Arsenal Ladies boss pleased by striker’s response to new signings

Arsenal Ladies striker Natalia evades Leanne Crichton of Notts County. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Arsenal Ladies striker Natalia evades Leanne Crichton of Notts County. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Arsenal Ladies manager Pedro Martinez Losa has praised Natalia for her professional attitude after the club added two strikers to their roster in recent weeks.

Natalia, who worked under Losa at Rayo Vallecano before moving to England, was Arsenal’s top scorer last season but has found herself named among the substitutes of late.

The Ladies have strengthened their forward line with the signings of Nigeria international Asisat Oshoala from Liverpool and experienced England star Jodie Taylor.

However, Natalia came off the bench to net her first goal of the campaign earlier this month – a crucial equaliser in the Gunners’ FA Women’s Cup quarter-final against Notts County, which they won on penalties.

“We have more options, it’s true, but in my opinion it’s not just about adding strikers,” said Losa. “I think players like Asisat maybe need a little time.

“But I want to recognise Natalia because she’s a player who has been very professional and she had a great impact in the game against Notts County.

“It’s not easy when you’re the player who scored most goals last year and then the club is bringing in one striker, then another striker – but I see her working every day and doing her best.”

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The Arsenal boss was also quick to commend the example shown by another of the experienced forwards at his disposal during the victory over Notts County.

Kelly Smith, who is now 37, completed the entire game plus extra time and scored the Gunners’ first goal in the 2-2 draw, as well as converting one of their penalties in the shoot-out that followed.

“It’s a great message for the team and everybody to see how professional Kelly Smith can be, how a player her age can perform for 120 minutes,” added Losa.

“I think at some moments she was really tired but she was still showing quality and helping the team – she’s a role model for everybody and we can only be grateful for what she did on the pitch.”

Arsenal have made a mixed start to the season, with a win and a defeat in the Women’s Super League along with two penalty shoot-out successes in the FA Cup, earning them a place in the last four.

They have yet to keep a clean sheet in any of those games as they prepare to face Sunderland in the semi-final at Meadow Park, Borehamwood, on Sunday (kick-off 2pm).

With Jemma Rose suspended for the Notts County tie, midfielder Leah Williamson stepped in at centre-back – although another recent arrival, Germany international defender Josephine Henning, is yet to make her debut for the Gunners.

“She’s available right now,” said Losa. “The only thing is she’s come from a long time without playing and we felt Leah was ready for the FA Cup game, for which you only have 16 players instead of 18.

“We have to work on our consistency defensively. I don’t think it’s a question of one player or another – it’s about everyone recognising moments in the game which should not happen at a professional level.

“Things can happen at the beginning of the season, maybe because of confidence. I think we are working really hard but the team needs to have a little more confidence.

“In pre-season we played some fantastic football, but starting the season is never easy. It will take a little time.”