WSL: Five things we learnt

Jessy Parker Humphreys looks back on the latest round of WSL fixtures which saw Arsenal falter against Chelsea and Liverpool take the points in a relegation scrap.

  1. Montemurro’s tactics falter to give irrepressible Chelsea title advantage

Arsenal 1 – Chelsea 4

Before this game, Chelsea must have known that a loss would all but end their title hopes, given how irrepressibly Arsenal have bulldozed all other opponents. In a WSL of such tight margins, you have to take destiny in your own hands. In an attempt to do just that, Joe Montemurro set Arsenal up to focus on the central areas of the pitch, with Viktoria Schnaderback playing at right-back, instead of as part of a back three with Lisa Evans ahead of her. But Chelsea don’t let anyone settle into a new system and within 20 minutes, Arsenal were 3-0 down and the game was beyond them.

Chelsea dominated on the wings, putting chance after chance into the box with Joanna Andersson’s pinpoint crosses leaving Louise Quinn and Manuela Zinsberger stuck in no man’s land. Chelsea reached a new level in this game, with Bethany England and Sophie Ingle both scoring beautiful goals, while Sam Kerr got her first for the club. Emma Hayes looked on, delighted to be winning one of the most fascinating managerial rivalries in the women’s game. “London is blue” tweeted Erin Cuthbert afterwards. “F***s sake it is” replied Sam Kerr. 

2. Furness proves the difference as Liverpool take the plaudits in relegation scrap

Bristol City 0 – Liverpool 1

Throughout the season, there has been a lingering feeling that Liverpool shouldn’t be sat at the bottom of the Women’s Super League. As the men’s team canters towards a Premier League title while being crowned champions of the world, it must feel like a bitter pill to swallow for their women’s team scrapping against relegation. They moved off the bottom by finally getting their first win of the season with new signing Rachel Furness giving them the vitality in midfield that they have lacked throughout this season. She put Rinsola Babajide through on goal within a minute of kick off, and with Babajide continuing to be unable to put the ball in the back of the net.

Furness took matters into her own hands to give Liverpool the lead after 13 minutes. Both Bristol City and Liverpool had more chances but this was a game between two teams who both could perhaps do with taking a break from the top flight. The midweek Continental Cup quarter-final performances from teams like Aston Villa and Sheffield United showed that there is more than enough quality in the Women’s Championship. Having one relegation spot from the WSL might have the ultimate aim of expanding the league but it risks letting poor teams get the opportunity to stay up. 

3. Jill Scott’s switch to the right helps City break down tighter Birmingham

Birmingham City 0 – Manchester City 2

Jill Scott has been more used to sitting in the middle of Nick Cushing’s midfield but her recent performances in a more advanced positioning on the right wing have allowed Manchester City to reap the rewards. Pauline Bremer can drift in more centrally from her attacking position while Scott also supports Janine Beckie’s runs forward from right-back. Against Birmingham, she provided both assists – first, for an Ellen White tap in across the six-yard box and second, pulling back for Keira Walsh to curl in from the edge of the area.

City needed Scott’s experience and strong decision to break down a Birmingham side who didn’t panic when they went behind after only 30 seconds. The nature of being a team like Birmingham means that every season becomes an exercise in bringing together a new set of players, as your best ones get picked up by the bigger teams. Defensively in this match it felt like it was starting to come together again.

4. Chloe Kelly’s brilliance demonstrates how Everton are a team on the up

Everton 3 – Reading 1

In a week where Tim Cahill and Everton’s media team embarrassed themselves over their new Australian signing by declaring she had played in the MLS and A-League, Chloe Kelly showed why Everton are a team who are really going places. Having already signed Izzy Christiansen this transfer window, Willie Kirk looks like he will have the opportunity to build a team to potentially challenge the big three of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City next season.

This was a swift demolition of Reading by one player. Everton opened the scoring with Kelly finishing off a slick team move before she curled in her second from the corner. She tapped in her third to become the English player with the second most goals in the WSL this season. Despite marketing mishaps, it’s clear that Everton are serious about seeing their women’s team at the top, and with talent like Kelly in their squad, they can definitely get there. 

5. Tottenham’s frustrating inability to find form continues

Manchester United 3 – Tottenham 0 

On paper, this is a Tottenham team which should be able to blend experience with young talent to string expected sets of results together. Players like Becky Spencer and Gemma Davison have been in the WSL for years, and bringing in loan signing Emma Mitchell from Arsenal would have been expected to help them have more consistency. Despite this, Tottenham have been unable to string back-to-back wins together in the league since September.

They are not a bad team but when they wobble, they tend to collapse in games. Of the seven games they have lost this season, six of them have been by a margin of two goals or more. With Spurs sitting comfortably mid-table in their first season since promotion, there’s no reason for Karen Hills and Juan Amoros to worry, but they will need to look at how they stop their team allowing games to get away from them if they want to push on next year.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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