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Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 20:13 UK

Chelsea Ladies sign Arsenal pair

Lianne Sanderson (l) and Anita Asante (r)
Lianne Sanderson (l) and Anita Asante (r) enjoyed much success at Arsenal

Arsenal's domination of the English women's game is set for a new challenge following the shock exits of Lianne Sanderson and Anita Asante to Chelsea.

Striker Sanderson, 20, and midfielder Asante, 23, have joined the Blues' growing band of internationals.

Newly appointed Blues boss Steve Jones has also recently moved from Arsenal - where he was reserve team boss.

He said: "We've now got five England players and hopefully there will be a couple more internationals coming in."

Jones added: "The women's team are starting to get good backing from above and these fantastic signings show the intent the club has got."

"These great signings (of Sanderson and Asante) will tell the women's football world that this could be the place to come and play your football."

Sanderson told BBC London 94.9: "It's going to be an exciting year for both of us. "I've been at Arsenal for 12 years so obviously it's a big step."

"But it looks like it's going in the right direction, and we're hoping to come here and help them do that."

Both were also a part of the record breaking quadruple winning side of 2006/07.

Chelsea suffered a traumatic season last year, with changes to their management set-up and a disappointing final finish of 5th in the Women's Premier League.

But Asante does not think this move represents a risk: "It's never a risk if you want to step out of the box and try to push yourself.

"For us it's a different type of pressure, we're just hoping to make a contribution to those younger players coming through and say 'you know what, we can win things and we can play against the best'".

Chelsea's ladies will also have a new first-team manager, after Steve Jones joined the club last month.

He also doubles up as a member of Millwall's scouting team, and feels these signings will give Chelsea a better blend of players next season.

Jones said: "There were inconsistencies and we maybe underachieved a little bit (last season), but obviously with Anita and Lianne coming into the squad we won't have the same problems we had last year.

"But we've also got other England girls that are in the squad so it takes our tally up to five. There'll maybe be one or two more coming in as well.

"We've also got some Under-23's also in the England squad, about five or six girls, and a couple in the Under-19's so the whole squad has got a good depth of England players."

Asante said: "We're positive about what we can do here.

You think you've the respect of players, and then they do that. It's a sorry state of affairs

Arsenal boss Vic Akers

"The players already at the club have the same ambition as us to win things, and hopefully with us coming here they'll feel we've got a greater chance to do that."

Chelsea have yet to win a major honour, while Arsenal have collected an incredible 29 trophies in the last 16 seasons.

Yet Asante and Sanderson, both products of the Arsenal academy and both with the club for a decade, were happy to make the move.

Sanderson, the Premier League's top scorer for the last two seasons, said: "Anita and me have won everything at Arsenal and we wanted a new challenge.

"I've been there for 11 years so it's not been an easy thing to do to leave them.

"But Chelsea are an up and coming team and hopefully I can make a positive impact."

Arsenal manager Vic Akers is reeling from the rarity of losing two top players to a rival club and he is critical of the way he learned of the situation.

"The first I heard about it was when I got a text from Lianne," Akers said. "You think you've the respect of players, and then they do that. It's a sorry state of affairs."

But Sanderson explained: "I couldn't get in contact with Vic at the time, but I had various conversations with him last season about how I felt.

"He obviously didn't realise I was as keen as I was about leaving, so when I told him it came as a bit of a shock."




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