After an emphatic FA Cup final triumph against Women’s Super League title rivals Arsenal, Chelsea completed a long overdue, but thoroughly deserved domestic treble. Blues boss Emma Hayes is arguably the best coach around in the women’s game and now her sole focus will be to grasp the only trophy missing from her collection - that elusive European crown.
Chelsea have more than bounced back from their opening day defeat against the Gunners in the Women’s Super League and in the space of a few short months, they’ve rallied themselves to keep up with the side looking to steal the league title away from them. On Sunday afternoon at Wembley, they avenged that early defeat. Hayes’ players outshine Jonas Eidevall’s in every department as they showed their budding WSL usurpers that they will not concede their crown so easily.
And now all sides of the English game have been conquered by the tenacious Hayes, she can now invest more time to bring continental success to Chelsea’s ever-growing trophy cabinet. The fifth matchday of the Champions League takes place this week and Hayes’ side welcome Juventus to Kingsmeadow. The Blues are currently unbeaten after four matches in the prestigious competition and their Italian opponents will provide a good yardstick as to where they are in their quest for European glory.
Having formulated a winning strategy against the Bianconere already this term, Hayes will be confident that on home soil her team can taste victory once again. Not only to ensure that they progress to the knockout stages, but for the Blues to build their momentum ahead of what promises to be another strong campaign, with the hopes of getting over the final hurdle this time around following their heartbreaking defeat against Barcelona in the showpiece event last year. A victory will not only help strengthen their belief, but it will also give them a favourable draw in the next round as the Blues would secure top spot in the group.
That crushing defeat in Gothenburg was a tough one to take for everyone associated with the west London club, but that setback must provide a great lesson for the Blues, and they will know exactly what went wrong for them last time and how to avoid the same outcome should they make it to a consecutive final. Hayes will be relentless with her players, she will push them to their limits, but in a very supportive way and that is why she is one of the most highly-thought of coaches in the game today. The smartest thing that she and her players could have done was to forget about the final almost immediately to start looking ahead to the next opportunity.
Back in October Hayes told the Independent: “I think it [Barcelona defeat] is the same for any loss you ever have – you take from it what you need, and then you discard the rest.
“We don’t get too preoccupied on the losses for too long. Our preoccupation is on our daily practice and competing for every trophy. Of course we always want to win all of them, including the Champions League, I just think we’re one year better because of our experience last year.
“We feel really seasoned, really calm and confident in what we are doing. I think experience really matters in this competition, and I think we’ve got lots of it.”
When it comes to being a top-level coach in football, you undoubtedly need the skills to be a success. But with Hayes’ added desire to keep on improving, you can never write off her Chelsea squad and should they defeat Juventus on Wednesday night with a similar level of performance they gave against Arsenal at the weekend, they will be in a strong position to make amends for last season’s final defeat.
That empty space in the trophy cabinet needs filling.