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Fixture pile-up to test Gunners’ stamina after sealing derby win

At the start of a chaotic few weeks, Arsenal clinched a convincing Cup victory – but there were also positives for Spurs

01 October, 2020 — By Catherine Etoe

Spurs’ Ria Percival drives at the Arsenal defence during Saturday’s FA Cup clash

SIX games in the space of 23 days is no mean feat, but that is the state of Arsenal’s diary after their FA Cup quarter-final victory over Spurs on Saturday night.

It had taken 73 minutes for the Gunners to break their north London rivals at Meadow Park, but a superb Jordan Nobbs effort and a hat-trick from Scottish international Lisa Evans sealed a 4-0 win and booked the home side a semi-final clash with Manchester City.

As we went to press, the Gunners were gearing up to do battle with City for a place in November’s Wembley final. Win or lose, Joe Montemurro’s side know they will need to refocus almost immediately, with a Barclays FA Women’s Super League match set for the weekend.

“The turnaround isn’t great,” he said. “We’ve got a league game on Sunday against Bristol which could be tricky if we exert ourselves [against City]. So it’s about recovering and getting everyone fresh, but also the mental recovery is really, really important.”

Within 72 hours of Bristol’s visit, Arsenal go to Chelsea in the group stages of the Continental Cup. Two WSL fixtures then swiftly follow – and the last of them on October 18 is, you guessed it, Spurs at Meadow Park.

Alex Morgan

Morgan warms bench

Back-to-back World Cup winner Alex Morgan was probably the most talked about unused substitute in English football on Saturday. The 31-year-old did not make it off the bench for Spurs in their televised FA Cup clash with Arsenal.

But that didn’t stop the cameras regularly panning towards the sun-faded plastic seats where Morgan sat wrapped up against the chill. Nor did it prevent her name cropping up in the online press conference afterwards.

The north London derby came too soon for the USA international, who has been out for almost a year, during which she gave birth to a daughter. Her involvement was, though, deemed essential.

Spurs joint head coach Karen Hills explained: “We felt it was really important for her to be around the girls today, to be involved in the matchday preparations, to get the shorts and socks on and get her mind in a matchday environment.

“She’s a great leader, [and] has some fantastic experience. Just having someone like that around the changing room is fantastic for the girls. Today it wasn’t meant to be. She’s physically in great shape, so I don’t think it will be long before we see Alex.”

Moving on up

Two decades ago, while Arsenal were bossing the top-flight, Tottenham Women were plotting their route out of the Greater London League and up the football pyramid.

They arrived last season when they debuted in the WSL. So while the 4-0 scoreline against Arsenal on Saturday was enough to make any fan wince, at least Spurs were worthy adversaries until the final 20 minutes. A mere three years ago, they suffered a 10-0 FA Cup drubbing at Arsenal’s hands, a fact that was not lost on Hills, who has been central to Spurs’ development since 2007.

“We’ve come a long, long way,” she said.

“We’re really organised, we’re stopping teams pressing, and we’re causing them problems, so we’re heading in the right direction.”

That will be music to the ears of Spurs fans, no doubt, who can next watch their team live on the BBC Red Button on Sunday against Manchester City in the WSL. Kick-off is 12.30pm.

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