Jessy Parker Humphreys brings you the biggest talking points as the title race and Euro battle are set to go to the wire.
Arsenal and Chelsea learn from past tests to cancel each other out
Perhaps a 0-0 draw was always the most obvious outcome of Friday night’s London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal. Given the way Jonas Eidevall had caught Emma Hayes by surprise in the opening-day match, and she had done the same in the FA Cup final, it made sense that this time around both would be much more wary.
Despite being a goalless draw, the match was a fascinating interplay of each team making small adjustments based on the other to subtly wrest control from the blue corner to the red corner and vice versa. While Chelsea were initially flummoxed by how to play through Arsenal’s midfield press, allowing the Gunners to turn the ball over and quickly attack, the movement of Fran Kirby centrally began to open up more space. Then it seemed like the Blues had the greater opportunities but were unable to make it count.
Both teams can argue that a draw suits them better. Chelsea know if they win every game from now until the end of the season, they will be champions. Arsenal know that their run-in is easier than their big rival’s. Realistically, both teams knew that a loss could be devastating for their hopes. For the neutral, it guarantees that this title race is not done yet.
Miedema and Blackstenius prove there is no need for an either/or situation
When Stina Blackstenius joined Arsenal in January, it was easy to wonder whether the writing was on the wall for Vivianne Miedema’s time in an Arsenal shirt. While still publicly insisting that she had yet to make up her mind as to what her next step would be when her contract expired in the summer, signing one of the world’s most highly-rated strikers seemed to suggest that the Gunners’ recruitment department knew more than they were letting on.
But the past two games have shown that not only can Blackstenius and Miedema play together; they look pretty good doing it as well. The Dutch star has often talked about how she sees herself as a 10, rather than solely being a central striker, and against Chelsea, Eidevall deployed her in that slightly reserved position with Blackstenius up front. Miedema’s diligence in that role helped Arsenal control the midfield battle in the first half while she also smashed a shot into the post to prove she was more than able to maintain a sight of goal. It was apparent at points how new this partnership was, but it might be the key to Arsenal persuading Miedema to stay.
Weir repeats the spectacular to give City derby win
Poor Mary Earps. The WSL’s Sisyphean goalkeeper. Forced every season to try and help her team over the line to a first WSL derby win only to be chipped by Caroline Weir at the end of each game. It was an outrageously good strike (again) from Weir and gave Manchester City what was a deserved 1-0 win.
United looked timid for large portions of the game with a four-player high press that gave City acres of space to play round, and a lack of width which stopped them from being able to counter effectively. It was a far cry from the organised and determined side who had faced Arsenal the week before and who knew that a win would have taken them eight points clear of their rivals for the final Champions League spot. Instead, that lead is cut down to two and the race for third is very much on.
Reading disorganisation from set-pieces gives Brighton first win in eight
Given that Reading’s best performance of the season (their 1-0 win against Chelsea) showed extraordinary defensive organisation within the box, it was some surprise how switched off they looked against Brighton. Time and time again as Brighton put corners into Reading’s box, they found they had the freedom of the penalty area with which to attack the ball, scoring twice from set-pieces when in truth it could have been three or four. A confidence-boosting 4-1 win for Brighton who had been in a serious slump, but Kelly Chambers will be disappointed that her side’s eight-game unbeaten run ended in such a preventable manner.
Leicester shock West Ham to all but condemn Birmingham to relegation
An extremely high West Ham line gave Leicester City the space required to shock the in-form East Londoners and all but guarantee the Foxes’ safety with a 3-0 win. Leicester’s ability to run quickly into space has been plain to see all season, but their players have not always been able to make those moments count. Here there was some luck, particularly for their opener when Mackenzie Arnold’s attempt to clear bounced off Natasha Flint and into the net.
Yet there was also significant slackness from the West Ham defence who allowed time and space to be given to Ashleigh Plumptre and Freya Gregory for Leicester’s second and third goals. Lydia Bedford’s side are finally coming good on their early-season promise and now deservedly look set to stay in the league next year.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph