Over the upcoming season there will be no shortage of articles on the likes of attendances, atmospheres and room for improvement, but the most important aspect to take away is what happens on the pitch for the women who have been playing this game for years. Jasmine Baba gives her views on how the standard of the Women’s game is improving.
From the opening weekend it is clear that the standard has improved once again in the game and as international players begin to see England as a promising place to play their football while the new arrivals settle in, one thing that is guaranteed is that the football here will only get better.
My first game of the weekend was the Manchester Derby and the chance to see Manchester United’s first ever game in the top tier of football, at the Etihad no less Having purchased an Arsenal Women’s Membership in July, I also caught their season opener against West Ham.
The last time I saw Arsenal was when they tore Tottenham apart in a pre-season friendly so my expectations were high. Having been at Wembley for the FA Cup final last season between Manchester City v West Ham, I was just as excited to see the two finalists in action again.
I didn’t know what to predict for the inaugural Manchester derby. City are an experienced side who have finished in the top three every year since 2015 and have a vastly experienced manager in Nick Cushing.
Meanwhile, United had lost the talented Alex Greenwood to Lyon, but manager Casey Stoney has drive and determination when it comes to her coaching style. Even as newbies her team will be no pushover.
On the day, United had the better of the chances and would have went into half-time one goal up thanks to Jane Ross had it not been for a great close-range save by City keeper Ellie Roebuck to keep the score level. Yet it was the flashes of brilliance from City, Caroline Weir in the 48th minute from 25-yards out, to be precise, that sealed the victory.
Much like the FA Cup final, City had looked flat until they scored. A late United chance saw Jackie Groenen hit the post but it was City who took home the three points.
Sunday saw defending champions Arsenal back in action, and while it wasn’t quite the 30,000-plus attendance the Etihad saw the previous day, it still felt and looked more bustling than what I had usually seen on TV.
It seemed to be another day at the office for the Women’s Super League holders with lots of Arsenal possession and attacking; after 13 minutes Beth Mead smashed one in from the edge of the penalty area before Jill Roord scored her debut goal for the Gunners just before half time.
However, the second half was quite uncharacteristic for an Arsenal side so used to scoring. Danielle Van De Donk swept a shot over that would probably have put the game past the Hammers’ reach and they just couldn’t quite make their domination of the match count.
Worse still was that their defence looked shaky and it wasn’t long before West Ham pulled one back thanks to Martha Thomas and they looked the team most likely to score next.
Kenza Dali’s free-kick rattled the post before Arsenal’s Katie McCabe and their new goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger gave away an indirect free-kick in the box due to what can only be described as a lapse in concentration. In the end the Gunners held on and picked up the three points but West Ham will feel like they missed out on a share of the spoils.
While one match featured a team so used to playing in the top division against a club making their debut appearance, and another saw the Champions’ life made harder by both themselves and their opponents, it makes for a promising start to the season. Brace yourself for a tight WSL campaign.
Follow Jasmine on Twitter @_BabsJ