West Ham United midfielder Julia Simic believes her team’s performance during Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round defeat to Arsenal is an indication of the team’s potential under the right mentality.
The playmaker was making her first start in a Claret and Blue shirt for 13 months, having come back from minor knee surgery last month, and impressed with some neat touches throughout.
Lining up in a role true to the archetype of her No10 shirt, Simic impressed in supporting the attack and, on the stroke of half-time, could have cancelled out Katie McCabe’s early opener, but narrowly nodded Kenza Dali’s cross wide.
Simic ultimately completed 55 minutes of the game before being substituted as she continues to manage her recovery, before Lia Walti later sealed the game for the Gunners with another fine goal.
Being not only back in the squad, but also the starting eleven, was really nice for me - but obviously you want to win these games
The German admitted after the game that the occasion was a bittersweet one for her – the joy of being involved in such a high-profile game again countered by the taste of defeat.
“Obviously it was nice to play my first FA Cup game, and also starting it,” Simic noted. “Being not only back in the squad, but also the starting eleven, was really nice for me - but obviously you want to win these games.
“It was a tough game. Arsenal played really well. We could have played a little bit better, so this is why it’s a little bit sad, the result at the end.
“I played 55 minutes or something but I think I reached my maximum! Obviously Arsenal is one of the worst teams to play against, so it shows your limits in terms of your fitness. I know I have to keep working hard and get a little bit more fitness in these legs as well.
“I’m in a good way, but there’s still a little bit to go. It feels great to just play when you’ve come back from a 12-month injury, and just being back in important games as well gives me a big boost to keep working hard. It means everything for me to be back and be back playing.”
As for Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie, while chances were largely at a premium for both sides, it was Arsenal’s ruthless finishing either side of half-time which saw them progress in the competition.
We’ve seen if we play a little more bravely and with more trust in ourselves, we can be on a level like Arsenal
Nevertheless, the Hammers were full of endeavour and invention and, backed by a vocal Rush Green Stadium crowd, proved they can compete at the highest level under the right mindset, according to Simic.
“I know that I have to work on headers!” she joked.
“I had a really big chance and if I’d headed it in the game might have changed a little bit, but we can take something from the game today: we’ve seen if we play a little more bravely and with more trust in ourselves, we can be on a level like Arsenal.
“We have so many good players that if we work hard for everything in a game, we can beat almost anyone, and I think we have to prove this in the coming weeks.”
“Our focus is now on the league. It’s everything that’s left now. There are a lot of important games awaiting us next week – there’s Chelsea [away] waiting – and we just want to show that we can compete with these teams as well, because we always show it for a couple of minutes in these games.
“I think it’s time for everyone to stay together and win, or get points, from these next games.”
West Ham United return to action against Chelsea at Kingsmeadow on Sunday 2 February.