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Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action

Manchester City go top after Chelsea blow the title race wide open with victory over threadbare Arsenal

(clockwise from top left) Erin Cuthbert of Chelsea celebrates a goal; Beth Mead of Arsenal lies injured; Manchester City’s Keira Walsh in action with West Ham’s Jane Ross; Liverpool women’s coach Vicky Jepson




(clockwise from top left) Erin Cuthbert of Chelsea celebrates a goal; Beth Mead of Arsenal lies injured; Manchester City’s Keira Walsh in action with West Ham’s Jane Ross; Liverpool women’s coach Vicky Jepson.
Composite: REX/Shutterstock/Getty Images

1) Chelsea press Arsenal into submission

Make no mistake, the title race is wide open now. Chelsea were scintillating at Arsenal and Emma Hayes should be lauded for getting her tactics spot-on. They pressed a makeshift Arsenal backline with real ferocity, defending tirelessly from the front and forcing the home side into a first half full of errors. The energy of Beth England, Karen Carney and Erin Cuthbert, who scored their two goals, was fundamental to their approach. It was evident from the opening minutes that Chelsea, who have not lost since going down 5-0 at home to Arsenal on 14 October, were the team with the momentum and that they were attacking something of a wounded animal. The resources on their bench, which was full of seasoned internationals like Fran Kirby and Anita Asante, are astonishing and they are beginning to reap the rewards of the investment they made to bolster last season’s squad. This was their seventh successive league win and they are gunning for honours in all four major competitions. In this form, and with the belief palpably oozing from them, you would not bet against them achieving something special.

2) Arsenal feel toll of mounting injuries

Arsenal’s lack of squad depth may be starting to tell. Daniëlle van de Donk, who had been in such fine form, joined their long list of injury absentees for the Chelsea game and they also lost Beth Mead at half-time. Their first XI are electric but it is incredibly hard to be at your best when so many important players are missing. They badly missed Van de Donk’s creativity in the first half; Vivianne Miedema was starved of service and they could not begin to put it right until too late. Some wizardry from Kim Little, whose recent return does at least ease the strain on the treatment room slightly, teed up Miedema to steer home but Chelsea held firm after that. Joe Montemurro has signed two new defenders recently but they require more options in other positions, perhaps to ease the load on Miedema and their forwards. The points they put on the board during their stunning early-season run ensure they are still in the driving seat but the alarm bells are beginning to ring.

3) City capitalise against gallant West Ham

That result at Arsenal dangled a huge carrot in front of Manchester City. They capitalised against a West Ham side that tend to give the top teams a decent game, looking far sharper than they had in the wasteful draw at Bristol City and reaching the summit for the first time in 2018-19. West Ham had lost 4-2 against Arsenal the week before and in midweek went down 2-0 against Manchester United in the Continental Tyres Cup, but their heads did not drop here and they fought City all the way. Jane Ross scored against her old club to give them a chance and City were only home and dry when Nikita Parris made it 3-1 near the end. West Ham certainly have character and unity beyond their years, which should stand them in good stead for some real improvement in seasons to come, but City got the job done and their home meeting with Chelsea next month should now be deliciously poised.

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January 13, 2019

4) Skinner leaves rich legacy at Birmingham

Marc Skinner would have liked to sign off with a better result but can be proud of the legacy he will leave at Birmingham. Three points against Bristol City would have propelled them into third place, but Blues were lacklustre and only created one real chance to score. It means they remain firm outsiders in the title fight but Skinner, who is heading to the US to take charge of Orlando Pride, has created such a bold and strong identity at the club during his two years in charge of the first team. He will be sorely missed and there will be speculation about his successor, with Mark Sampson among those who may take note of such an enticing WSL vacancy. Bristol City must be praised for mastering the occasion and thoroughly deserving their win; the previous week they took an impressive draw against Manchester City and there is a strong sense that this young, tenacious team are on the rise.

5) Jepson earns first win but Liverpool must ask tough questions

Liverpool will breathe a sigh of relief after squeezing past Yeovil. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk’s last-minute winner did the job but it was hard on the bottom-placed side, who have a habit of fading in the second halves of games but produced one of their best performances of the season and were moments from avoiding defeat for only the second time. It was only Liverpool’s third win, and a first in the league for Vicky Jepson after she took over as manager in October. They will hope to push on, and will be safe this season despite their meagre points haul, but will need to begin asking themselves questions after such a fraught campaign on and off the pitch. A team with Liverpool’s heritage in women’s football will need to reassess their intentions and commitment if they intend to replicate the success of previous seasons.

Liverpool FC Women
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January 13, 2019

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