Written by Louisa Okolobe
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes says "it's our time" to win the Women's Champions League going into Sunday's final against Barcelona.
After clinching their fifth Barclays Women’s Super League title on Sunday, 9th of May 2021, it is no longer a wonder why the club is ranked high by many. According to UEFA coefficients, Chelsea is ranked as one of the best teams in Europe alongside Bayern München, FC Barcelona, Manchester City, and Paris Saint German.
Chelsea's recent run of form has been attributed by some to the in-form attacking duo Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby termed “Kerr-By", and Pernille Harder - The ex-Wolfsburg player who signed to Chelsea for a record transfer fee seen for the women's game. Hayes has done an amazing job with the abundance of talent present which has given her the luxury to have the likes of last year’s PFA Player of the Year Beth England on the bench and other young talents with international experience.
📸: Sam Kerr
Emma said “Getting to the [uwcl] finals is nice but it is not over yet, I truly believe we can win it with this squad we have built over the years". At the beginning of this season, Chelsea were put on the track to win the quadruple becoming the second English team to do so, only previously done by Vic Akers Arsenal’s 2007 squad. Kaz Carney told BBC Sport "Emma wants to achieve what she did at Arsenal as the assistant manager. She will not stop until it's achieved."
Hayes and her team have been dubbed mentality monsters because of their relentlessness throughout the season, they never stop playing till the final whistle. Emma told the Guardian “It’s one club. That’s just the DNA of this place – and it breeds winning. The pressure to win here is immense. I’ve always said about this [Hayes points to the club badge on her tracksuit top] that some can wear it and some can’t but, those that shine in it, know this is the world’s most special club.”
As seen from their performance in the Continental Cup quarter final match against Manchester City earlier in the year, Chelsea have the ability to change a game. Where Chelsea were 1 goal up by half-time, the second half saw City equalise and then score what most people assumed was the winning goal in the 82nd minute to put them ahead. Hayes proved the depth of her squad when she made changes which immediately turned the game in their favour: Niamh Charles scored in the 88th minute from her first touch which took the game to extra time. Within the first ten minutes of extra time, goals from Sophie Ingle and Reiten punched Chelsea’s ticket to the Semi-final.
Hayes ability to read and manage the game is something that we have all seen throughout the season. In the UWCL quarter final first leg against Atletico Madrid, Hayes was put to the test when Ingle received a red card in the 12th minute. The decision was made to take off Beth England for Niamh Charles to strengthen their defence, and the decision worked in Chelsea's favour. Chelsea kept a clean sheet, and two goals were scored by Maren Mjelde and Fran Kirby which meant the club had the upper hand going into the second leg.
After raising the WSL trophy on Sunday, Hayes has admitted she wants more and even after a 5-0 victory at Kingsmeadow said the team did not play their best football. “I said to them, do you like winning then win again on Sunday [UWCL Final]” – Emma Hayes to BT Sport.
For most people a campaign does not get more successful than Chelsea’s 20/21 season but Hayes has her sight set on the UWCL final in Sweden against Barcelona, and Vitality’s FA Cup which will be concluded towards the backend of 2021.
Moving into the 2021/2022 season, Chelsea are making some changes to strengthen their squad even more. 22-years old Dutch defender Aniek Nouwen has recently been signed, and there are rumours that Hayes has her eyes set on Manchester United and Lionesses youngster, Lauren James.
Hayes has put this team in a place where each position has someone young and talented learning from a world class player eager to start. This brings competition to the training ground which in return has helped to keep players on their toes and giving their best performance match after match. Emma said: "I really believe there's another level in us, I really do. I'm so looking forward to watching us find that level and (...) compete for the honour of being champions of Europe." This is what will make this Chelsea team a force to reckon with for years to come because of the mentality and environment Emma Hayes has helped nurture.
Bring home the trophy!! 💙
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