Five things we learned from the weekend’s WSL action

Although a shock result wasn’t to be in either of the two derbies, Lauren James’ dazzling display in champions Chelsea’s win over toiling Manchester City stunned fans, writes Charlotte Stacey.

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Little goes a long way for Arsenal

Arsenal’s strong start to the season continued as they put on an assured display at the Emirates against North London rivals Tottenham yesterday. A record crowd of over 47,000 fans turned up to see the Gunners fire four goals past Becky Spencer, putting them top of the table with two clean sheets and a goal difference of eight.

Beth Mead opened the scoring early on with a curling effort that looped above Tottenham’s backline before Vivianne Miedema doubled the lead just before half time. Centre-back Raffaele Souza notched her first goal of the season with a leaping header that cleared both Amy Turner and Eveliina Summanen, then the Dutch forward scored her second of the afternoon to well and truly put the game to bed.

Arsenal’s movement and aggressive pressing out of possession meant that Spurs spent the majority of the match on the back foot, and despite a fairly physical approach, they never really looked to threaten the home side. Particularly notable was Kim Little who repeatedly showcased a host of clever moves to detangle herself from several swarming Lilywhites. After a tidy performance against Leicester last week, Spurs will be disappointed that they fell so flat so early. Redemption will be sought by Rehanne Skinner’s side when they host Liverpool next.

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Misfiring Brighton and Reading must improve

Brighton secured a 2-1 win over Reading in front of 5,000 at the Amex. With both teams losing 4-0 to Arsenal and Manchester United in their opening games, it was crucial that points were taken. The match was a classic, and rather literal, game of two halves with Brighton dominating the first even when Reading went 1-0 up. The visitors took the lead through Deanna Cooper yet her effort was chalked off for offside, a decision that was later rightly questioned by Royals boss Kelly Chambers.

Almost complete role reversal manifested after the break, and it was Reading who dictated the second half and found themselves with the better chances. Both teams, however, were guilty of squandering numerous clear-cut opportunities. Possibly the most notable offender was Natasha Dowie who failed to capitalise on a ball that had already skipped past Seagulls goalie Meg Walsh. In spite of some good goalkeeping from Walsh and Royals counterpart Grace Moloney, the scoreline should have been much higher given the number of clean chances created. The finishing from both sides was concerning and is something that will need to be severely improved upon for either to challenge higher up the pyramid. Reading did eventually claw one back, but unfortunately for the Royals it was all too little, too late.

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James mesmerises at Kingsmeadow

Chelsea fans have been waiting for a full-throttle performance from Lauren James and this evening they were finally able to bear witness to the spellbinding talent of the youngster. The 20-year-old totted up 90 minutes for the Blues in their 2-0 win over Manchester City — the longest stretch she has played in the WSL since joining from Man United last year. Boss Emma Hayes has been careful to integrate James, to govern her time and manage her to peak fitness, and now we see why. After a somewhat quiet first half courtesy of Kerstin Casparij, James shifted into gear in truly riveting style.

In what can only be described as a dizzying head-scratcher, time appears to stand still when James has the ball. It is known that the forward is quick and drives with urgency, yet to the eye, she has all the time in the world. James’ complete control of the ball causes a hypnotic state, one that Chelsea supporters will certainly look forward to being under throughout the season.

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Man United are two good

Marc Skinner’s Red Devils earned their first win in the capital since 2020 after beating West Ham 2-0 today. Debut goals for Lucia Garcia and Hannah Blundell in the second half have United flying high in second place in the table behind leaders Arsenal. Manchester United look confident and are smartly using their fluid approach to forge goalscoring opportunities from different areas and with the use of players from all over the pitch. This puts them in good stead as it allows them to be less predictable in attack to catch opponents off guard.

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Merseyside derby win gives Everton belief

Over 27,000 travelled to Anfield to catch the last of this weekend’s derbies in which Everton comfortably beat Merseyside rivals Liverpool 3-0 this evening. Confidence was high with the newly-promoted home side after their 2-1 victory over champions Chelsea last week, however this was short-lived as the Toffees took an early lead through Megan Finnegan. Loanee Jess Park doubled the visitor’s advantage just after the half-hour mark before substitute Hanna Bennison clinched the third in the latter stages of the game.

After the disappointment of last season and a loss to West Ham to open this campaign, Everton needed a comprehensive win. Purposeful and positive passing saw the Toffees in control for large phases of the game. Unquestionably they looked the more competent of the two from the off and remained composed throughout despite several pitch invasions halting proceedings. Everton will take confidence from this performance and seem to be finally up and running.

Follow Charlotte on Twitter @Char_Stace

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