Olli Harder: Today was about building mentality
Whilst disappointed in the wake of a 4-0 defeat to Manchester City, West Ham United women’s manager Olli Harder believes the fixture will benefit his side’s collective mentality.
The Hammers travelled to a Citizens side who had won six of their last seven games in all competitions, and who had netted seven goals in each of their previous two Barclays FA Women’s Super League games.
The challenge for Harder in only his second game was salient, and while the manager admitted that the end scoreline reflected City’s offensive dominance, he saw the plusses in coming up against one of England’s best sides at this moment in time.
The manager was also pleased to see his players – even as the game ticked into injury time – applying themselves fully to a high press, covering great ground as they forced City’s players back into their own area to retain possession.
Harder admitted: “Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted, but a fair result, and it gives us the opportunity to see the gap – or the chasm – that we need to close.
“It was a great opportunity for us to have a look at where one of the best teams in the league is, and where we need to go.
“For me, I’m pleased with the attitude and the application of the girls, particularly competing all the way until the end, but for us it’s about assessing that, being realistic. We’ve got a lot of important games coming up, and overall, it is what it is.”
Given the magnitude of the Irons’ task in Manchester, Harder feels the onus was on his side to display a different side to their character at the City Academy Stadium – and was pleased to see them do so.
He continued: “Short-term results are obviously important because it’s important for West Ham to be competing in the Women’s Super League, but long-term for us it’s also about building the right culture and building our own identity.
“We are playing with that balance at the moment. Results-wise, we probably should have had a result against Tottenham to be fair with our performance.
“Today, we were away at one of the most difficult grounds to come and play at, and I don’t think there were many people expecting a result for us today – it was more about building a mentality. If you have a good mentality, you’ll be able to compete – and if you can compete, you can get results.
“That operative word is ‘compete’. Making sure that we didn’t end up at the back end of a really big scoreline was important for us, and the goals that they scored were from our mistakes – not from opening us up.
“They had a lot of possession, but in areas that weren’t hurting us, so we managed to control the game in the sense that we controlled a lot of spaces in the game, and unfortunately four errors, either positionally or technically, cost us today. It gives us that reference point.”
It’s very easy to fold mentally, so what today told me was that the group, from a mental aspect, has the ability to compete
While Manchester City admittedly dominated the Sunday afternoon numerical statistics in terms of possession and shot count, West Ham did produce spells of intense pressure on the home side throughout the game.
In particular, a series of successive West Ham high presses towards the end of the first half yielded mistakes from Manchester City, who conceded openings and a number of corners.
In keeping with the balance of the game, however, the Hammers could not capitalise – and City netted their second of the match moments after.
Harder admitted: “We need to not concede when we have those moments.
“Come 87 minutes, away against Man City, we’re still pressing again. We’ve still got the attitude that we want to get up and affect the game up the pitch.
“Nobody wants to be 87 minutes, 4-0 down, and having the manager get you up the pitch to press. It’s very easy to fold mentally, so what today told me was that the group, from a mental aspect, has the ability to compete, which is very important for me.”