Cuthbert: Coffee and golf have to wait, it's the business end


If you want to get an insight into what Chelsea’s culture is like under Emma Hayes, just spend a few minutes with Erin Cuthbert.

The Scottish midfielder is a self-confessed “mini-me” of the departing Chelsea manager. That’s what spending the last seven years together at the club gets you.

“Because we’ve worked together for so long, I’ve started responding to situations like Emma,” Cuthbert tells Sky Sports from the Chelsea training ground.

“Emma doesn’t like to waffle along, she likes the answers. She doesn’t listen to anything before it or anything after it, she only listens to the most important part. She’s very factual, and that’s it. That’s the same as me now.”

That’s one similarity between Cuthbert and Hayes. Another is how they both agree that Chelsea play best when faced against adversity.

Take the 3-1 win over Arsenal earlier this month, a match branded as a Women’s Super League title decider. Off the pitch, Hayes admitted the club had a “tough day” in the 24 hours leading up to the match due to the manager’s views on player-player relationships, creating challenging conversations with her squad and noise off the pitch.

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Highlights from the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Arsenal

Then nine days later, Chelsea faced a difficult moment on the pitch at West Ham. The Blues were below-par in the first-half and only an officiating mistake prevented them from being pegged back. Given West Ham also struck the woodwork and missed more glaring chances, Chelsea were lucky not to be behind.

Yet in both incidents, Chelsea bumped Arsenal out of the WSL title race by winning 3-1. In the second half at West Ham, the Blues’ opponents failed to touch the ball in their box for the rest of the game.

They won that game 2-0 too, with a Cuthbert thunderbolt sealing the important win to take them back to the top of the table.

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Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert scored a cracker against West Ham to double the visitors’ lead

“We almost need to be triggered in some way, whether that’s in the media or after a bad result. This dressing room does best when it’s under pressure,” adds Cuthbert.

What I really enjoy is the ‘backs against the wall’, ‘no-one expects you to win’, ‘everyone expects Chelsea to drop off’ – that’s when the dressing room go deeper into each other, deeper into ourselves, deeper into what we have built as a culture.

“And we have enough faith and ability to know that ‘inside’ – that nobody gets to see – is enough to get us through.”

That’s all part of ‘The Chelsea Way’ – a saying that Hayes has seeped into the culture and the fabric of this football club. No matter what the circumstance, Chelsea win. It’s why they have won so much down the years.

“I would explain ‘The Chelsea Way’ as when things aren’t the best looking, or things don’t look or feel the best, then we find a way to win,” says Cuthbert.

Emma Hayes and Erin Cuthbert after losing 4-1 to Arsenal
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Cuthbert (right) says Emma Hayes’ (left) side work best when playing under pressure and adversity

“That’s what I would say about the time I’ve been at the club – it doesn’t matter how you win, just as long as you win.”

Yet there’s an issue. How Chelsea win may be important. The goal difference situation in the Women’s Super League title race means that winning big and winning pretty counts for something. One missed chance in front of goal, or one clumsy mistake at the back, and it could be crucial.

Not that Chelsea, Hayes or her mini-me are thinking about changing how they approach things. “This part of the season there is no room for slip-ups in any case,” says the Scottish midfielder.

With the goal difference situation, we have to take care of our business and hope that’s enough. If we do that, then everybody’s conscience is clear to say we gave it our best shot.”

There is a huge challenge of trying to avoid slip-ups in such a busy schedule. Chelsea can win four trophies in the space of 55 days – most matches between now and May 25 will involve playing every three days.

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“From a footballing point of view, you don’t get as much tactics or preparation as you’d like,” says Cuthbert, when asked about the struggles of a quadruple chase.

“You maybe go into the game maybe feeling less underprepared because the meetings are really crammed in.

“But I think in the same respect, it’s good because it’s fresh in your mind. You’ve not discussed an opponent four days before and then go into the game going ‘I don’t actually remember what we spoke about’. It’s all in the day before the game so it’s all fresh.”

It is why Chelsea can win comfortably in Amsterdam in midweek, then win against West Ham at the weekend. This week, it’s the second leg against Ajax at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, followed by a Continental Cup final against Arsenal at Molineux.

But again, this schedule a challenge Cuthbert embraces. “It’s really difficult to balance, but as players, we enjoy this part of the season the most.

Cuthbert says she finds the best version of herself in the business end of the season
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Cuthbert says she finds the best version of herself in the business end of the season

“We don’t want to be on the training pitch all the time, doing tactics. As much as Emma might love to, we want to be playing and being involved in the games that matter.

“In the business end of the season, you probably see my best version in terms of who I am. I love being so on it, focused, and driven.”

So driven, in fact, that there is no room for life outside of Chelsea’s quadruple bid. Training ground to work, home to rest. That’s the name of Cuthbert’s game for the next few months.

“Away from the game, I don’t spend as much time socialising. I can’t,” she says. “You go home, your legs are tired, you’re recovering from the game and you’re focusing on the next game.

“I don’t want to give myself any excuses that if I had a bad game, it’s because I went for a coffee or I went out to a restaurant or I went out and played golf.

“I am very much based on giving myself no excuses and give myself every chance that I’ve prepared the right way for the game. And I have a bad game, I can’t blame it on anything.

“Of course, I would like to socialise. But I like to win trophies more.”

Watch the Women’s Super League season run-in between now and May 18 live on Sky Sports.



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