Jessy Parker Humphreys gives us the lowdown on the latest gameweek’s top talking points in the WSL.Embed from Getty Images
Covid-19 disruption will add extra uncertainty to enthralling WSL season
The WSL entered its Christmas break with more of a squeak than a bang as half of this week’s games were called off due to outbreaks of Covid-19. Chelsea v West Ham, Arsenal v Brighton, and Reading v Manchester City were all cancelled, leaving the table extremely tight. With points so close, particularly in the race for third place, teams with games in hand may feel extra psychological pressure if their rivals start to move away from them. It will all depend on when the WSL finds time to reschedule the matches, with Manchester city also needing to find room for their final Continental Cup group game before the quarter-finals in the last week of January.
Advantage Leicester in the race to avoid the drop but Lydia Bedford will want to see Jess Sigsworth start scoring
It was the longest period in four seasons that a WSL side has had to wait to pick up its first points, but this week Leicester City finally moved off zero with a 2-0 win over Birmingham City, their key relegation rivals. Both sides had good opportunities throughout the game, but it was Leicester who took advantage thanks to a shot that curled into the far corner from Sophie Howard, and a powered header that Birmingham goalkeeper Marie Hourihan should really have kept out.
One concern for Lydia Bedford that will still remain, however, is the form of striker Jess Sigsworth. Leicester’s summer signing from Manchester United looked like a sure bet, having dominated the goal-scoring charts in the Championship then grabbing a handful of goals even with limited minutes in the WSL. Yet Sigsworth has had only five shots on target this whole season, scoring only once. She missed two good opportunities in this game, including one which Natasha Flint had unselfishly squared to her. If Leicester are going to make their points advantage count, they will want Sigsworth to rediscover her form.Embed from Getty Images
Jess Naz winner sums up Spurs bullish confidence
Tottenham go into the Christmas break in the third Champions League spot with Rehanne Skinner’s side looking to have bounced back from a four-game winless run with two back-to-back victories. Despite the small margins in Tottenham’s wins – Leicester are the only side they have beaten by more than one goal – there is a sense of confidence behind this team, demonstrated by Jess Naz’s goal. It was only the second goal the 21-year-old has ever scored in the WSL, but you would not know that from the way she curled it into the top corner, leaving Sandy MacIver with no chance of getting there. But the goal was not the only aspect of Naz’s play that impressed; her driving runs forward left the Everton defence backpedalling and she finished the game with 10 progressive carries, double that of any other player on the pitch. It feels like every player in the Tottenham side is peaking at just the right time.
Everton’s managerial switch not even close to paying off
Willie Kirk’s sacking just five games into the WSL season, after the club had backed him significantly in the transfer window, raised more than a few eyebrows. The decision has yet to pay dividends, with new boss Jean-Luc Vasseur having picked up one point less than Kirk, despite having been in charge for the same number of games. Vasseur has managed only one win so far, even though he has enjoyed a much kinder run of games; Kirk faced Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal in his opening five. Everton scored twice as many goals under Kirk as they have managed under Vasseur, and there is no sense of improvement on Merseyside. The loss to Tottenham really came as no surprise.Embed from Getty Images
United end the year on a high with comprehensive win over Villa
Manchester United equalled their biggest ever WSL victory with a 5-0 win over Aston Villa to end the year with a festive flourish. Despite missing their two first choice fullbacks, Hannah Blundell and Ona Batlle, due to positive Covid tests, United were totally dominant throughout, with late midfield runs from Vilde Boe Rise and Hayley Ladd causing Villa just as many problems as it did Brighton last week. Skinner finally looks to be settling on a formation that brings out the best in his team, and will likely have one eye on the game against UWCL qualification rivals Tottenham at the end of January.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph