Five things we learned from the weekend’s WSL action

Jessy Parker Humphreys picks out the big talking points from the Women’s Super League at the weekend.

Spurs draft an attacking blueprint to unlock Chelsea…

For the first 20 minutes of the London derby between Tottenham and Chelsea, you would be forgiven for thinking the two sides had swapped strips. Rehanne Skinner set her side up to press Chelsea high up the pitch, with Kit Graham and Jessica Naz alongside each other pressuring Millie Bright and Magda Eriksson. With Chelsea pushing both their full backs up, Bright and Eriksson were forced into making inaccurate, long passes which were easily won back by Tottenham players. 

Spurs also played long, committing bodies forward to win turnovers of possession and drawing fouls. When in possession, Graham dropped slightly deeper to take up the space between Chelsea’s defence and midfield which allowed her to either shoot from the edge of the area or recycle the ball out wide. 

Chelsea had Ann-Katrin Berger to thank for keeping them in the game until they came up with a solution: Melanie Leupolz dropped back to create a defensive three which overloaded Graham and Naz. 

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… But blown away after defensive lapses

For all of the thought Tottenham had put into their game plan against Chelsea, they were left with an insurmountable task after conceding three goals before half-time. Against the run of play, Chelsea scored two in two minutes. 

The opener, from Melanie Leupolz, was a long-range shot which Aurora Mikalsen, making her first WSL appearance, should probably have done better with. The second saw Tottenham abandoning their long-ball tactics from earlier in the half and Mikalsen’s pass being intercepted by Fran Kirby. Pernille Harder’s consequent shot ended up being headed away from the keeper’s waiting arms by Abbie McManus and into the net. When Sam Kerr scored the third 10 minutes later, she was left totally unmarked in the box before Leupolz made it 4-0 from the spot. 

Rehanne Skinner has given Tottenham a lot of structure in her time as manager, but it is clear some serious cracks still remain. 

Bristol City spark into life in attempt for great escape

Using maternity cover as a way to rejuvenate a squad is a unique idea. Yet for Matt Beard’s second WSL game in temporary charge of Bristol City, they certainly looked reinvigorated. Who knows whether this was a result of the managerial shake-up or simply an awareness of how essential a win against Brighton was this weekend?

There has been a default assumption that Bristol City will be relegated this season. This 3-0 victory over Brighton – Bristol’s first win – showed they are not gone yet.

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A spectacular opener from Yana Daniels after only three minutes set them on their way and Ebony Salmon sprinted through Brighton’s high line for their second before half-time. From there, it never looked like Brighton were going to be able to come back. The way Bristol City played might now have some clubs nervously looking over their shoulders. 

Veterans Press and Scott remind us there’s life in their legs

It is easy to focus on younger players but the stars in Everton’s 2-0 defeat by Manchester United have both been playing professional football for over a decade now. Neither Christen Press nor Jill Scott have had notable seasons so far. Press has struggled to find form at United. Scott has been forced to join her former club Everton on loan in search of game time. Yet at Walton Park Hall both showed they have more to give.

Press was a nuisance from a start. Sandy MacIver was forced to palm Leah Galton’s cross away from her within 10 minutes, inadvertently allowing Ella Toone to sweep in United’s opener. Playing on the shoulder of the last defender, Press looked ready to burst through one-on-one whilst maintaining the awareness to slot in the right defensively when Toone wanted to drift into the middle. It was testament to her performance that she stayed on the pitch for the longest time yet in a United shirt, as well as scoring up only a second goal for the club. 

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Scott, meanwhile, might have been on the losing side, but was one of Everton’s most defensively and creatively involved players. Her long-range shot – well saved by Mary Earps – was a rare Toffees threat. Scott said she was returning to Everton to try and make the Team GB side. Based on her performance in this match, she has more than enough to offer.

Dahlkemper sails through debut for City bolstered by returnees

Abby Dahlkemper will probably not make an easier debut in her career, as Manchester City strolled to a 4-0 win over West Ham. The match was more notable for the players involved than it was for the on-pitch action. 

Dahlkemper fitted in as comfortably as you would expect a World Cup-winning central defender to slot in alongside Steph Houghton. But the game also saw the return of Aoife Mannion, who has been out for over a year with an ACL injury, as well as a first WSL goal for Rose Lavelle, courtesy of a bizarre slip from Maz Pacheco. 

Manchester City seem to be moving seamlessly through the gears. Arsenal next weekend will be the first serious test this much more confident City have faced. With the game potentially a decider for the final Champions League place, their returnees could not have come at a better time. 

Follow Jessy on Twitter @jessyjph

4 Comments on Five things we learned from the weekend’s WSL action

  1. If Mewis is healthy, the addition of Dahlkemper will make for a much better City defense.
    Press, when in a system that fully utilizes her skills, creates havoc on the opposing defense. She thrives in an aggressive attacking scheme.

  2. flangeslammer // February 1, 2021 at 4:01 pm // Reply

    Just to say, Lavelle scored goals against everton and liverpool in the first round of the conti cup this year, shockingly in matches where she was actually deployed as a midfielder rather than a winger as Taylor seems hellbent on turning her into even if she’s never played there professionally before. Her injury against everton in the league came from tracking the outside back as a winger and I think people who moan about her deployment are those who have seen her play over the years as a creative force breaking the lines running out from midfield and distributing to the forwards or finding her own shot. As a winger, those attributes aren’t really there for her to use, which makes MC signing her in the first place seem so odd. She will never be a winger for the national team and Taylor forcing her there has been widely criticized in the states especially when she was left on the bench while healthy in their 2-2 draw against United when they were crying out for creativity in the second half and then used as a 9 (a 9!) off the bench away at Chelsea. No one is trying to pit her against the other MC midfielders, just pointing out that Taylor doesn’t seem to have a plan for her other than shoehorning her into roles she has never played before signing for them.

  3. flangeslammer // February 1, 2021 at 4:02 pm // Reply

    Just to say, Lavelle has scored goals against everton and liverpool in the first round of the conti cup this year, shockingly in matches where she was actually deployed as a midfielder rather than a winger as Taylor seems hellbent on turning her into even if she’s never played there professionally before. Her injury against everton in the league came from tracking the outside back as a winger and I think people who moan about her deployment are those who have seen her play over the years as a creative force breaking the lines running out from midfield and distributing to the forwards or finding her own shot. As a winger, those attributes aren’t really there for her to use, which makes MC signing her in the first place seem so odd. She will never be a winger for the national team and Taylor forcing her there has been widely criticized in the states especially when she was left on the bench while healthy in their 2-2 draw against United when they were crying out for creativity in the second half and then used as a 9 (a 9!) off the bench away at Chelsea. No one is trying to pit her against the other MC midfielders, just pointing out that Taylor doesn’t seem to have a plan for her other than shoehorning her into roles she has never played before signing for them.

    • Fair comment–when someone is honored as the third-best player in the World Cup at one position, why sign them to redeploy them?

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