WSL: Five things we learnt

Jessy Parker Humphreys recaps a week in which saw matches postponed, teams overcoming injuries and Liverpool and Chelsea battle it out. 

1.  Postponements and pitch inspections leave the women’s game feeling second class

Birmingham City P – Manchester United P

Bristol City P – West Ham P

Two games were called off on Sunday and Chelsea vs Liverpool was subject to a pitch inspection 45 minutes before kick-off. Fans were once again left in limbo, unsure whether their journeys would be worth it. A greater risk of a game being called off does nothing to encourage higher attendances. The table gets more distorted as the number of games played are out of sync – potentially leaving teams at a psychological disadvantage. 

There are dangers of calling for Women’s Super League clubs to be held to expensively high standards in order to have their licenses. Such a policy has pushed smaller clubs down the leagues in favour of footballing behemoths from the men’s game. But given that is the policy which the Football Association has followed, and that the Women’s Super League is now made up of teams tied to either Premier League or Championship clubs who do have the financial clout, it seems reasonable for the FA to demand that these clubs support their women’s teams to play in grounds that are up to a standard that will allow games to go ahead. 

2. Liverpool’s defence stays firm as Chelsea lack firepower 

Liverpool 1 – Chelsea 1

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It’s been noted for a while that Liverpool seem to have all the parts in place to perform better than their bottom of the table position suggests and they took what could be a very important two points off Chelsea. 

Liverpool don’t concede many so when they scored after four minutes, Chelsea were always going to have to push Liverpool further than Arsenal or Manchester City had managed this season. The pitch was poor – the ball looked like it was rolling through treacle – and Chelsea struggled to create much without the ability to pass quickly between each other. 

Reiten and Andersson caused problems down the left hand side. Their crosses into the box could have allowed Bethany England to score a hat-trick of headers in the first half but only one hit the back of the net. Yet as Reiten and Cuthbert switched wings, they were unable to create much more in the second half. Hayes’ flexible formation didn’t so much confuse the opposition as it normally does but instead seemed to leave Chelsea without any obvious patterns of play. They will be looking forward to bolstering their firepower with the arrival of Sam Kerr in January. 

3. Arsenal overcome loss of Beth Mead to defeat Everton

Everton 1 – Arsenal 3

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The prevalence of ACL injuries in the women’s game means that the site of any player being stretchered off causes concerns of long lay-offs. Beth Mead’s injury caused a lengthy disruption which looked like it could threaten Arsenal’s rhythm, particularly as she has played almost every single minute of the season so far. Everton were lucky to only be losing 1-0 at half-time, thanks in part to a fine performance from Korpela in goal. Yet watching the Arsenal attack, it always feels like it’s only a matter of time and the goals did come. It was gratifying to see Beth Mead on crutches on the pitch at the end of the match. Arsenal fans will be hoping her injury isn’t too serious, because other than Miedema, she is their only other recognised striker, even if she does normally play on the wing. The winter break couldn’t come at a better time. 

4. Manchester City storm on but their game management remains a concern

Manchester City 5 – Brighton 0

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On the face of it, this was a typical weekend for a Manchester City team. Five goals scored for the third league game this season. But there were moments that showed the same fragility which cost them their lead against Chelsea last week. Brighton pushed Manchester City after the break, and had a goal rightly disallowed for a push on Ellie Roebuck, but it showed a glimpse of how this is a team that can be got at. For all their experience with Houghton and Scott in the spine of their team, there remains a sense that they can wobble. Hemp and Stanway do not always track back enough to stop their midfield from being overrun. Better teams than Brighton will take advantage of this. 

5. Reading continue to pick up points from losing positions  – but how long can it last?

Reading 3 – Tottenham 1

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Reading continued their reputation for fighting right to the bitter end, picking up points again when they looked down and out. They have now rescued 7 points in their last four games as a result of goals scored after the 80th minute. For context, without that they would be sat in 9th place. Instead they are in 6th, just a point behind Everton and Manchester United, both teams who have been seen as being particularly impressive. There is a slight feeling that they are continuing to ride their luck here, although Spurs didn’t create much aside from Siri Worm’s spectacular edge of the box strike. But Reading should beware – their last gasp heroics should not be relied upon.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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