- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- English football manager (born 1976)
For a brief moment, many in the Wembley press box were wondering why Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had repeatedly emphasised that she was "purring" with delight after her side's 3-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley. Was it an analogy about her side's performance, or perhaps an attempt to rhyme with Sam "Kerr"? No. Soon, the penny dropped.
Before the game, Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall had been asked if he had any big-match superstitions, and in reply he revealed he always avoids black cats, saying he would often "drive miles" to ensure he evaded one. And therefore Hayes, in the relaxed mood of a coach who had just won the Women's FA Cup for a third time, was rather taking the mickey. She tried to play it cool, but couldn't suppress a wide grin.
Some of Chelsea's players engaged in a bit of banter around the topic too, with their Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic posting an image on social media of the cup decorated with black cat emojis in a nod to her fellow Swede Eidevall's pre-match admission.
For Chelsea fans, it was an amusing addition to a happy day but it surely won't have gone unnoticed by Eidevall, who had said on Friday: “I do have some superstitions and I think that’s healthy because it makes you feel like you have control over the uncontrollable. I don’t ever let any black cats cross my way. I don't harm any black cats either - that's important to say - but I have sometimes been driving around for a couple of miles just to not cross them. I feel a bit silly when I am doing it but it’s something I can control.
"If Emma [Hayes] sees this she will probably buy a thousand black cats with all the money Chelsea have and send them all over our training pitch, [so] that was probably a really bad giveaway by me, I’m going to be invaded by black cats...”
Unfortunately for Eidevall, his side subsequently endured something of a [-ahem-] cat-astrophe in the biggest game of his tenure so far. His side still have a one-point lead over Chelsea at the top of the league table but this was a statement performance from the Blues, and in truth it was much more to do with their doggedness off the ball than it was to do with cats.
Unsung hero Cuthbert shows her immense value to Chelsea
One of the treble-winners' top performers, who perhaps went under the radar somewhat amid Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr's goals and world-class displays up front, was Scotland's Erin Cuthbert, playing at right wing-back in Chelsea's 3-4-3 system.
Having been praised for keeping England's left winger Lauren Hemp quiet in November's win at Manchester City, Cuthbert worked tirelessly again to ensure Arsenal's Republic of Ireland left winger Katie McCabe barely had a sniff of the ball in the first half, and Hayes said: "When she puts her hand to anything she achieves it at an unbelievable level, she goes beyond being a team player, her contributions are so underrated.
"McCabe I don't think touched the ball in the first half. We were so compact defensively. People like Erin Cuthbert are some of the reasons why we are what we are."
Carter shows improvements since opening-weekend defeat
Another under-the-radar player whose contribution made a key difference was that of England defender Jess Carter who, in the sweeper role, previously came somewhat unstuck against Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead in September's 3-2 loss at the Emirates, but was solid as a rock at Wembley. Neither of those Arsenal stars were permitted a single shot on target.
Hayes also reserved praise for Carter, adding: "[In the] second half she was absolutely superb. In one v one moments, her decision-making to step in or drop off was just brilliant and she really really deserves the credit for the growth that's happened in her game.
"[Goalkeeper] Ann-Katrin Berger didn't have much to do, but when she did she dealt with it well. But also I think special mentions of Sophie Ingle and Melanie Leupolz [in holding midfield], they had a job to do today, a very specific job which they did superbly, which made it easier for the back five."
Overlooked Nobbs projects sad picture from the bench
For Arsenal fans, watching their side lose the midfield battle, one thing that resonated with many was the surprise omission of England playmaker Jordan Nobbs from the match entirely, as she was an unused substitute.
A winner of the cup on four previous occasions with Arsenal, the 28-year-old looked dejected at the end of the game.
Once again though, she showed her class off the pitch as she generously handed her runners-up medal to a young fan in the crowd.
Instead it was another member of the Lionesses squad who dazzled the Wembley crowd during the match, as Kirby put in what Hayes described as her "best game in a Chelsea shirt".
Last season's winner of the PFA and FWA footballer of the year award was on red-hot form and hit the woodwork twice, as well as scoring the opening goal.
She is looking at home in the Wembley surroundings and making a habit of scoring under the famous arch, having also scored in the 2018 final as Chelsea beat Arsenal 3-1.
And England fans will hope she continues in this vein all the way until next summer's Women's Euros final - also at Wembley - to try and help England win a first major trophy. Replicating her club form for her country on the biggest international stages is the next big challenge for this prodigious talent.