Arsenal Ladies boss eyes showdown with Bristol Academy in FA Women’s Cup Final

Arsenal Ladies manager Shelley Kerr says the competition is improving all the times as the Gunners prepare for Sunday’s FA Women’s Cup Final.

Times are changing in women’s football. With the creation of the Women’s Super League two years ago and significant investment in players and infrastructure at many clubs, Arsenal manager Shelley Kerr knows her side’s authority is under threat.

Champions League semi-finalists for the past three seasons, twice winners of the Continental Cup and seven-time winners of the FA Cup since the turn of the century, Arsenal are a major force in both English and European football, but their dominance is under threat.

A 4-0 home defeat to Liverpool in the opening game of the Super League season confirmed the level of competition Arsenal will face this season, and Kerr is aware of the challenge facing her side in Sunday’s FA Cup Final against Bristol Academy.

“We have to be realistic [in our expectations] as some other clubs have progressed on the pitch as well as financially after investing heavily. While we’ve been dominant for many years, we knew that wouldn’t always be the case,” said the ex-Scotland international.

“Now we have to get our own house in order and prepare ourselves in the best way we can for the rest of the season.

“There’s hunger and desire at the club. We have to build on that as well as the infrastructure of the club to continue our success.”

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While Arsenal have desires to succeed in all competitions, Kerr is particularly focused on the league and Europe’s elite club competition, the Champions League – a sentiment which is mirrored by her counterpart, Arsene Wenger.

“It’s always the league, as qualifying for the Champions League is a massive thing for us, as well as winning the other cup competitions,” said Kerr.

“But we’ll take each game one at a time and we’ll be looking at the cup final next, as we didn’t win it last year and want to make amends for that.”

Sunday’s final, which will be played at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, is the second of three consecutive games against Bristol.

Arsenal won 4-2 on Sunday to reach the semi-final of the Continental Cup, and after this weekend’s clash the sides will meet again in the league.

“We’re delighted to be in the final, after having a good run in the Champions League, and at times we played exceptionally well,” said Kerr.

“We scored four goals against Bristol at the weekend, which was pleasing, but they’re three totally different games as they couldn’t qualify from the group [in the Continental Cup] on Sunday.

“But we made some changes and played a different formation, which was a good exercise and the end result provides us with the opportunity to win a trophy.”

One player likely to feature for Arsenal is the inaugural winner of the PFA Women’s Player of the Year award, Kim Little, who has scored in each of her last three FA Cup Final appearances.

“We’re excited,” said the 22-year-old. “The FA Cup final is always one of the best games of the season and one of the best days to be involved in, and hopefully it will be a great day and a win for us on the day.

“The first final I played in, I was quite young, so to play in front of 20,000 to 25,000 people, it was incredible to score. We played Bristol two years ago in the final and beat them 2-0, so hopefully we can do that again this week.”