Laura Bassett: Kicking off Chelsea Ladies preseason; How to defend against Hazard; Fabulous Cech!
It was good to get out on the pitch last week for our first preseason friendly.
The Reading game was a great opportunity for players to play 60 minutes and begin the process of gaining match fitness individually and as a team. Due to weather conditions, we have spent most of our practice time in the indoor dome, so it was also a good chance for us to play on the big dimensions of a full size pitch.
As a player, these games are needed so that you can overcome the mind - body battle that you are faced with during pre-season. It highlighted many positives for us and also gave a realistic image of all the things we still have to address and improve on. It was so good to discuss and reflect with staff and each other, as this is when the real learning process kicks in.
The main wash up from the friendly was how hard we have to work in the next few months to really connect, understand and operate as a team. We showed some impressive individual skill and technique that we will need throughout the season as this can often be the difference between teams but for now, we need to work hard to knit, consolidate and start fitting our jigsaw pieces together.
Arriving from Birmingham City, I'm having to adjust to a completely new defence. But I'm not alone, with several of our new signings defenders.
It is no easy feat to develop an understanding across the defence with so many new arrivals. A simple example of this is the differing words and terms used by players to communicate. We all have to ensure an understanding of each of these words and agree on our defensive 'buzz word library' to make communication fluent and instant. Other more complex examples include, whether defenders like to track centre forwards, or pass them on and at what point? How high to hold our defensive line and if defenders feel comfortable with it. Whether defenders are confident with or without overloads?
With hard work, a positive attitude to learn and improve, purposeful practice, our defensive unit can really progress, embed our new arrivals and we can start functioning effectively.
In the 2013 season, Chelsea Ladies finished 7th with 10 points. There are a lot of new faces at the club and it will take time for those players to settle into the culture and ethos of the football club.
We will have to stay calm and patient, you can't force these things. We aim to establish and set down the right building blocks and foundations so they are solid, stable and don't have to re-visit them, too often. To do this well, it takes time. We aim to focus on building and gaining momentum in our consistency. We have to set standards and consistently meet them, this is worth its weight in gold!
Title contenders for this coming season will surely be the teams that finished in the top three last season, namely Liverpool, Bristol Academy and Arsenal. Liverpool and Arsenal have both made a respectable signings that I am sure will strengthen their squad depth. Bristol Academy have acquired the services of new manager Dave Edmondson from Melbourne. This may give them the impetus and cutting edge required to improve on the season they had last year.
Of course, the Premier League has been alight in the past few weeks with the form of Eden Hazard.
He has been such an exciting and exhilarating player to watch. We have witnessed him single handedly demolish defences and win games.
Being a defender, I try to put himself in the position of marking him.
To stop him and effectively defend against him, i think it is definitely about defending as a team. It is paramount to limit the supply to him so he becomes frustrated. If he does get in possession of the ball, he must be pressed and pursued but not too vigorously as he has the ability to react to ill timed and lazy movements from the opposing players. Defenders must be clever tactically and adapt the speed of their pressing.
As good as Hazard has been going forward, at the back, Petr Cech has been fabulous so far this season and for as long as I can remember.
As a defender it gives you such a boost to know that you have an in-form goalkeeper behind you.
A confident, assured, decisive, and authoritative GK provides such belief and security to the team. These attributes are contagious and spread through the team raising the level of the collective performance.
Furthermore, it is such a great feeling as a defender to know that in big moments of a game when perhaps as a team you are under pressure, your GK is focused and ready to deliver match winning saves at crucial times. These are defining moments, and it is no secret that title contending teams have a GK in this form.
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