Montemurro: Arsenal will continue to play with style despite cup defeat

Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro before the match (Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley)

Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro is adamant he won’t be deviating from his style of play despite Saturday’s 2-1 FA Women’s Continental League Cup final defeat to Chelsea.

Not for the first time this season, the Gunners dominated the ball without making the most of the ample opportunities that came their way at the City Ground, as they tasted final defeat in the competition for the second year in a row.

In contrast, the ever-clinical Beth England netted twice for Chelsea after soaking up wave after wave of Arsenal attack as the Blues got their hands on the trophy for the first time.

Leah Williamson brought the Gunners level with five minutes to play before England pounced in injury time to win the game at the death, leaving Montemurro with questions to answer after his side failed to take their chances.

“We’re here to win trophies, we’re here to win games, it’s important to be at the top,” the Arsenal boss said.

“I’m so proud of the way we play. That’s important to us, but at the end you’re going to judge me on winning trophies and all the pundits are going to have a go at me for having small squads, but it’s the way it goes.

“I’m hearing that I’m very stubborn and I am because I will never play a transition game. It’s not my style, you’ll get along with transition once or twice, maybe even a third time, but in the long run I’m going to keep playing football.

“We have the players to play good football on big occasions, but I won’t go away from my style. If it’s the end of me it’s the end of me, but I’ve got to stay true to my values and to Arsenal’s values.”

The Gunners were slow out of the blocks in Nottingham, and Chelsea took advantage, with England grabbing the first after just eight minutes to leave Montemurro’s side immediately on the back foot after failing to clear a ball into the box.

A record 6,743 spectators turned out to see an enthralling encounter that ebbed and flowed throughout, with the Gunners having numerous chances to restore parity as they came up against Ann-Katrin Berger on top form.

The German was part of a backline that repelled attack after attack, including a terrific block when Vivianne Miedema was left in space at the far post to preserve Chelsea’s lead.

After an endless surge of Arsenal pressure, Williamson eventually equalised five minutes from time but with both sides chasing a late winner, England was on hand to secure victory for the Blues.

And Montemurro was left to reflect on another dominant Arsenal performance that didn’t end in a victory, but the Australian was keen to use the defeat as a learning curve for his side.

“We were in control, but moments of madness have hurt us today, we have to be smarter and better in these situations because we’ve played in cup finals, we know the pressure,” he said.

“The last goal was a matter of managing the situation, but we didn’t manage the situation and they snuck behind us and scored.

“Ok we didn’t lift the trophy but this is a great opportunity to deal with big pressure moments and understand how to manage the big pressure moments, because that’s the best way to learn.

“In the end the history books will say Chelsea won and we lost that’s the reality and we just have to make sure that we’re here again next year."