BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was satisfied by her side’s 3-0 thrashing of Juventus on Wednesday night but is still undecided as to who will skipper the side into the new season.
Speaking after Ramona Bachmann, Fran Kirby and Maren Mjelde had scored against the Italians in the pre-season encounter at Kingsmeadow Stadium on Wednesday night, Hayes said: “We had a tough recent trip away to Montpellier and then Barcelona in hot conditions. We haven’t trained since then as the team went to Carly Telford’s mum’s funeral on Tuesday.
“It was a sluggish performance by the team. But I said to them champions find ways to win. I didn’t think we are at our best just yet.
“But we persevered and scored wonderful goals.”
Hayes was also critical of not finishing off good opportunities.
”We were too intricate at times, got into good situations but did not execute. I think that will come with more practice.
“The grass was a little bit long and it was difficult for them to get their feet used to it.
“Some of the balls got caught under their feet. If they are a bit sluggish, they hesitate with their decision-making.”
Hayes felt one of the new signings was the stand-out performer.
“I thought Sophie Ingle was tremendous,” she said. “She has come in to the club and it was a seamless transition. She ran the game in midfield.”
Hayes opted to play a back four instead of the three of the back that saw them become League and FA cup winners last season.
”The back four was a plan and we will need to have a few of them this season,” she said.
“We will have to adapt and find different ways. We all need to find a fresh way to do what we are doing and keep developing new approaches to beating the opposition.
“It will get harder to win as teams have strengthened in the summer. Many more have been full-time for a while. So the marginal gains will be in the training ground, and how hard and challenging we can make our environment so when we get to game day, we are even better prepared for it.
“Hopefully with the depth and quality in the squad, our training levels will go up.”
The opening league fixture in September will see them face their most recent adversary for the league title Manchester City. Does that worry Hayes?
“We have to play them at some point,” she said. “It doesn’t matter, when. Let’s get it out of the way early.”
Hayes has mixed her side around in pre-season – a deliberate decision.
“I think some teams will have already played a settled side now,” she said.
”I didn’t do it last season and not this season. I don’t panic taking risks.
“If pre-season was about winning games, then I wouldn’t experiment. So for me, I want to get them the right minutes (on the pitch). At this point, every single player has played equal minutes.
“That’s the starting point. From there we will start to get a more settled team and then get ready for the Continental (Tyres) Cup.
“England manager Phil Neville watched the game and will have seen (Welshwoman) Sophie Ingle boss the game, and that will be a worry for him.”
England face wales at the end of this month in a crucial World Cup qualifier.
On the captain front, since the retirement of skipper Katie Chapman and transfer of vice-skipper Gilly Flaherty to West Ham, Hayes has used three players as captains – has she decided who will get the job?
“I’ll take until the rest of the month to decide who will be the leader,” she said.
“I’m trying to see during the struggle of the game as well as the good times, which players take leadership. What they are doing off the pitch to put themselves in the best position. It’s an important job for the club. I have a short list of five. We have an obsession with captaincy in this country. In Spain they have four, in Italy it’s the most senior player. I need a couple of weeks.
“I’m looking for somehow who has presence, who can galvanise us if we are struggling, someone who can tactically solve problems. Someone off the pitch, who understands the expectations of the club, dealing with the media, commercial and marketing teams, community. It’s not just an on-pitch job, it’s all of it, a big responsibility.
“The announcement will be after the Conti Cup games. I consider Continental Cup preparation, as pre-season training.“
Juventus haD ex-Chelsea star Eni Aluko in theiR starting ranks.
ThE striker left the Blues in the summer. Hayes has nothing but kind words for the forward.
”As for Eni, it was great to see her,” said Hayes. “For her, it felt too soon to come back. But she will always be part of the Chelsea family and welcome here.”