Hayes focused on Conti Cup final amid Chelsea quadruple hunt


Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has insisted that the Conti Cup final on Sunday is just as important to her as any other trophy.

Hayes’ side take on Arsenal at Molineux Stadium on Sunday in a repeat of last year’s final, where the North London club strode to a comfortable 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park.

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Arsenal’s chances of clinching silverware this season rest heavily on retaining the Conti Cup trophy after being knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League and are six points adrift of the top of the Women’s Super League (WSL) table.

Chelsea, however, remain on course for a historic quadruple of trophies and Hayes admitted that whilst it may appear that the competition holds greater significance for Arsenal, it is equally crucial for her team.

“I don’t care if it’s important to them; it absolutely is important to me,” she said ahead of the final.

“Have you watched our performances in the last two Conti Cup finals? Because I have, and they have, again and again. Let me be clear on this: the team know exactly how I feel about the final on Sunday in terms of showing up and showing ourselves.”

Chelsea have reached the Conti Cup final for the fifth successive year, yet fell short in their quest for victory in the previous two finals. They were defeated by Manchester City in 2022 and Arsenal in 2023, following two successful title triumphs in the preceding seasons.

In December, Arsenal secured a 4-1 victory over Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium, marking Hayes’ team’s most significant league defeat in five years. However, in the recent reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea comfortably triumphed 3-1.

With the upcoming final serving as the deciding match, before Hayes departs Chelsea after 12 years to assume the role of manager for the U.S. women’s national team, the stakes have never been higher.

“You have to show up on the day,” Hayes said. “Let’s be clear, they’re two top-level teams. Both are capable of winning the game; both have their own qualities. You’ve still got to show up though and present yourself in the way that gives yourself the best chance. It’s a final and as always in these games [it will be] the team that shows up strong.”

There has always been a deep-rooted rivalry between the sides and Hayes, a former assistant coach at Arsenal from 2006-2008, admitted that she has enjoyed the competitiveness but has plenty of respect for her opposing side.

“I think when you play the top teams and always they’re always good battles, I think I’ve enjoyed my time playing against Arsenal in general. And I like the rivalry. I think it’s fun for the women’s game. I think it’s been a fun rivalry between us.

“That’s probably on camera. Off camera, I think you know, we respect each other, and I’m sure we will have good communication because, at some point, it’s going to have one or more players, so you know, there’ll be a happy ending.”

Arsenal have an impressive track record in the League Cup, having won it seven times in its 11-year history and being holders could provide Jonas Eidevall’s side an edge going into the final.

“I don’t think there is any mental obstacle for us saying that we feel that we can’t beat Chelsea, because we’ve done so on numerous occasions,” Eidevall said in a news conference on Friday.

“But there also shouldn’t be any complacency going in and saying we’re playing against a very, very good team and they’ve beaten us also on numerous occasions. So it’s really about coming down to the best team of the day and preparation plays a huge part in that and that’s what we’re focusing on.

“I will always say everything is more important for us. Of course, the most important thing for us that we win so from my point of view, Arsenal is always the most important thing.”

When Eidevall took charge of Arsenal at the start of the 2021-22 season, his first game was against Chelsea, where Arsenal secured a 3-2 win.

Eidevall admitted to enjoying the tactical battles with Chelsea — three of which he has won — and added that the financial disparity between the sides has played a big role in the West London club’s success.

“They have been the number one winners in this period. They have also been the number one spenders; that tends to have a correlation in football. I think they might have spent more in this transfer window here than we have been doing for the last five transfer windows in player acquisitions. It just shows that that level of investment that they haven’t been able to do in order to be so successful,” he said.

“As a league, I think what Chelsea is doing is very good, because I think the biggest difference between the men’s and the women’s game, if you compare that, from a European perspective, is that the best salaries are not paid in England. In the women’s game, they’re paid elsewhere.”

While Chelsea beat Ajax 4-1 on aggregate to book their place in the Champions League semifinals against Barcelona, Arsenal were knocked out of the competition this season in the second qualifying round to Paris FC.

“That’s what you’re seeing in the Champions League,” he said. “That’s why English clubs have a very hard time winning the Champions League because the level of investment at the other European clubs is so high. So, I think it’s good with clubs investing because it sort of brings all of us up to another level.”


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