Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro says he and his side know the first quarter of the game is especially important against Manchester City on Sunday, City have played three times since Arsenal last played with the Gunners’ last two games postponed on the morning of the fixture.
The Australian concedes that City are in more of a rhythm but that the first quarter of these big games are always crucial in any case, telling Arseblog News. “We always address the first 15 to 20 minutes of these games as especially important when we play City or Chelsea. Firstly, for finding your rhythm, secondly to settle things down and thirdly because you don’t want to get into any difficulty and need to chase the game that early.
“They have the rhythm but we have to be smart enough in terms of how we approach it but we will be mentally and physically very fresh so we’re ready for it.” With reports of snowfall in Hertfordshire on Saturday evening, Sunday’s match could also be in doubt following successive postponements in the WSL and Montemurro admits it is a frustration for the team. My understanding is that moving the game to Emirates Stadium was an option that was discussed but was not viable due to covid protocols.
“Well, first of all, we can’t change what’s happening. We can’t do anything about it. So the more we think about it, the more we chew it, the more we go over it, the more anxiety it brings. So the reality is that we just have to make sure that we’re ready. We’re trying to simulate as much as we can at training, game situations. Would I have liked to have played some lead up games? Absolutely. It is what it is. So we can’t make any excuses about it.”
With postponements still a regular feature in the WSL since the move back to a winter league in 2017-18, the Australian believes the time has come for greater contingency planning, “I think for us to be the best league in the world, which we are close to that, I think we have to have contingency plans in place, and it should be the responsibility of each organisation and if not the FA, to make sure that these games aren’t postponed that we have ample opportunity to fall back on whether it’s training grounds, whether it’s playing games at St George’s Park, whether it’s just better stadiums, I don’t know what the answer is, that’s well above my pay scale.
“But we know that we’re going to get bad weather in January, I think it’s happened here for many years in this country! I’ve only been here a short amount of time. But we do know that we have to have some contingency plans in place, because it will affect rhythm and it will affect obviously targets for clubs like us who are vying for for the top two, three spots.”
Arsenal have not beaten Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United in a run stretching at just over a year and Montemurro says managing pressure moments better is the key to improving that record, “They’re big games that have moments. They have situations where they’re important moments in each game. They’re not so much a scenario where one team is dominating or the other team’s dominating, it ebbs and flows.
“It’s just managing those pressure moments. We’ve been trying, or we’ve been doing it for the last while in training, to simulate pressure situations that you can get in a game, but obviously, games are different to training. We try to do the best we can to simulate these moments. When it’s a wonder goal in the last throws of the game, we learn that we have to be a little bit more clever in closing out games when you’re under a little bit of pressure like that.”