The Liverpool Women suffered another disappointing loss over the weekend, this time to Tottenham, but manager Matt Beard isn’t letting that get him down. Everyone knew that things would be hard once Leanne Kiernan was injured, but the loss of new-ish signing Shanice van de Sanden only twisted the knife. These hiccups, though annoying, are only temporary, and Beard isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
“It was a frustrating day for us last weekend at Tottenham when we lost 1-0 and unfortunately for us again it was a game of two halves,” Beard told the club website in his weekly column.
“We started slowly. Our ball retention wasn’t what it should be and the way the players trained and had prepared for this game, that was frustrating. You have to give Tottenham credit and they put us under a lot of pressure and forced us into so many errors, but we just needed to be a bit more composed in those situations.
“It was a frustrating goal to concede with the ball taking a deflection off Niamh Fahey and unfortunately Lawsy couldn’t keep it out.
“I felt the last 10 to 15 minutes of the first half we started to grow into the game and got into better positions on the pitch. We were lucky to only go in 1-0 down at the break but we were excellent in the second half. We were unlucky in the end on the second-half performance alone not to get a point, and it was frustrating, that’s for sure.”
Missing our leading goal scorer and the injection of WSL experience that would come with Kiernan and van de Sanden respectively has unfortunately made things more difficult than anticipated. Beard was honest about how much the team are missing those skills, too, but tried not to linger on it.
“We are missing Leanne Kiernan and Shanice van de Sanden so we are hurting in that top end of the pitch at the moment, but we’ve got three very good players there and Carla Humphrey can also play up there as well,” Beard continued.
“It’s not ideal losing Leanne, who got a lot of goals and assists last season and any team would miss a player like that. Shanice was one of our key signings in the summer, but that’s part and parcel of the game and we have to get on with it.
“If I reflect on the start of last season, we started that one slowly and then we found our rhythm, and we have only played three WSL games so far this season.
“We are not going to panic, we just need to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard, and I’ve got every confidence in this group that we will definitely be OK.”
Beard looked ahead to the upcoming games, with Arsenal traveling north to Prenton Park this weekend and Manchester City on the horizon, recognizing that they may be some of the toughest matches yet.
“We’ve got a tough run of games coming up against Arsenal and Manchester City, two of the favourites for a title challenge this year, and then we’ve got a really good run of games against a group of teams that will be in and around where we are going into Christmas,” Beard explained.
“Like I said before, for us it’s about consistency from the first whistle until the last and it’s about believing in ourselves and believing that we can play the way we can. We have proved it against Chelsea, the second half at Tottenham and the second half in patches against Everton.
“Sometimes the transition takes a little bit of time but I’m confident that we will be OK in this division, and I’m confident we will achieve what we set out to do at the start of the campaign for another successful year.”
Arsenal in particular are full of world class players that Beard is preparing to face, and the challenges they’ll bring. Even after the thrashing Liverpool received at their hands last season, there’s confidence that the Red Women can compete.
“Arsenal have quality all over their team. We know what quality they have and they have got players like Beth Mead, [Vivianne] Miedema, [Stina] Blackstenius, goals all over the team, and Katie McCabe scores goals as well,” the manager said.
“We know this is going to be tough, we are not stupid, but we knew that before we played Chelsea in the first game and nobody gave us a chance.
“I felt we competed well against Arsenal in the FA Cup last season even though we lost 4-0, and the Arsenal manager said to me post-match and when I saw him at the LMA awards that scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the game.
“That’s the top level and what we need to make sure is we need to have the same commitment level that we did against Chelsea with and without the ball. We are at home at Prenton Park and with the brilliant support of our fans we can be a match for anybody, we showed that against Chelsea.”
The truth is that Liverpool are only three matches into the FA WSL campaign, so there is plenty of time to play catch up. Sure two losses and one win out of those three isn’t great, but seasons are long, and this is an incredibly competitive league with loads of talented players, and Liverpool deserve to be there with the skills in their own squad. Sometimes football is just unlucky - it has to be for one team, after all.
“If I look back on the second half against Tottenham, especially with the amount of chances we did create, on another day we probably could have scored a few, but it wasn’t to be,” Beard said.
“The most important thing for us is that we remain competitive, we remain resolute and we keep believing in ourselves.
“I said to the girls after the Tottenham game that in as much as it was a frustrating afternoon there were plenty of positives to take and there were plenty of learnings. I’m not going to get carried away after only playing three WSL games.
“We had a great performance against Chelsea, Everton was uncharacteristic and maybe the occasion got the better of us, I don’t know, and the second half we were excellent at Tottenham.
“I think we are in a good place and really, when we get to Christmas and get to that break, that’s when we will assess how that first part of the season has gone for us.”
Football seasons are always a marathon and not a sprint, and getting through this first quarter of that marathon is what the focus should be - with as many points as we can get, of course.
Liverpool Women next play Arsenal on Sunday, October 23rd, and you can find out where to watch it (and kick off time in your time zone) at LiveSoccerTV.