Arsenal Ladies boss aims to build strong foundations for the future

Arsenal Ladies manager Pedro Martinez Losa. Pic: TGSPHOTO

Arsenal Ladies manager Pedro Martinez Losa. Pic: TGSPHOTO - Credit: TGSPHOTO

Long-term planning is the central concern for Pedro Martinez Losa as he begins his first full season as Arsenal Ladies manager.

The Spanish coach, who joined the club as Shelley Kerr’s replacement towards the end of last season, is well aware that he will be expected to guide the Gunners to silverware as soon as possible.

But, although Losa has made five signings since last season, he is equally concerned with bringing youngsters through the ranks and assembling the nucleus of a side to bring success to Arsenal in future years.

The Gunners boss, whose side kick off their Women’s Super League campaign at Notts County on Thursday night, said: “The immediate objective is trying to improve on what you did last season.

“But for a team like Arsenal, winning is never enough. How we build long-term and create a core of the team for a long time – that will give the club the opportunity to win, if not this year, the next one.

“That’s the key for me, especially in a very competitive league – being in a position to win. Last year it was not happening and we didn’t get into that position.

“I’m assuming that, with the work we do and the players and staff we have, if we are in a position to win the league in the last three games, we’ll win.

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“A very important point is giving the young players opportunities. We’re bringing in players from the Centre of Excellence like [defender] Vyan Sampson and [midfielder] Carla Humphrey – they’ve been phenomenal.

“There needs to be a circle of giving them confidence and allowing them to make mistakes sometimes, but seeing them grow day by day.

“And there are more players as well, who are maybe not ready to play big games yet, but they are with the team, they are progressing and that’s my objective.”

While the Arsenal manager is committed to developing youth, he is also confident that his quintet of fresh faces will bring depth to the squad and enable some rotation when necessary.

England striker Lianne Sanderson has returned to the club for a second spell and she is joined in the forward line by former Stanford University player Chioma Ubogagu and Spain international Natalia Pablos Sanchon, who moved from Bristol Academy.

Highly-rated centre-back Jemma Rose also left Bristol to sign for the Gunners, while Losa has added experienced Spanish star Vicky Losada in midfield.

“We’re trying to balance and give ourselves a full squad of options,” said Losa. “You have to manage that at some moments in the season because we don’t want to kill some of the players by playing every two days.

“I think the new additions are good players who have different abilities to help the group and they have a common factor in that they are good characters and they can create a positive environment.

“But for me, the most important thing in every team is showing respect to the players who have been here for a long time.

“This is the core of the group and obviously we cannot expect from every player coming in that they’re going to do better than Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith in the past.”

At 35 and 36 respectively, Yankey and Smith both remain key members of the squad, which has also lost a number of players since the end of the 2014 campaign.

Japanese duo Shinobu Ohno and Yukari Kinga both returned to their homeland, while defender Niamh Fahey moved to Chelsea and midfielder Freda Ayisi joined Birmingham City.

The latter pair, who finished second and third respectively in last year’s league table – ahead of fourth-placed Arsenal – have already begun their season, while Losa’s side were forced to wait an extra few days.

The Gunners had been due to face Bristol Academy in their first game, but their opponents’ involvement in the Champions League meant that had to be rescheduled for Wednesday April 15.

“I would rather have started with everybody because you want to make sure the team is competitive and the sooner you start, the sooner you can correct things,” added Losa.

“But we knew that was not going to happen and we respect that – we were playing a team in the Champions League and we had to move the game.

“Hopefully in the future we can be the team in the Champions League and another team will be in these circumstances instead.”