WSL: Five things we learned from this weekend’s fixtures

Jessy Parker Humphreys is back with all the talking points from the latest Women’s Super League fixtures.

Galton thriving under Man Utd boss Stoney

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The arrival of Tobin Heath and Christen Press this summer at Manchester United looked ominous for Leah Galton. The 26-year-old had been one of the side’s standout players last summer but with both Heath and Press being comfortable playing as wide forwards with Alessia Russo being another attacking player added to the side, it was easy to assume that perhaps Galton would make way for these new arrivals. Yet Galton has gone on to start every game this season.

She has benefited from injuries — Lauren James and Press were notable absentees from United’s win against Reading this weekend — but she has demonstrated herself as someone that Stoney can rely on, having slotted in at left-back in a number of high-profile games this season.

Returning to her more familiar left-wing position, Galton confidently opened the scoring in the 2-1 win over Reading. It was a goal that felt soaked in the belief that she was a key part of this Manchester United team — no mean feat when you look at the players around her.

Misfiring Reading hinder top-three ambitions 

Kelly Chambers has made no secret of Reading’s desire to ascend to the top of the Women’s Super League. It is a long-term vision that has encompassed playing games at the Madejski Stadium as well as making signings like Emma Mitchell and Danielle Carter, and bringing in Jess Fishlock on loan.

Yet for all the quality in the team, their struggles in front of goal are undermining their chance of competing at the requisite level.

Reading do not even feature in the top half of the table in terms of goals scored over the past two seasons.

For large portions of their loss against Manchester United, Reading looked much the better team, with Amalie Eikeland and Emma Harries causing real issues on the right-hand side. 

However, they were unable to convert this threat into goalscoring opportunities, and even their equaliser from Jess Fishlock required a lucky deflection to wrong foot Mary Earps in the United goal.

Part of their problem seems to be taking “low value” shots — shots which are unlikely to be scored. Before this weekend, their xG per shot was 0.09; only Birmingham had a lower value. Kelly Chambers will need to work on their form in front of goal if she wishes to make Reading true contenders with the existing top teams.

Arsenal lack big-game bottle

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“We can’t seem to get over these mental blocks,” said Joe Montemurro after a 2-1 loss to Manchester City which saw Arsenal’s poor form against their key rivals continue. They have now played five games against their three key rivals in all competitions this season, and are yet to win any of them.

The manner of the dropped points must be particularly frustrating as the Gunners had taken the lead within three minutes thanks to a precise strike from Vivianne Miedema. Yet other than that, they created little. 

It was a cautious approach which was reminiscent of their draw against Chelsea earlier in the season but it invited City pressure. That pressure was typified by Arsenal’s inability to clear their lines which allowed Caroline Weir to strike in the last minute of time and win the game for City. It seems like however Montemurro sets Arsenal up, they are unable to enact a game plan which can carry them through a full 90 minutes.

Brighton’s full-backs frustrate Chelsea’s wide play

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Hope Powell prides herself on managing a Brighton side that can be hard to break down and so it proved again this weekend as they limited Chelsea to just a 1-0 win in a game bereft of chances. Fliss Gibbons and Maya le Tissier were required to play at their best in order to stop Chelsea from exploiting the wide areas which saw them put three past West Ham last week.

Chelsea tried to rotate their attacking players, at times playing a front four of Erin Cuthbert, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby, but their movement only seemed to confuse their own players rather than Brighton as they struggled to link up. Gibbons, in particular, did well to shackle Kirby with Maren Mjelde regularly choosing to pass to her centre backs rather than progress down the right flank.

Chelsea’s goal was the only real opportunity they had when Pernille Harder was able to get to the byline and place a cross onto Sam Kerr’s head. It was the only moment when Victoria Williams let Kerr out of her sight and unfortunately, Brighton paid for it.

Managerial change does West Ham and Spurs good

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Sacked managers are a rare occurrence in the WSL so it was an interesting break in form when West Ham and Tottenham got rid of both of theirs in the same week. Early signs, however, are that it was the right thing to do.

Tottenham recorded back-to-back wins thanks to a fairly comfortable 3-1 victory against Aston Villa, while West Ham followed up a battling performance against Chelsea with a 4-0 thrashing of Bristol City. 

While both Aston Villa and Bristol City are likely to be fighting it out to stay in the division, it was only a couple of weeks ago that it looked like Tottenham and West Ham would be right down there with them. It is a reminder that sometimes management just gets stagnant and moving on is the only real way to move forward.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

1 Comment on WSL: Five things we learned from this weekend’s fixtures

  1. A key factor in City’s win over Arsenal was that Sam Mewis yet again came up big in a big game.

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