header against Manchester City Women over the course of the next two weekends. The teams face off in the WSL Continental Cup semi-final in Manchester this Sunday at 2pm, before reconvening in the WSL seven days later at Meadow Park in the WSL.
In the wake of the girls’ 2-0 victory over Notts County this weekend, Tim Stillman caught up with Gunners’ skipper Alex Scott to preview two season defining clashes and to talk a little about the lack of Team GB in the women’s football at this summer’s Olympic Games.
The WSL title is all but out of the question for Arsenal now, they sit 12 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City Women with just four games remaining. City have yet to lose a game in the league this season, conceding only 3 goals in their 13 encounters. Scott acknowledges that Arsenal are playing for 2nd place and the final Champions League qualification spot, after an absence of three years from the competition they won in 2007.
“At the moment, it’s about getting back into the Champions League. We just want to win all of our games now and hope Chelsea and Manchester City slip up,” Scott reflects. Yet there is a determination within the squad that City and Arsenal are evenly matched sides. Since City’s relaunch in 2014, the clubs have met 7 times, with Arsenal winning three and City four, “The games between us have always been close and City still have to play us, they still have to play Chelsea in the league too. Anything can still happen.”
That said, the 31-year old right-back suggests that the Conti Cup game this coming Sunday will have no psychological bearing on the WSL encounter a week later, “Cup games are totally different to league games somehow,” she points out, “We want to retain the Conti Cup but City have an extra motivation too because the final is being played at their ground. They go into every game with that ruthless mentality that they want to win.”
If results fall correctly in the meantime, Scott points out that the league game on 11th September could contain a stirring subplot, “If City beat us at Boreham Wood, they could confirm the title at our place,” Scott leans in for emphasis before insisting, “We don’t want that to happen.” Defeat for Chelsea against Notts County on Thursday night would give Arsenal a boost in their pursuit for Champions League qualification, they currently sit two points behind their London rivals having played a game more. But a defeat for the Blues would give City the opportunity to seal the WSL title in Hertfordshire.
Despite the similar quality Arsenal and City boast in terms of personnel, the Manchester club have run away with the league and Scott thinks having a settled squad has been a factor in their success, “We’ve had a lot of players come in but we don’t want to use that as an excuse. They have a smaller squad but they consistently play the same side. We wanted an injection of quality and last season we really suffered with injuries, but we took some time to gel this year.
London born Scott cites City’s defence as the bedrock of their success, “They’ve conceded barely any goals even though they play with two very attacking full-backs. I think we have been undone in transitions this season, so that’s something we’re working on. City have been the most consistent side and there is no doubt that they deserve to be where they are.”
Scott was also a member of Team GB in the 2012 London Olympics. This time around, there was no Team GB in this summer’s Rio Olympics, after the regional British F.A’s could not come to an agreement to formulate a side. England qualified through their 2015 World Cup performance, but were unable to take their place. They were replaced by Sweden, who eventually took the silver medal, a fact not lost on Scott.
“It’s difficult when it’s to do with politics. As an England team we did a lot of hard work at the World Cup to qualify. We’ve done the hard work and got there, we should be allowed to go and represent.” Scott also reflects on a lost opportunity for further tournament exposure, “It’s another opportunity missed. We would love to have played in another big tournament and it’s valuable experience that the girls have missed out on. In 2012, the tournament really helped to elevate the sport too.”
The England international suggests that Team GB would have been in with a good shot of a medal, “The tournament was painful to watch, but as a women’s footballer and supporter, I watched the games. We had Josie [Arsenal defender Josephine Henning, who won a gold medal with Germany] there, so we were supporting her. That’s the first time that I have ever cheered for Germany!” she jokes.
“It was hard watching Sweden take our place and doing so well, but the hardest thing was that no team was completely outstanding. We think if we could have gone, we could have medalled. That’s the disappointing thing. Germany and Sweden played the final but neither team looked unbeatable,” she reflected ruefully.
Arsenal’s home game with Manchester City in the WSL will be played on Sunday, 11th September at Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park, tickets are available on the turnstile for £6 adults and £3 concessions. The game will also be screened live on BT Sport.