It has been a demanding first half of the season for Arsenal Ladies.
Since beginning the campaign with a 3-1 victory against ASD Torres in March, Shelley Kerr’s side have embarked on a run of fixtures that has taken in games across three countries and in four different tournaments.
Thursday’s Women’s Super League clash at home to Chelsea is the Ladies’ 15th of 2013 and has come over the course of just 78 days. They have played three more games than any other WSL side, and five more than Thursday’s opponents.
It's an added bonus if you can get to finals in cup competitions but you want to build momentum in the leagueShelley Kerr
The inevitable fixture congestion caused by progress in cup competitions has led to a series of rearranged matches. As a result, Arsenal go into the London derby having played just three league games, the joint-lowest total in the WSL.
“It's been really unique,” Kerr told Arsenal.com. “You look at all the cup games that we've been involved in and it makes it a unique situation.
“You need that consistency in the league and we always say that it's our priority. It's an added bonus if you can get to finals in cup competitions but you want to build momentum in the league.
“Unfortunately for us, the way the fixtures have evolved mean that it hasn't quite worked out for us to get that run of consistency in the league. That's been a bit challenging for us but I think we're starting to gel quite well and our recent form has been quite good.
“We've been playing well and we must continue that. Every team that comes and plays us want to play well against us. When you've been at the top of your game for a long period of time, you have to be able to cope with that and deal with it. That's what we're trying to do this season.”
Recent performances would suggest that the players are making steady progress.
The 4-0 home defeat against Liverpool in the team’s first league game of the season was a big shock but the Ladies have responded quickly from that setback to win four of their next five games.
“I've felt like we've been strong and have played really well in the last few weeks,” Kerr enthused. “That's the consistency that you require at the highest level. It's something that we've been talking about a lot - to try and gather some momentum into our play and keep playing consistently well.
“Every team is capable of scoring goals in this league. If you're not switched on and not consistent, you get punished for that. We just have to be really focused and that's something that we've tried to implement at training in the last few weeks.
“When you take into account that we've had a change at the club with myself coming in, that's never easy.
“We've had to deal with a few injuries and on top of that we didn't have a big squad. When you consider these things, it's been quite eventful to say the least and I think we've come out of it really well so far.”
We've been strong and have played really well in the last few weeksShelley Kerr
Emma Hayes was Arsenal’s assistant manager in the quadruple-winning 2007 season.
Now in charge of Chelsea, the 36-year-old strengthened her squad with a host of internationals in the close season and the Blues began the season with seven points from their opening three games.
“They've invested,” Kerr noted. “They've got a couple of Icelandic girls, Ester, the Brazilian midfielder, Sofia Jakobsson the Swedish forward and they've got experience in Eni Aluko. They've got a few really good players.
“I watched them against Liverpool and have seen most of their games this season. They are a strong team and it will be very difficult again. It's great that the league is so competitive and for us to get results against teams, we have to be at our best and perform consistently throughout the game.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 5 Jun 2013