By Chris Harris
Laura Harvey has called for the "real Arsenal" to stand up in Sweden on Wednesday night and ensure they do not waste their golden Champions League chance.
The Ladies had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Quarter Final against Linkoping last week, a result that leaves their European hopes hanging in the balance. Ellen White's stunning equaliser restored hope but the Swedes have a priceless away goal in the bag and will fancy their chances on home soil.
Arsenal must score at least once to retain an interest in the competition having snatched a dramatic late winner in the last round against Rayo Vallecano. For Harvey, failure to get past relatively unheralded opponents in the last eight would render those heroics meaningless.
"What we went through to get past the Madrid side would be definitely wasted if we were to let this slip," she told Arsenal.com.
"To be honest, I think from the game last week, the fact that we are still in it is the best thing out of this game. It’s in our hands, only we can make sure we can get through to the Semi Final. It would be a travesty if we didn’t go through after what we went through in the last round. We have got to go and put it into practice on Thursday."
Slow starts have become a worrying theme of Arsenal's Champions League campaign. They were two down to Rayo Vallecano before waking up in the last 16 and were sluggish from the off against Linkoping last week. Harvey has drilled the importance of first-half focus into her players but admits that caution sometimes comes naturally in Europe.
"It’s quite hard when you haven’t played a team before, they are quite unknown to you," she said. "Any team playing against Arsenal comes thinking that they have got to go gung-ho otherwise they are not going to stand a chance of beating us. We have got to work out how we can play against that.
"I think we have become a team that has become quite good at reacting when the chips are down and pulling out a victory when needed. Hopefully we can do the same again on Wednesday but we have got to work out how to deal with getting through straight away [from the first whistle].
"We were poor in the first half last week, we got a little bit better in the second half but to come away still in the tie, on reflection of the performance, we will take that because we didn’t perform on the day.
"In general, we gave the ball away too easily and our movement to get on the ball wasn’t good enough. We couldn’t shift the ball quickly enough and that makes it easy for the opposition to get the ball back from you. We had a gameplan to get the ball out wide quickly and that didn’t happen. We have got to reflect on that, regroup, which is what we’ve done over the last few days. In Wednesday’s game we have got to put the gameplan we feel is right to win the game and perform to the levels we can do."
Harvey is still without Gilly Flaherty and Jayne Ludlow for the second leg - the England defender serves the second of a three-game suspension while the Wales midfielder is still struggling with an Achilles injury. But the manager has plenty of options at her disposal and she suspects that Arsenal's big-game experience could hold them in good stead.
"Exactly, we have experienced it at Champions League level before and played in this round before," said Harvey. "We’ve had the experience of being behind and to come back from that. Experience-wise, we have gone through it all.
"We know we have to score so the attitude is a little bit different too. In any game before where we have had to go and score more than them, we have been able to do that. We are going to try and keep it as simple as that. Ideally you want a goal early on, if not we will keep plugging away. But you can go for it a little bit more away from home, knowing that the away goal is so important.
"Linkoping are solid, athletic, they will try and make it hard to play through them and they don’t give you any time on the ball. They are a young side playing with not a lot of fear, that’s what we saw of them last Thursday. I don’t think they left anything out [there] on Thursday, what we saw in the game is what they are.
"But I don’t think there is anything else to come and that’s what we have maybe got in our advantage. I don’t think they saw the real Arsenal team last Thursday. Hopefully we can show them what we are really about on Wednesday."
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