Arsenal’s Lia Wälti addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon to offer her thoughts on the club’s upcoming Conti Cup fixture against Southampton on Thursday evening. The two clubs have never met before, and a record crowd is expected at St Mary’s Stadium.
The Gunners have recorded record away attendances throughout this season, which Wälti is incredibly proud of, explaining that ‘I think every away game has sold out this season and that just shows a lot about this club and the support around it.’
‘The club is doing all the right steps as well to help the women’s game grow. That was also one of the main reasons I wanted to stay here, to be part of the club, because you can just feel that as a player.’Embed from Getty Images
‘To be honest, [away games] do actually feel a little bit like home! I can remember the game we had in Bristol – I think all I could hear was the Arsenal fans so they’re definitely very loud! Even when we have away games, it feels like we have a home crowd there.’
‘It’s great for the women’s game, I think I said it before but our generation is used to playing in front of a couple of hundred people – to now every weekend having crowds like that is something that gives you a huge boost on the field. It’s just incredible to celebrate with the fans.’
The Switzerland midfielder is under no illusions that the South Coast club could pose challenges to the Gunners, who have fought back from a difficult start to the 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League season and now sit just three points behind Chelsea.
‘I think against Southampton tomorrow, it’s going to be an important game for us because we want to get to the next round in the Conti Cup, we want to defend our trophy and we take that opponent completely seriously,’ explains Wälti.Embed from Getty Images
‘We’ve seen a lot of good clips of them, we’ve analysed them and definitely seen where their strengths are but at the same time we want to dominate that game, we want to go into that game and win it in front of a great crowd.’
The Conti Cup is often seen as a minor trophy within women’s football, perhaps holding a similar weight to the Carabao Cup in the men’s game. Despite this, Wälti insists it remains a valuable trophy for the Gunners to lift at the end of the season.
‘It is an important one, you can see last season when we had the final against Chelsea in front of so many people – it doesn’t matter what trophy it is to win, a trophy is a trophy. At Arsenal, we’re here to win trophies and maybe we haven’t won as many trophies as we’d wanted in the past years.’
‘The Conti Cup has always been one of them and I think we take it as seriously as every other competition, we want to get into the next round. That’s how we go into the game tomorrow, we just want to win that game and take the next step to be in a great position.’Embed from Getty Images
The top five teams in the FA Women’s Championship are separated by just two points, but the 30-year-old disputes claims that it’s time to consider expanding the Barclays Women’s Super League to accommodate increased quality across the divisions.
‘I think right now it’s probably a very good amount, because we want to have an attractive league and I think you want to have as many teams as possible competing with eachother. I think this season you can see that each team has the chance to steal points off the top teams so the gap is getting smaller and smaller.’
‘Maybe the league will be ready in a few years to have more teams in it, because the women’s game is growing and a lot of teams in the second leagues of each country in Europe are getting better. I hope to see some more teams maybe in the future but I think right now, it’s great with what we have – the quality is great, it’s really fun with all the teams and we always have to be at our highest level to beat every team.’