Pre-Match Report

WCL: Arsenal v Birmingham - Preview

"I’ve had a bit of time to think and analyse but no time to sleep. My assessment is still the same. Obviously right after the game you’re sometimes a little bit tender, and it’s sometimes not good to reflect right after the game.

"We’ve have a series of pre-season training games where we’ve done fantastic, some of the football we’ve played has been amazing. So the disappointing thing for us was the result on Monday. And not just the result, but the way that we played, we know we can do much better.

"We’ve played there on a couple of occasions and played very good football"

Shelley Kerr

"As a squad, not just myself but the players as well, we’ve had time to analyse the game and we all feel the same: that we could play a lot better, and it was basic things that let us down on the night."

We may only be one game into the Ladies' 2014 campaign, but it's clear that winning football matches, and significant ones at that, are all-important for Shelley Kerr.

Arsenal were below par in their Champions League quarter-final first leg at Birmingham on Monday and Remi Allen's 26th-minute winner means they have it all to do in Sunday's return leg. But the Gunners have a rich history of producing on the big occasions and Kerr is hopeful that Sunday will be no different.

This will be Arsenal's third game at the Hive in the space of six months. A 2-0 Continental Cup final win over Lincoln was followed by a convincing 3-0 victory against Glasgow City in the previous round. So Kerr has every reason to be optimistic of overturning this narrow deficit.

"I think the pitch will play a big part in the game on Sunday," she said. "Hopefully it will be a positive for us. We’ve played there on a couple of occasions and played very good football, the pitch is fantastic, in great condition, really flat, a big surface, it suits our style of play. Hopefully it helps us on Sunday.

"We need to improve from our midfield going forward. Not just our midfield. A big thing is creating space. When teams set up in certain periods of the game – not saying that Birmingham did that throughout the game – when teams defend, you need to be able to be creative in terms of making space.

"To create space you need good movement. And I don’t think we did that enough all over the pitch. We were moving, but we were moving into other space. So I think that’s a key thing for us on Sunday."

Shelley Kerr and Club captain Kelly Smith

Shelley Kerr and Club captain Kelly Smith


Losing the WSL title last year has raised questions that Arsenal Ladies are starting to lose their aura and Monday's first-leg defeat added fuel to that. But Kerr insists that with the increased level of financial support and interest in the women's game, the Gunners were always going to face stiffer competition.

"We’re a victim of our own success," she said. "So every single game we go into, everyone has expectations that we’re going to win. I think that’s slowly changing. The reason that’s changing is that other clubs and other teams are bridging the gap.

"That was always going to come. I don’t think, personally, another club will have as much success in the women’s game as this club has. But other clubs are investing more, putting in more resources and finance, and they’re becoming more professional. And I think it’s fantastic.

"Perhaps we’ve been a little bit reactive rather than proactive to the situation in the women’s game in the UK. Perhaps as a club we should have been proactive in terms of other clubs bridging the gap."

Tickets for Sunday's second leg will be available on the gate at £5 adults, £2.50 concession.

We will bring you live tweets on the @ArsenalLadies account from 1.55pm (UK time).

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