Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro admits that his team will need to overcome a psychological block when they play Chelsea at Meadow Park on Sunday afternoon. Since beating Chelsea 5-0 at Kingsmeadow in October 2018, the Gunners have lost six consecutive matches against Emma Hayes’ side and lost this fixture last season 4-1.
Montemurro’s side come into the game off the back of a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on Sunday, a Chelsea win will see them leapfrog their opponents in the WSL table on Sunday evening. I asked Joe whether he and his team have discussed their recent record against the defending WSL champions, “We talk about it, we have to be honest about it. We have to confront the realities. That’s the only way you’re going to learn. We all know, whether you’re at Arsenal or not, that Chelsea have a powerhouse of a team, they’ve recruited some of the best players in the world, and they’ve spent the money to do that. I’m not saying that’s the be all and end all but that obviously gives you an understanding of who you’re playing against and who and what you need to do.
“But there is there is definitely a blockage and I’ve put my hand up sometimes for the tactical approach and we’ve discussed that players who normally step up for us haven’t been at the levels that they should be for these games.” Montemurro will have to contend without Lisa Evans, Jordan Nobbs, Jen Beattie, Steph Catley and Noelle Maritz for this clash and the Arsenal boss suggests injuries have been a nuisance for his team in these matches as well.
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“I don’t want this to be an excuse but we have gone into these games without the opportunity to have our full options available. There’s been over the last six games, I think, once we’ve had our full squad available and I think that was the 2-1 loss at Kingsmeadow last year. It’s a balancing act of understanding they are a very, very good squad and there is a blockage, there is something that doesn’t allow us to step up to the plate on these games and there also is a reality. A reality of what we can do with the resources that we’ve got.
“I’ve always said, Yeah, okay, we haven’t had the squad available all year. But it’s provided opportunities for other players and looking at other systems and other ways for us to become a better team and that’s going to be the case again on Sunday. You know, we don’t have players available that you’d probably want for these games, but it’s not an excuse. It’s purely an opportunity for us to see what we can do with the resources that we’ve got.”
Arsenal are used to dominating and overwhelming opponents but Montemurro says he knows his team won’t be able to monopolise the ball to the same extent in this match and that having a better plan when Chelsea have it will be key to breaking their hoodoo, “For us, it’s identifying the moment when we probably have to allow the other team to have the ball a little bit so that we can get some defensive shape. We have been focusing on our ability to identify the moment where we need to probably be a little bit more…I don’t like to use the word pragmatic…a little bit more in control of the situation where the other team has the ball.
“It’s always part of what we do. But again, we like to be pro-active. We like to have the ball and we like to be more on the front foot. But we do understand that we may not have the ball a lot this week, we may have to concede a little bit of the ball because they have the quality of players and we have to be smart in identifying when and where to win the ball and when and where to drop off a little bit more.”