Cooper confident Reading can disrupt WSL title race
Deanna Cooper believes Reading can dent Arsenal's title hopes when they face off in the Women's Super League on Sunday.
Cooper, 29, has spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Royals and been instrumental in helping Kelly Chambers' side maintain their top-flight status.
Reading picked up a crucial win over West Ham on Matchday 14 to extend the gap between them and rock-bottom Leicester to four points, although the Foxes do have a game in hand.
And Cooper insists they will give it everything against Jonas Eidevall's Gunners, who sit fourth in the table.
Speaking exclusively to LiveScore, she said: "Arsenal are a fantastic team and we've been working on how we can be more solid in defence.
"We've not kept many clean sheets, which I'm not too happy about, but we have been working on how to force them into certain areas to make it more difficult.
"[Head coach] Phil Cousins is incredible and he has worked a lot on how we can reduce the number of shots we're having against us and what our shape is going to look like when playing the bigger teams.
"So hopefully the work we've done will pay off and we can get some points."
Never say die
Cooper, who twice won the WSL with Chelsea, missed last week's victory over Paul Konchesky's Hammers due to injury.
Despite being sidelined, the experienced centre-back has confidence in her team-mates and insists they will not sit back against the Gunners.
She added: "The preparation this week has been key in regard to what Arsenal are good at. They've got 15 amazing players and their squad is massive.
"But we love playing against the bigger teams and we tend to perform better against them.
"Results are everything for us at the moment. I's not like we're going to sit back and invite pressure, it's not the sort of team we are.
"We like to go forward and press to try and fluster teams and we did that really well the last time we played Arsenal. Hopefully we can do it again."
Only Leicester have lost more games than Reading in the WSL this season, which made the win over the Hammers even more important in the battle for survival.
Cooper said: "It was a massive three points for us. It has given us a lot of belief that we're good enough to be in the WSL.
"It's been a tough season but I feel the West Ham game could be a turning point.
"We've had some really good performances but have not got the results.
"We've some big games coming up against teams in and around us so the win gives us a massive confidence boost and takes the pressure off a bit."
FA Cup aspirations
Reading will have hoped for easier opposition than Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-finals but Cooper is relishing the opportunity to face her old club.
Signed by Emma Hayes in 2017, she knows all about the five-time WSL champions.
But Cooper maintains the Royals stand a fighting chance as they eye a run to the final.
She said: "We lost 3-2 to Chelsea before Christmas but one of the goals was offside so we have the confidence to win.
"They also have a lot of games in March so they're going to be rotating their squad, which could cause problems.
"You would have preferred to have someone else in the draw but we were out for dinner watching it — we actually had it on in the restaurant we were at and we'll deal with what we got.
"We'll go out there, give them a game, work hard and see what happens. It's the FA Cup and anything can happen."
Living the dream
After six years as a professional footballer, Cooper still struggles to believe she gets to live her dream as a full-time job.
Her career has evolved alongside the women's game in England, which has rocketed in popularity due to the Lionesses' triumphant European Championship campaign.
The former Gillingham and Brighton ace said: "I still have to pinch myself because I don't believe this is my job. I still see this as a hobby because I feel so lucky to be doing it.
"I started off playing grassroots football for Gillingham and didn't turn professional until I was 23 so I had a full-time job and was playing for Brighton at the time.
"I don't take a single day for granted and I'm proud of my journey. There have been a lot of ups and downs but it's made me the person I am today and I'm proud of where I'm at.
"When I was growing up I watched the FA Cup final once a year because that is all there was. You can see women’s sports so much more now.
"It will get to a point where the women's game is seen in a very similar way to the men's. We're on a pathway to achieving something amazing."