WSL: Five Things we learned this weekend
Jessy Parker Humphreys takes us through the top talking points from the Women’s Super League this week.
Casey Stoney’s Midas touch falls short
Some of Manchester United’s brightest moments this season have hung on the strength of Casey Stoney’s selection choices. Stoney made bold decisions at half-time against both Manchester City and Arsenal earlier in the season, bringing on Kirsty Hanson and Jess Sigsworth respectively, to get her side over the line in big games.
It was odd then to see a manager who has been so decisive seem so at a loss. Given Manchester United only really needed to make sure they did not lose this game, the decision to play the more attacking Katie Zelem ahead of Hayley Ladd looked foolish when United were 1-0 down after only two minutes. Equally, when Lotte Wubben-Moy headed in Arsenal’s second, the decision to leave the taller Maria Thorisdottir on the bench seemed remiss, particularly given United had looked fragile from set-pieces.
In a season where United have moved faster than was expected, on Friday it felt like their manager was standing stock still.
No Leah Williamson? No problem
When Arsenal released their team sheet, the groans of Arsenal fans echoed around the world on noticing the absence of Leah Williamson from the squad. Once again it seemed like Arsenal were going to be hindered in a big game by injuries.
Up stepped Lotte Wubben-Moy to marshall a makeshift defence with Lia Walti, shifted back from her usual position at the base of midfield.
Wubben-Moy has rarely looked out of place in the WSL this season, and she barely batted an eyelid against Christen Press. Her towering header at the start of the second half was the icing on a complete defensive performance. Given the freak own goal she scored against Chelsea earlier in the season, it was a redemptive moment for a player who did not need any redemption. She had already secured more than enough for Arsenal.
Life without Maren Mjelde begins for Chelsea
With Maren Mjelde ruled out for the rest of the season, Chelsea began their adjustment to life without their “mother hen” at Everton in mid-week. Within the opening two minutes, the evidence of what a big miss she will be was plain to see. Awarded a penalty for handball, Melanie Leupolz stepped up to see her attempt well-saved by Tinja-Riikka Korpela. Mjelde had scored four from four for Chelsea this season.
Yet taking up Mjelde’s position at right back, Niamh Charles went on to show that when Chelsea are missing a player, Emma Hayes always has another one to pop up in their place.
Two of Chelsea’s goals came from players running onto Charles’ sumptuous longer passes played quickly out from the back. Given her attacking background, Charles will certainly bring a new take to the role given Chelsea’s fullbacks are comparatively defensive. The real test of her defensive prowess is likely to come against Wolfsburg in the Champions League this week.
Carla Ward’s loan recruitment shines in frantic draw with West Ham
Birmingham have had a tough week – but then it feels like every week is a tough week when you are Birmingham City. Fresh from having had to move their home games to St George’s Park, the FA ruled that they would forfeit a match against Tottenham they had been unable to fulfill earlier in the season.
Yet despite their difficulties, Carla Ward has continued to make sure her side stays motivated. Birmingham have not won since November, but their last-minute goal against West Ham was essential to pick up a point and keep them hovering above the relegation fight.
Tellingly, both of Birmingham’s goals came from loan signings this season – Emily Murphy from Chelsea and Ruby Mace from Arsenal. Ward might not even have had an eleven when she initially joined the side, but her recruitment has been more astute than that of some of the teams around Birmingham.
Matt Beard’s gamble pays off as Bristol continue to accumulate points
It can be a risky business for a manager to decide that some matches are not worth a 100% effort. Yet Matt Beard’s decision to rest some of Bristol City’s best players for their match in the week against Manchester City was vindicated as they picked up another essential point away at Tottenham.
Despite conceding almost immediately to Siri Worm’s beautifully curled free kick, Bristol City were dogged in their attempts to get back into the game, eventually equalising from captain Gemma Evans’ header. With Sophie Baggaley again on top form, Bristol were able to hold onto the draw.
For Tottenham though, this was yet another case of dropped points, and with their next four games being against Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea, they will be very grateful to the FA for the three points they were awarded this week.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph
United without Tobin Heath is a much weaker team in terms of both offense and on-field leadership. In addition to being beset by injuries, they added far less defensive talent than City did and it shows.