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No fans… but Arsenal boss points to positives

After European exit, Gunners look ahead to the new league season

27 August, 2020 — By Steve Barnett

Joe Montemurro and his Arsenal squad during pre-season training. Photo: Arsenal FC

ARSENAL boss Joe Montemurro says there will be “positives and negatives” when the Women’s Super League returns behind closed doors next month.

The Australian has very little time to pick his side up following Saturday’s disappointing exit from the Women’s Champions League at the hands of Paris St-Germain.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s superb near-post volley gave PSG the lead at Real Sociedad’s Anoeta Stadium in Spain. But Beth Mead’s curling effort levelled the scores in the quarter-final tie just before the break to give the Gunners hope.

Ultimately Arsenal paid the price for a sloppy start and a leggy second-half performance when, 13 minutes from time, substitute Signe Bruun poked home from close range to earn PSG a deserved 2-1 win.

The result leaves the north Londoners without European football for the coming season after they finished third in the league last term.

But on the plus side it means Montemurro’s charges can fully focus on the WSL title, starting against Reading at Meadow Park on Sunday, September 6.

That is, providing they can adapt to life without fans cheering them on.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes

“Playing in empty stadiums has certainly got some positives and negatives,” said Montemurro.

“You can hear everything, and you probably get a little bit more emotional because you want to get more involved. The crowd usually do a bit of that cheering for you.

“The crowd do add that little bit of pressure which makes us do things a little bit quicker.

“Every game brings its own challenges and situations, so we just need to get used to it.”

However, supporters won’t have to wait until September to get their first taste of domestic action. The Women’s Community Shield takes place at Wembley this Saturday with league champions Chelsea taking on FA Cup holders Manchester City.

It is the first Women’s Community Shield since 2008, and is part of the first ever double-header that will see Arsenal take on Liverpool in the men’s final on the same afternoon.

Blues boss Emma Hayes – a former Parliament Hill School pupil who used to kick a ball around Camden Town’s Curnock Street estate as a kid – also paid respect to the fans ahead of the showpiece curtain-raiser.

She said: “Playing in front of a crowd is why we do what we do, but we can only control what we can and it’s not possible for us to play in front of our fans right now.

“Let’s just hope that the return of the fans to stadiums happens sooner rather than later because we are a much stronger force together.”

And in a direct message to supporters, Hayes added: “We miss you. We look forward to seeing you. Stay patient, be safe, and when the time is right, I’m sure we will be back together again.”

Chelsea versus Manchester City kicks off at 12.30pm, with the men’s final between Arsenal and Liverpool getting under way at 4.30pm.

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