Emma Hayes has said the instinctive relationship on the pitch between Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby has similarities to one of the best strike partnerships in the history of the Premier League: Andy Cole’s with Dwight Yorke at Manchester United.
The Chelsea manager, who was speaking before the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Wolfsburg on Wednesday, said: “How do you define chemistry between people? It’s not that you can describe it in any which way, it just is, it works.
“They are yin and yang – one goes one way, one goes the other. Some call it telepathy, some call it chemistry, some call it a brilliant partnership. Yorke and Cole, I think about those two and I think of Kerr and Kirby.”
The Chelsea pair have been nicknamed “Kerrby” by fans, and in the first leg Kirby set up Kerr for the opening goal after a first-half dominated by the German champions. The two then combined again as Kerr provided the assist for the former Wolfsburg striker Pernille Harder to extend the lead before a penalty scored by Dominique Janssen meant the game finished 2-1.
On Sunday it was a familiar story, with Kirby twice the provider for Kerr in a 2-0 defeat of Aston Villa in the league. “I understand her, she understands me, and if they are not marking Fran, they are marking me, so she is free,” Kerr said after the win. “It is just one of those things that works.”
The recent 6-0 defeat of Bristol City in the League Cup final was Chelsea’s most potent performance yet, with Kirby providing three assists for Kerr and one for Guro Reiten, as well as scoring twice herself, the second assisted by Kerr.
“For me, the thing that stands out is the selflessness,” said Hayes. “It is making runs or making decisions for someone else. The amount of times Fran has been in great positions herself and set someone else up, the amount of times Sam makes a run, if not for herself but to clear space, that for me is as impactful as the chemistry between them.”
Kerr was the record goalscorer in both the NWSL in the US and the W-League in Australia when she arrived at Chelsea last January, and Hayes praised her contribution. “She is so coachable, she really is. She has come to the club and made such a huge impression on everyone.
“If you had asked Sam if she could find anyone to service her with goals like Yuki Nagasato did [in the US with Chicago Red Stars] I think she would have questioned whether that would be the case. Sam was looking forward to playing with Fran Kirby more than any other player in our squad, because she saw the potential between them and vice versa. They just get each other.”