The FA Women’s Super League is back and the first round of fixtures did not disappoint. Nancy Frostick takes a look at all the action from the opening weekend to see what we can expect this season.
When a new season opens with the defending champions against last season’s runners-up, you know things are going to get off to a good start. Such was the case with the new season of the WSL, which enters its first campaign as a fully professional league in a year leading up to the World Cup in France. So, what did we learn from the opening matches?
Is this the year Arsenal challenge for the title?
It’s been a while since Arsenal have been genuine title contenders. Even though the Gunners have continued to pick up silverware in cup competitions, they’ve been a shadow of their former dominant selves in the league over the past few seasons.
But, if their opening day 5-0 victory over Liverpool is anything to go by, that could all change with this campaign.
First off it’s important to note that Liverpool are a very different side to last season. A new manager and an almost entirely new squad are going to take time to gel, so it’s probably not a huge surprise that they looked like eleven individual players rather than a team on Saturday.
Arsenal’s performance was effortless to the point, and as a team were cruising. Joe Montemurro’s influence is clear because the Gunners look like a unit again and in the past, a fixture against Liverpool would have been a much tighter game.
We’ll have to wait and see whether that fact is more of a reflection on Arsenal or Liverpool in the long run, but with Vivianne Miedema in that sort of form, you’d have to fancy the Gunners for at least one trophy this year.
Is it a case of ‘as you were’ for Chelsea and Man City?
The 0-0 draw was somewhat inconclusive, but was by all accounts a fair result for the match. Opening the season with that fixture really was an early treat for everyone except Nick Cushing and Emma Hayes.
There has been so little between the two sides over the last couple of seasons and it doesn’t look as if things will be changing this term.
That’s not to say that neither side has progressed over the summer – if it’s in any way possible, Chelsea look even stronger than before and that’s a result of trimming their squad. The old guard of Katie Chapman, Gilly Flaherty, Eni Aluko, Gemma Davison and Claire Rafferty have made way and somehow the Blues look better for it.
At times last season it seemed as if the Chelsea squad had too much filling for the pie and as yummy as that filling was, it wasn’t helping anyone as they kept trying to shove more in. Hopefully that analogy has translated in a logical way but for clarity – sprucing up the squad could just help Emma Hayes’ side to progress further in Europe as City have in the last two seasons.
Reading the best of the rest
Last season the Royals quietly went about their business to secure an impressive 4th place finish in the league table. There’s no ignoring a 4-0 win on the opening day of the season though. In Gemma Davison, Reading have picked up a genuine game-changing player and Fara Williams continues to drive performances from the middle of the park. It’s safe to say all is well in the Reading camp.
Birmingham are still knocking on the door, but this season will be a test in getting a result against the top teams as opposed to just making it difficult for their opponents for as long as they can withstand the pressure.
Below that, the reality is likely to be the same as before with Liverpool, Everton Bristol and Yeovil all slotting into familiar places in the table. And after a huge statement in the Championship, there’s no doubt everyone will be cautiously looking over their shoulder to see what Casey Stoney’s Manchester United will surely bring with them next season if and when they are promoted.
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