Five things we learned from the WSL this weekend

Jessy Parker Humphreys looks back on the weekend’s league action.

Defensive issues stump both Manchester clubs in similar five-goal losses

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It is unclear whether there is something in the water in Manchester but both sides of the city were left red-faced in defeats to London rivals on Sunday. Chelsea and Arsenal beat Manchester United and Manchester City by five goals respectively.

Most concerning and frustrating for both clubs will be how they brought defeat on themselves. Chelsea could have opened the scoring within 30 seconds after a poor Mary Earps pass allowed Sam Kerr to nick the ball off Maria Thorisdottir, and they had scored within 90 seconds after United’s defence got caught up in the Chelsea press, allowing Sam Kerr to square the ball to Fran Kirby for her 50th WSL goal.

In North London, Alex Greenwood and Alana Kennedy were both at fault for a number of the goals in Arsenal’s 5-0 win. City are without a number of key players due to injury but the seismic mistakes made were still inexcusable. For every moment where it looked like City could try and get back in the game, they played themselves into errors which allowed Arsenal to capitalise.

Both Marc Skinner and Gareth Taylor will have left the weekend with plenty of food for thought.

Arsenal’s statement win over Manchester City reminiscent of 2018/19

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When it comes to Arsenal, they love nothing more than a statement 5-0 win.

Back in 2018/19 – the last time the Gunners won the WSL title – the 5-0 was against Chelsea. Arsenal went away to Kingsmeadow in October and humiliated Emma Hayes’ side in a clear demonstration of how far ahead of Chelsea they were. It remains Chelsea’s biggest ever loss in the Women’s Super League; Sunday’s 5-0 against Manchester City was also their record loss.

Arsenal went on to win the league by seven points in 2018/19. That Arsenal inflicted a record loss on their rivals and have already beaten the current title holders within the first three games of the season, suggests something similar could be on the cards.

Gunners’ depth on show in Tobin Heath’s debut match

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Part of what makes Arsenal seem like such credible title contenders this season is how much stronger their squad looks. Under Joe Montemurro, Arsenal were often decimated by injuries, creating a vicious cycle where they were forced to overplay players who needed their loads managing.

Under Jonas Eidevall now, it is a different story. Arsenal’s smart summer recruitment, in combination with Beth Mead’s return to form and Steph Catley’s fitness, has given them a multitude of options. Towards the end of the Manchester City game, they were able to bring on Caitlin Foord, Nikita Parris, Mana Iwabuchi, and, getting the biggest cheer of all, Tobin Heath.

In the past, it has felt like Arsenal’s squad is maybe not quite on par with Chelsea’s or Manchester City’s. That is no longer the case.

City’s back-to-back defeats leave them already adrift

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Manchester City’s back-to-back North London losses to Tottenham and Arsenal make this the first time they have lost back-to-back games in the Women’s Super League since May 2018. Those results leave them significantly adrift of Chelsea and Arsenal with only three games of the season played – this when, given they had already been knocked out of the Champions League, they were supposed to have an advantage over the other two title-contenders.

Chelsea are the only team to have gone on to win the league having lost to a team outside of the ‘top three’ when they lost to Brighton last year. But they were able to do that because they did not lose any other games, picking up eight points from their four games against Arsenal and Manchester City. Having already dropped points to Arsenal, Chelsea’s visit to Manchester in November will likely be the last chance saloon for Gareth Taylor’s side.

Fran Kirby hits an incredible 50 WSL goals

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Fran Kirby’s opener for Chelsea against Manchester United was her 50th WSL goal, achieving a milestone only previously reached by Vivianne Miedema and Ellen White. What is so astonishing about Kirby getting there is that unlike Miedema and White, Kirby does not play as a central striker. When you take into account she missed close to an entire season due to her struggles with pericarditis, and that the 50 goals have been scored in 54 starts, the only question is how many more she could look to rack up.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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