Aston Villa manager Carla Ward believes her side remain on track despite defeat in their opening four games of the new Barclays WSL season.
Villa most notably led at Arsenal heading into second-half stoppage time, before conceding twice to lose 2-1. A 5th-place finish and an impressive summer transfer window had seen them tipped by some as outside contenders to break into the Champions League places this season, though they went into the most recent international break off the back of a 4-2 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur.
Speaking in her press conference ahead of this Saturday’s home game with champions Chelsea, Villa boss Ward was asked by She Kicks about the dilemma of standing by ideas when results are tough, and the urge to change approach.
“Football moves very quickly; you always have to try and evolve,” she responded. “It won’t be so much of going off track in what we want, because we’re still on track to what we want, and I think we have to remind everyone, and ourselves, that last year at Christmas, we went in on 12 points; we’ve got an opportunity to do that, or better that, come Christmas.”
“We had a pretty poor October last year as well – some of the girls asked for next October, to have a few weeks off! That tells you all you need to know.
“I think bottom line is: we’re in a good place. We’ve got to continue the work that we have done in the last couple of years, and I’ve said it time and time again: you lose three games, there’s questions asked, you win three or four games, you’re the best thing since sliced bread.
“That’s the way football works, that’s the nature of the beast, and we have to just continue our work and focus on what we can control.”
The squad have been without one of last season’s most influential figures, midfielder Kenza Dali, so far in 2023-24, with the France international returning from the World Cup with an injury. Ward confirmed that the 32-year-old is in contention for the Chelsea game, with a decision to be made on her involvement in the next couple of days.
Another of last season’s star performers will be returning, with forward Kirsty Hanson available following a three-game suspension for a red card against Manchester United in the opening match. Lucy Parker, though, will miss out, with Ward confirming that the ankle injury picked up by the defender/midfielder while away with England means she ‘definitely won’t be available’ this weekend.
Asked whether the international break has allowed for any meaningful work with the remaining players, Ward said: “After the Tottenham game, I was asked whether the international break came at the right time. I said no, but actually, on reflection, I would say yes, because it allows you to really unpick the bones out of where you were at in the summer, where we’re at now, what needs to be tweaked, what we need to really identify.
“And then we’ve got a group of players in that we’ve been able to get the work into, which is really important, because you can get them a few steps ahead. On reflection, it’s been a really good and positive break, for many reasons.
“I will be ready to go again, that’s for sure.”