Jessy Parker Humphreys gives us the lowdown on this gameweek’s action.
Static and stagnant Manchester City look hopeless at West Ham
Manchester City had never lost three consecutive games in the WSL before this weekend. In fact, they had only lost three matches in an entire season twice, before their 2-0 defeat to West Ham.
The second goal they conceded in many ways summed up their problems this season. As City piled on pressure to try and force an equalizer, the ball was thumped up the field by the West Ham defence. Demi Stokes looked to pass the ball back to Karim Benameur Taieb in goal but under hit the ball, allowing Yui Hasegawa to run onto it and lob the backpedalling Taieb.
City were once again their own worst enemies and despite creating chances, it never really seemed like they were going to score. When the ball was picked up in midfield, the attacking players stayed static, making it easy for West Ham to hold their shape and defend. Even their best opportunity – Ellen White’s offside goal – only came as a result of an Adriana Leon mistake, as opposed to any industry on City’s part.
They have now scored just one goal from a combined xG of 4.7 in their past three games. This kind of underperformance is not a new feature of City’s game, with Gareth Taylor’s side having a similar dip last season. These matches are proving he does not know how to solve it.
West Ham’s industrious midfield helps give them their biggest WSL victory
For all of Manchester City’s weakness, West Ham put on a dogged display to give them what is undoubtedly their most meaningful victory of their four seasons in the WSL, having never beaten a ‘top three’ side.
No one epitomised West Ham’s work more than Dagny Brynjarsdottir, who scored the opening goal from what is becoming a trademark run into the box. Brynjarsdottir has a non-penalty expected goals per 90 of 0.42, which is the 2nd highest for a midfielder in the WSL, and she should really have scored in West Ham’s rout against Leicester last week. She also made a game-high 11 successful pressures and four successful tackles.
Abby-Leigh Stringer and Yui Hasegawa were similarly hard working, with Stringer also making four successful tackles whilst Hasegawa led on interceptions – evidence of how well she reads the game. It was fitting that both West Ham’s goals came from midfield, as they suffocated Manchester City to leave the attacking trio of Lauren Hemp, Ellen White, and Jess Park isolated.
Guro Reiten stars at left wing-back as Chelsea avenge last season’s defeat by Brighton
Watching Chelsea often feels like watching the footballing version of a Hydra, the mythical creature that grows two new heads for every head that is chopped off. If an opponent decides to focus on shutting down one player, space for a new one appears who will be equally as devastating.
Against Brighton, Guro Reiten was the player who benefited as Brighton seemed to focus their attention on Pernille Harder. Reiten meanwhile exploited the space left by Emma Koivisto, driving into dangerous positions on the edge of the area. Much of Chelsea’s brightest attacking play came through her, and the neat one-twos she was able to play with Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr. Her three shots on target was a game-high and her well-struck goal opened the scoring.
It has been some turn around for the Norwegian, who made only nine starts last season and looked to have fallen out of favour at the club. Yet since her introduction at half-time in the Champions League final, she has been ever-present, the switch to a back-three opening up room for her at left wing-back. The mid-week challenge of Wolfsburg will provide a serious test of whether her defensive credentials are up to the long-term adoption of that position.
Arsenal break down stubborn Aston Villa side to stay top of the table
It took Arsenal 80 minutes to score their second goal against Aston Villa, with Villa chalking up the longest any WSL team has managed to hold out against the Gunners this season. Aston Villa’s defence was dogged in the first half with Arsenal struggling to create opportunities despite having large amounts of possession, but Arsenal scored three goals in the last ten minutes, edging them ahead of Chelsea on goals scored in the league this season. With Jonas Eidevall having lost a league title on goal difference in the past, expect his Arsenal side to work until the very end of every game this season to squeeze as many goals out as possible.
Worrying signs for Reading as defensive holes show no signs of closing
Reading sit bottom of the WSL with ten goals conceded and not a single goal scored after four matches. Their 3-0 defeat to Everton showcased more worrying signs as an inability to clear the ball allowed Everton to score within the opening two minutes, whilst non-existent marking opened up the opportunity for Claire Emslie to score a brilliant strike. A terrible wall for Danielle Turner to score the third and a penalty being given away gave Reading a full house of defensive mistakes to take home with them. Kelly Chambers has an awfully large amount of work to do to turn her side’s performances around.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph