Pre-Match Report

WSL: Notts County v Arsenal - Preview

Shelley Kerr and Club captain Kelly Smith
Shelley Kerr and Club captain Kelly Smith

"It was a good, professional team performance, even though it was frustrating at times. Credit to Gillingham, they stuck to their game plan and were very organised but it was always going to be a matter of time before we broke them down. Siobhan [Chamberlain] didn't have a save to make so we were very pleased with our defensive performance."

Sunday's FA Cup victory at Meadow Park won't go down as a classic for Arsenal Ladies, but when they look back on their season in six months' time, it may be viewed as a significant one in terms of giving their season the confidence boost it needed.

"We've got to make sure we keep probing in games that are tight"

Kelly Smith

Arsenal were made to wait for their goals against the Gills but a penalty followed by a majestic strike from Kelly Smith sealed their place in the last eight of the competition. It was a welcome result for the team after their Champions League exit at the hands of Birmingham, who they play in the quarter-finals of the cup.

Attentions will now turn to Wednesday's Women's Super League opener and the quest to regain the title Arsenal lost for the first time last season. Smith, who has vast experience of winning league titles with the club, is confident that the Ladies will be in contention this time around.

"I'd like to think that we're still going to challenge for the title," she told "I think there are more expectations on other teams with the likes of Liverpool and Man City looking strong.

"Chelsea have signed a lot of players as well so I think all the expectations are off us this year. There's more pressure on other teams to step up and try and win the league.

"I think teams will come here with more belief that they are going to beat us because we lost the title last season and a lost lot of players in the off-season. We know we're going to be battling against that. But it's just about staying patient because we've still got quality players here who are comfortable on the ball. We've got to make sure we keep probing in games that are tight. It will come because we've got the players to put the ball in the back of the net."

Kelly Smith


On the evidence of Arsenal's final league games last season and their opening matches in 2014, most teams look set to put 11 players behind the ball and try and frustrate Shelley Kerr's side rather than try and match Arsenal's expansive brand of football. But it's a tactic the Arsenal manager is ready to deal with.

"I think every single game is going to be tough this year"

Shelley Kerr

"Teams set up in a certain way to play against us and we like to play attractive football," Kerr said. "Sometimes for us it's about playing football with a high tempo and not allowing teams to sit back in behind the ball. You could see against Gillingham we were trying to find those penetrative runs and that becomes more difficult when teams sit behind the ball. It's about having good movement and patience.

"We struggled with the squad on Sunday because we only had 13 fit players on the back of international duty so we've got a couple of players returning for Wednesday. Notts County are a different team from last season so I would expect them to play in a different way.

"I think every single game is going to be tough this year. Little things like making the right decisions on the ball will make the difference. These things will be crucial for us. That was an important win for us against Gillingham after the two defeats against Birmingham. It gives us good preparation for the game on Wednesday."

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