Arsenal Ladies set to prosper under the Spanish influence
Pedro Martínez Losa is the man who Arsenal have placed their hopes on to steer one of the most highly-honoured clubs in Europe.
Sat in the changing rooms, tired and fully kitted apart from her football boots, Natalia Pablos is beaming from ear to ear. It was her two goals which contributed to Arsenal Ladies’ 3-1 win over Bayern Munich in a pre-season friendly played in La Cartuja in Seville earlier this month. “The boots? I gave them away as a gift”, she explains. Natalia, together with Marta Corredera and Vicky Losada form the trio of Spanish players at the most successful club in English women’s football, Arsenal Ladies, and take their orders from another Spaniard, Pedro Martínez Losa.
There was a time, several years ago, when some tacticians’ take on women’s football was simply to put the paciest player up front and play long balls to them all afternoon. A lot has changed since then. At their Boreham Wood base, Martínez Losa is installing a new philosophy based on three principles: possession, passing and pressing which he hopes will enable the team to add to a bulging trophy cabinet which already holds 12 FA Premier League trophies and 13 FA Women’s Cups amongst other honours including the Champions League (they remain the only English side to have won it). “We have sufficient tradition and resources to create a model of our own. We are a team which builds play from the back and right now in the English game, no other team would dare to attempt that”, the coach told AS.
Since arriving in London in 2014, Martínez Losa has been a man on a mission: to develop a professional structure which will allow the team to grow at the same swift pace as the English league, rebranded in 2010 as the Women’s Super League. “We are completely integrated into the structure which is in place at Arsenal. We eat at the same refectory as Wenger, Özil, Cazorla... That means that our players identify with the club, they are a part of it and they want to form part of a team which has achieved greatness and will continue to do so”. In 2015 Arsenal LFC’s Spanish contingent won their first piece of silverware as Gunners, the Continental Cup. This season, which gets underway next month, Arsenal will not only be going out to wrest the title from defending champions Chelsea but also to triumph in both of the domestic Cup competitions.
Arsenal LFC’s budget for the new campaign is 1.8 million pounds (2.3 million euros) which accounts for 0.6 per cent of the club’s total budget; it’s an investment which has helped the Gunners’ women’s team to build a highly-competitive squad. The current side features England internationals Kelly Smith, Casey Stoney, Alex Scott as well high-profile foreign players such as Germany international defender Josephine Henning who joined from PSG this month. The three Spain internationals also play a key role. “They form the basis of the team. When you first come into the job, you need players you can rely on and who can follow and absorb your ideas on football. They have also helped us to take the next step forward. We have brought in Dutch players who have the same style of play. Between Spanish and Dutch players, the idea of playing a free-flowing, passing game has had a lot more impact than the standard, more direct approach”, Martínez Losa explains.
As for the players themselves, they feel that their own game is undergoing continual improvement. “The moment arrived when I started to feel a bit empty in Spain”, Vicky Losada told AS. “It was a point when I needed new challenges and at Arsenal, I found exactly what I was looking for. We are treated as professionals, it’s like a big family and conditions here are ideal and improving all the time. The WSL, the sponsors and the media all give us support. It’s spectacular the way they live women’s football in England”.
Forward Natalia Pablos echoed those words, saying: “It’s very satisfying to play at one of the top clubs in Europe. I had the bad fortune – or good fortune to play against Arsenal in the Champions League and when the chance to join them arose, with Pedro, I didn’t need to think twice. The English league is very competitive and that is a plus for us because it forces you to give 100 per cent in every game. That’s not the case in Spain where you are only really tested in five or six games a season, and that’s a shame”.
Marta Corredera joined Arsenal after five successful seasons at FC Barcelona, she added: “We are a family here at Arsenal – people talk to you, ask you things – they know you and the fans really get right behind the team. In that sense, it’s one step ahead of Spain. It’s a club which is close to the public but very professional as well and that mix is what makes it so special. Winning the Cup last year gave us wings and we are starting this new season with great excitement and energy. The team is determined to something big this year”, she says, and Arsenal LFC are ready to do just that.