By Lloyd Webb
“I would like to make the fans and the club proud of what we can do on the pitch and the result will come after that.” - Pedro Martinez Losa
When it comes to the FA Cup, Arsenal Ladies have a record to be proud of.
The Gunners have won the competition a record 13 times, while they have only lost the one final - a 3-2 extra-time defeat to Everton in 2010.
"I don’t think that they just have physicality, but they also have good players like Katie Chapman, Ji Son Yon and Karen Carney"
This year’s route to Wembley hasn’t been easy though, with matches against Women’s Super League Division One rivals in every round. Not only that, but they have also had to contend with two nerve-shredding penalty shoot-outs along the way.
Despite their illustrious history in the competition, Saturday afternoon will be their first visit to Wembley Stadium - and they face a mighty challenge against Chelsea. The Blues are the current holders, and beat Pedro Martinez Losa’s side in the Women’s Super League in April.
But the Gunners’ Spanish manager is determined to savour the occasion – and he will be telling his players to do likewise.
“It is a big moment for me and I want to enjoy it,” he told Arsenal Player. “I think that is very important as when you enjoy the moment, you can bring the best out of yourself and you can make other people enjoy it.
“I would like to make the fans and the club proud of what we can do on the pitch and the result will come after that. When I started coaching at 18 years old, I never thought I would become the manager of Arsenal Ladies. I never thought I would win the league in Spain or America.
“There is mainly excitement [at the club]. We realise this is a fantastic opportunity for us to win a trophy, which is one of our main objectives. Now it is time to make sure the players feel strong on the pitch so we can battle Chelsea in the best way possible.
“For us it means everything. We won the Continental Cup last year, and now we have this chance. At the start of the season we wanted to reach the FA Cup final at Wembley and offer our fans a trophy. Chelsea will be trying to do the same - who is more prepared, will probably get the reward.
“But that is the FA Cup. Sometimes there is drama, and sometimes it is like Sunderland where we did really well competing against 10 players. For me, to go through Sunderland, Notts County and Birmingham, the way we have come to the final means we can go there to go compete until extra time and penalties.
“We have to fight for each other from the first minute to the last minute.”
ONE TO WATCH
All eyes will be on Leah Williamson on Saturday afternoon.
The 19-year-old has impressed in every round of the competition so far, and will be hoping to add a second Women’s FA Cup title to her growing trophy cabinet, having first won it in 2014.
Williamson joined the club as an eight-year-old and although naturally a midfielder, she has been primarily used in defence this season – and Losa has certainly been impressed by her progression.
“She is still growing as a player, we can’t forget her age,” he said. “She has big potential, and I think she is more mature and improving in every training session - that is a credit to her. Her objective is to be in the starting line-up, it does not matter what position.
“The character and competitiveness she has been showing makes us really happy about her performance - she is ready for the final.”
It has been quite a start to the season for Chelsea.
The Blues sit in second place in the WSL and are yet to lose a game, having scored 14 goals in just four fixtures. One of their victories came at Meadow Park, when Fran Kirby’s brace left Arsenal disappointed.
"I think Wembley will be a big pitch for us to play better football and have more confidence, which is what we are looking for. That is what we are working on"
They have beaten Doncaster Rovers Belles and Aston Villa in the cup, before overcoming Manchester City in the semi-finals courtesy of Kirby’s last-gasp winner in extra time.
There will be more than a few familiar faces when the two sides meet, as Chelsea are not only managed by former Gunners assistant manager Emma Hayes, but they also have nine former Arsenal Ladies stars in their ranks.
Most recent to cross the London divide was Jade Bailey, and she is joined by Becky Spencer, Drew Spence, Laura Coombs, Niamh Fahey, Karen Carney, Gemma Davison, Gilly Flaherty and captain Katie Chapman.
Known for their robust style under Hayes, Losa says they have much more to them than just pure strength.
“I don’t think that they just have physicality, but they also have good players like Katie Chapman, Ji Son Yon and Karen Carney,” he said. "But we have experience and a lot of talent and I think we can compete as a group.
“I think Wembley will be a big pitch for us to play better football and have more confidence, which is what we are looking for. That is what we are working on.”
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