Emma Hayes is happier that the WSL 1 is a tougher championship to win than in the recent past.
Having seen Fran Kirby and Erin Cuthbert see off dour 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion yesterday, the Chelsea manager said: “The game went exactly as I expected.
“I think we have prepared for the the fact we are playing full-time professionals teams week in and week out. And what gives us an advantage over them? Nothing really.
“They are full-time players. Yes we have international players running through our squad. But the reality is that it’s tougher to win a game, let alone a league this year.”
It seems that teams are starting to counter Chelsea’s superior technical ability by trying to intimidate the Blues physically.
Hayes is not bothered, but accepts it’s true.
“Yeah, that come with full-time training,”she said.
“They have players in training every day, just like us, so I think it surprises people the closeness in matches. To be honest that’s all we have ever asked for. It’s not a league where you have got a single team or two running away with it. You want results that produces a closeness in games. That how you improve the product. That last thing you want is a Chelsea running away with it year after year in four or five nil games ever week.”
But more often or not, teams sit back, and defend deep.
It’s something Hayes understands.
“I take it as a compliment,” she said.
“I’m not there to judge (other teams tactics). I pick teams to win games. But I think Brighton had opportunities in the second half but they came in transition, Perhaps we were a little bit open at that point in the game as it was comfortable for us.”
The 2-0 win was the first in four WSL 1 matches this season, the other three ended 0-0.
Hayes was happy
‘It was a good all-round performance - that comes above any individual performance,” she said.
“There was an energy and tenacity in the performance. And for us I needed to see the team respond after three scoreless draws.
“We got some goals and they were quality goals, we have to credit the quality of Fran’s and Erin’s finishing. It’s not easy.”
Tactically Chelsea has employed three at the back and sometimes four. It’s something Hayes believes will be needed this season as they try to overcome stubborn and at other times highly-talented opposition.
“There’s a fluidity between it. We were flipping between three and a four during the game. And you are going to have to do that to break down organised defenders. I think for us we must be conscious of not being too open.
“We have had a good week. I challenged them and sorted out a lot of things. They are producing to a level I expect to see.”
The Blues are mid table in the league but Hayes is not unduly concerned.
“I don’t mind being in the position we are in. We are unbeaten,” she said.
“That’s something for us to build upon. To take one game at a time and know that we have the nous and experience of being here and we will be in the hunt for trophies this year.”
There is an international break now before the Blues entertain league leaders Arsenal, at home, on October 14. Is Hayes sweating, hoping her players come back injury-free?
Again pragmatic Hayes sees it differently to most managers
“It will be for them too. They have got a team full of internationals away too. It’s not ideal in the scheduling. But I don’t want to bore everyone with that subject anymore.”
With skipper Karen Carney nursing a slight knock, Millie Bright took over the armband. Hayes revealed that Bright needs a bit of training in captaincy etiquette.
She said: “For her first game, I think she needs reminding that she has to shakes everyone’s hands in the refs room before the game,” she smiled.
There was more than 1,100 at Kingsmeadow and Hayes has a kind word for the growing band of hard-core supporters.
“I love the songs they sing,” she said.
“They are making up more and more every week. I heard a good one for Ramona Bachmann against Brighton. For me, the pride and joy is not just in the team’s performance, it’s the fact that our club is growing and our fanbase is growing, and the singing shows why we have the best fans in the league.