This story first appeared in the April 2016 edition of the Arsenal Magazine.
Arsenal Ladies manager has a wealth of talent to call upon. Womens football in Britain is certainly on the march. It now boasts professional players, TV deals and growing grass-roots interest. But even before this boom Arsenal had a great reputation for producing fantastic ladies? teams.
We sat down with Pedro Martinez Losa for an exclusive interview on all things Arsenal Ladies.
What have you and the squad been up to since the end of last season?
Off the pitch we have been making big steps and have had a lot of support from the club. We have been improving in a lot of areas, especially having our own space (at London Colney) that has given us a real professional environment, which is going to benefit us for a long time. We have also added real quality to the side.
Can you tell us more about the new signings that have been made?
The big one probably is Fara Williams, she?s a top player in the country and a symbol of football and leadership both on and off the pitch. For us we needed that kind of player and on the pitch she?s giving us balance, quality, vision and an understanding of the game. Katie McCabe is a player that we have been scouting and was an elite talent in the Irish National League.
She will provide us with speed and the ability to score goals. Josephine Henning is going to bring a lot of experience to the defence. We felt we needed some more depth at the back and when we had
"I always say the same; we want to win the league, the FA Cup and the Continental Cup but we have to take it game by game. I think that we will be in the position to fight for all the trophies at the end of the season. We have prepared ourselves extremely well and we have all the tools to go out and perform"
the opportunity to bring in Josephine we thought it was very interesting for us. And Dutch midfielder Danielle van de Donk is a big talent, we feel she has lots of creativity in the final third and we are very happy to have her.
Other top teams in the Women?s Super League have also strengthened their squads, would you say this makes the league the most competitive it?s ever been?
I think the structures are helping to develop better players and making the game more attractive. There are a lot of strong women?s football teams all over the world now. For us it?s not just about what other clubs do, we have our own way and own identity, we call it the “Arsenal way” with strong support from the club. Our togetherness is what?s going to help us for the future.
The squad is getting more and more cosmopolitan with women from all across Europe now representing us. How have we been able to attract these players?
Our main objectives in the club is still to have English players and to develop young players. But in football you don?t just plan in one direction you plan in different directions and our short term aim is to win the next game and so if we see an opportunity to get a top international player we go for it. Our long term plan remains to develop the younger players.
What are the major changes that you have seen in women?s football in the last few years?
The players are more dedicated, focused and have more of a chance to progress. In the last few years this has developed further especially with attractive matches at the World Cup in 2015.
Have you noticed a change in attitude towards women?s football from the general public?
Well I think the fans are opening their eyes. We have an incredible support from our fans but we want more people attending the games. The players are doing a lot to make that happen not just on the pitch but also the commercial part and doing work with the media is really important to receive that recognition.
Are all our players now full time professionals?
We are very proud that we can support our players and allow them to be dedicated. We don?t want people to think that being professional means earning millions of pounds and are on big salaries. So professional in our case means understanding about education, mentality, passion, professionalism and spending hours at the club to be the best they can be.
You have previously worked in America, how different was that compared to working in the European leagues?
I just feel the system is completely different. The tradition and the opportunities that the American players have to develop and take scholarships make that system strong. I will not define the American system as an incredible one because it?s more about quantity rather than quality.
The quality of coaching is not as high, facilities are very good but the competitions in college football only last three months which is not enough. But the system does help because they have a life focused on football. They can be big stars in the national league but at the same time they can receive scholarships at university and that makes the families support the girls from a very young age. That?s not always the case in Europe.
Which league is stronger, the American or English?
I think the league in America is weaker than the league we have in England. The environment we provide would be impossible in America. Long term England is certainly the future.
What would you suggest to further improve the women?s game in England?
I think we need to put a big effort into supporting younger players. We need to make sure that they can see football as a realistic career opportunity. We need to encourage systems that are helping the players on and off the pitch and be able to push those excellent younger players to the next level.
What made you want to get involved in women?s football?
I have always had a passion for football and have been coaching since I was 18 years old. I started studying industrial engineering but after two years I realised my main passion was football so gave up to be more prepared for coaching. I studied sports science at the best university in Spain and made my speciality in football. After I finished I got a great opportunity to manage the women?s team of Rayo Vallecano. I always say women?s football chose me and not that I chose women?s football.
How did you become Arsenal Manager?
I had the opportunity to play Arsenal in the Champions League for Rayo, we lost but competed very well and Arsenal was always a reference with players like Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey who are role models in the history of women?s football. When the opportunity came to go to Arsenal you have nothing to think about and when you are part of this club you never want to leave!
You just mentioned Kelly Smith who is undoubtedly an Arsenal legend. What will her role be this season?
She decided that she wants to play another year and we respect and welcome that choice. Last year she couldn?t play much because of an injury. I think it?s important to enjoy your football because when you stop there is no coming back!
She had a role last year where she was helping and supporting me with all the organisations and she was very helpful. She had a a few roles including being the link between the changing room and the staff because she is greatly respected by both and she represents loyalty but this season she is going to focus on playing.
Finally Pedro, have you set your sights on any targets this season? Is the treble a realistic possibility?
I always say the same; we want to win the league, the FA Cup and the Continental Cup but we have to take it game by game. I think that we will be in the position to fight for all the trophies at the end of the season. We have prepared ourselves extremely well and we have all the tools to go out and perform. The treble? Why not!
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