It's been a breathless start to life at Arsenal Ladies for Shelley Kerr.
In just seven weeks as head coach, she has led her team in eight matches across three different cup competitions.
Kerr began her tenure with victory over ASD Torres in the Champions League before the Ladies were knocked out at the semi-final stage by an impressive VfL Wolfsburg outfit. In the FA Cup, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham were brushed aside with consummate ease and a hard-fought win against Liverpool at Anfield ensured progression to this month's final against Bristol Academy. Meanwhile Ellen White's late equaliser ensured that the Ladies salvaged a point from their Continental Cup opener at Lincoln last Thursday.
On Tuesday evening, Kerr’s attention turns to the Women's Super League, with Liverpool again the opponents, this time at Emirates Stadium.
"Playing at the Emirates is a great opportunity for us to kickstart the league campaign"
The Ladies’ form in the league has been nothing short of formidable. They haven’t lost since July 2011 and went the whole of last season unbeaten on their way to securing a second successive title win.
Kerr is well aware of the expectations that come with taking charge of Arsenal Ladies. She has spoken on numerous occasions about relishing the challenges that come with the job and is hoping that the illustrious backdrop of the Emirates can inspire her side to begin their league campaign in style.
“Playing at the Emirates is a great opportunity for us to kickstart the league campaign,” Kerr told Arsenal.com. “Playing at such a great stadium against quality opponents means it has all the makings of a good game.
“It's an opportunity for us to showcase the type of football that we're capable of playing. It doesn't happen all the time but the occasion of playing at the Emirates in front of what will hopefully be a big crowd can only benefit you as a team.
“Hopefully we get lots of spectators there. That's a bonus for you, if you can get a big crowd there. It's important for us that we play the football we are capable of.”
The last time that the Ladies took the field in N5, Kim Little was the star of the show, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Chelsea.
That performance demonstrated why the Scottish midfielder was named Women’s PFA Player of the Year recently and Kerr feels the WSL will give the 22-year-old the platform on which to enhance her burgeoning talent.
“She's got the full package,” Kerr said. “She's great as an individual but she's also a great team player as well. She's instrumental in everything we do in terms of the way we play. She's just getting better and better all the time.
"We will have to be at our very best on Tuesday to get a result. The players that Liverpool have brought in are very good so it's going to be a tough one for us"
“I think it's very fitting for her and for the Club as well, for the first PFA Women's Player of the Year award to go to an Arsenal player. She's a special player. It's thoroughly deserved. I've known Kim Little for a long time and I just see her getting better and better.”
It was Little’s second-half strike that booked a place in the FA Cup final against Tuesday’s opponents at the end of last month. Kerr remarked on Liverpool’s quality after that game, noting “they’ll give a few teams problems this year.”
It’s not hard to see why.
Matt Beard’s side has been transformed from the one that propped up the league in 2012. They now train full-time and made no fewer than 12 signings during the close season, including the acquisitions of England internationals Fara Williams and Natasha Dowie from city rivals Everton.
“I was really impressed with them last week,” Kerr noted. “In all areas of the pitch, they are well organised and have some real quality players there.
“We will have to be at our very best on Tuesday to get a result. The players that Liverpool have brought in are very good so it's going to be a tough one for us.
“It's going to be challenging for us throughout the season but we’re very positive.”
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