In August 2014, Pedro Martinez Losa was appointed as the manager of Arsenal Women. Losa arrived from Western New York Flash with a reputation as a meticulous coach obsessed with detail. Right away, he set about professionalising Arsenal’s setup behind the scenes, as Manchester City’s rapid professionalisation altered the landscape of the women’s game in England.
Losa introduced video analysis, goalkeeper coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and a bigger staff. Losa stabilised the club after the slightly ill-fated reign of Shelley Kerr and won the Continental Tyres Cup in 2015 before his crowning achievement at Arsenal, winning the FA Cup Final at Wembley against the much fancied Chelsea in 2016 thanks to a Dan Carter wonder strike.
Losa left his position in October 2017, after a slow start to the WSL season for the Gunners and was eventually replaced by current boss Joe Montemurro. During the summer, the Spaniard took a role as Director of Football at Millwall Lionesses. Pedro is one of the most affable men you could wish to interview. A warm, chatty individual, it’s been just over a year since I have spoken to Pedro, but he greets me like an old friend shortly before Arsenal’s Conti Cup game at Millwall.
— Kunjan Malde (@kunjanmalde) December 13, 2018
It’s clear that he is still very well thought of at Arsenal. Pedro and I walk through the tunnel and past the away dressing room as we prepare to undertake the interview. In the short, 20 yard walk to the reception area, he is stopped several times by players and staff keen for a quick catch up. “My role is to organise and supervise the whole football program and to create the highest standards possible for the players,” Pedro says of his new challenge in South London.
It is more difficult than it sounds. Millwall had to rely on crowd funding just to see them to the end of the 2017-18 season. “We have a new board now and the situation is better, but we are not swimming in money,” Pedro admits. “We have a tight budget, but all of our financial commitments for this season have been met and the debt has been paid from last year.”
Millwall are managed by Chris Phillips, who coached the Arsenal Women’s U-21 team while Losa was in charge. The Lionesses lost most of their squad in the summer following their fiduciary issues. Phillips and Losa recruited several Gunners academy players, one of whom, Gabby Ravenscroft, would put the Lionesses ahead on the night.
But Pedro says he and Phillips did not necessarily plan a ‘raid’ of their old club, rather the players came to them. “We didn’t necessarily take the Arsenal academy players, I didn’t even make a call actually. You create relationships in football and I think a lot of the girls saw Millwall as a good opportunity for them because we give opportunities to young players. I still love Arsenal and would never do anything to damage them, but if three players call you and ask you if they can come, then you have to do it.”
— Pedro Martínez Losa (@PedroMLosa) May 23, 2018
Arsenal currently top the WSL table having gone from strength to strength under current coach Joe Montemurro. Losa says he feels pride at seeing his old club doing so well, “If you go back to 2014 when I joined, the club is very different now, so I feel part of the process. I think I left Arsenal in better shape than when I arrived. Everything that happens in the future will be down to the current staff, obviously, but I feel very much a part of the journey.
“Most of the current players were players I brought in and I feel very proud to see them playing so well. There is just one club and lots of people were doing some good work under different circumstances and now there are new people that are doing really good work too. If the team was doing badly now, I would probably wonder if it was because I did a bad job.”
That said, Arsenal endured a pretty poor start to the 2017-18 season, with a heavy defeat at Manchester City and a disappointing draw at home to Bristol City. Pedro points to one significant factor in the slow start, “It was a difficult season because we had 12 players at Euro 2017, 9 of whom went to at least the semi-finals, so planning pre-season was complicated. Vivianne Miedema was not fit and couldn’t start the season and you can see now how much quality she adds when she is fully fit.”
But Losa is philosophical about his departure, “Sometimes in football, you get all of the good circumstances at the same time and sometimes all the bad things happen at once and I think that was what happened in the end. The manager cannot control everything and that is football sometimes. All I can control is the time and dedication I put into the job and I am absolutely satisfied with that.”
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) May 14, 2016
Losa undertook the difficult task of transitioning a squad that contained its fair share of club legends. “When I joined, the average age of the squad was 29. Now if you look at it, it’s probably about 24. That was a process that took time.” The likes of Emma Byrne, Rachel Yankey, Yvonne Tracey and Casey Stoney moved on, while Kelly Smith’s career also began to wind down. Pedro had to take some difficult decisions.
It is fair to say that some of those conversations were especially awkward, but Losa is again philosophical about those decisions, “I had to do what was best for Arsenal. If perhaps some of those players went onto play for, I don’t know, Chelsea or Manchester City for 3 seasons, then yes I would say we made a mistake. But there were different circumstances, some were close to retirement or played for a little while at a slightly lower level, so I don’t have regrets.”
Pedro took an 8 month sabbatical from club football after leaving Arsenal, but he was far from idle. Pedro and his wife were blessed with the arrival of Anabela in March. “Football doesn’t give you much time to spend with your family, so to be able to experience that family time has been amazing. Of course I missed being involved with football and training every day and joining Millwall in a technical role was part of that, to feel involved with the game again. I had a few offers for coaching roles in England and abroad, but you have to take the right one and Millwall felt like the right one.”
— Pedro Martínez Losa (@PedroMLosa) June 28, 2018
But it was not just fatherhood that kept Pedro busy during that period. “I set up my own company and we are involved with professional football clubs, we are working with Leeds United, Cagliari and Las Palmas and we’ve worked with them on different areas about the way clubs function and also organising events. That’s going very well and you never know, that might be my pathway in the future.
“We are doing projects in the US too but everything is always involved with football,” Pedro pauses with a twinkle in his eye and that familiar grin creeps across his features, “But I think it is in my heart to manage and to coach.” When one spends any length of time with Pedro, his passion for football is obvious. In the time I spent with him it became clear that his fondness for Arsenal remains undimmed. Watching him interact with old friends at Arsenal throughout the evening, it is also clear that the fondness is mutual.