News Matches

Chelsea not just eyeing four trophies – Hayes wants an Arsenal-like dynasty

4:00 AM EST 2/4/21
Emma Hayes Chelsea Women 2020-21
The Women's Super League champions reached another Continental Cup final on Wednesday night, but they are after more than just silverware

When Chelsea equalled Manchester City’s unbeaten record in the Women’s Super League last month, beating Manchester United 2-1, the reaction of manager Emma Hayes was telling.

“When I started at this club, I always wanted to be the dominant force in the women's game,” she said, "growing up, knowing what Arsenal were.”

The Gunners’ team of the 2000s is the greatest team that women’s football in England has ever seen.

Between 2003 and 2009, they didn't lose a single match, Vic Akers leading them on an unbelievable 108-game unbeaten streak which saw them pick up 24 trophies – including the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2007, now known as the Champions League.

Of course, their unbeaten record will never be matched, not even by this formidable Chelsea side who have since set a new WSL record.

But for Hayes to reference Arsenal – a team whose dominance she saw up close, as Akers’ assistant – was a nod to the legacy she and the Blues want to leave on women’s football.

Wednesday was another step towards that. An emphatic 6-0 win over West Ham saw Chelsea seal their place in another Continental Cup final, less than a year on from their first triumph in the competition.

In March, the Blues will have a shot at another title, which would be their ninth under Hayes. With them targeting three other trophies this season – the WSL title, the Women’s FA Cup and a Champions League they so crave – success would only whet their appetite for further glory.

This is a team full of winners who have got their hands on plenty of silverware over the years, but the manner of the victory over West Ham showed the incredible hunger that remains still.

Some might go in at half time 4-0 up and take their foot off the gas. The Blues were more than comfortable, with Pernille Harder netting twice and Sophie Ingle and Beth England also on the scoresheet.

However, through Fran Kirby and Harder’s third of the day, they hit the back of the net twice more in the second period and, despite an improved performance from the Hammers, they could’ve added to the scoreline even further if it hadn't been for the woodwork.

“I'm so impressed by my players, by the collective,” Hayes said after the game. “I'm so impressed by the hunger, the will, the ambition. I've been here nine years. The fact that they're still doing that for me and the football club... I won't take any of it for granted.”

Hayes’ driven personality is not only seen when she speaks to the media, or when she is encouraging her team from the dugout. It's evident in her players too.

They never relent, never know when they are beaten and, crucially, never sit back thinking that a game is won.

Her influence is particularly obvious on Magda Eriksson, with Hayes even touting her captain as a future Chelsea manager.

“You want your leader to mirror you and she mirrors me in exactly the ways I want her to," she said recently.

But Hayes’ drive is also shared by those behind the scenes. When Chelsea won the Conti Cup and the league last season, it would’ve been easy for the club to have a quiet summer transfer window, particularly given they added one of the world’s best strikers, Sam Kerr, in the winter window.

Instead, as well as bringing in Melanie Leupolz, Jessie Fleming and Niamh Charles, they set a new world-record for a transfer fee in women’s football, signing one of the best players on the planet in Harder.

It was another example of Chelsea not just raising the bar on the pitch, but off the pitch too. That will be part of their legacy as well as all the trophies and the records.

“Can you imagine the daily practice that has to go on to achieve that?” Hayes said on Wednesday, talking about Arsenal’s legacy. “Building teams that can continue to do it.

“I've learned how hard it really is and how much it takes from you. My admiration and respect for the people that work for me every day, my staff and players [is huge] because they keep doing it. The level of demand I place... fair play to everyone.

“I always say to them, 'My job is to make sure when you're sat with your children, your grandkids in years to come, you look at the medals and you sit there you tell them stories about this wonderful team you're a part of and the memories you made.'”

One of those stories could well be about how this Chelsea team became one of the greatest teams the game has seen.