The 2022/23 WSL title already looks to be a four-horse race
Early into the second half of the season, it’s looking like there are just three teams who are capable of knocking champions Chelsea off their perch this season.Embed from Getty Images
A run of four wins in their last five games has seen Chelsea return to a familiar position at the top of the Women’s Super League. The Blues have also shown imperious form in the cups too, reaching the Continental League Cup final with Arsenal next month, the fifth round of the FA Cup where they’ll again face their old foes, and dominating their Uefa Women’s Champions League group to set up a quarter-final clash with European giants Lyon. But domestically, they face stiff competition from the Manchester clubs and the Gunners who’re determined to halt the Chelsea juggernaut this season. Here, we look at the top four contenders for the league crown…
Hayes sets a high standard for Chelsea – and others – to reachEmbed from Getty Images
Chelsea’s recent five-goal thriller against London rivals Tottenham was a feast for the neutral, but the 3-2 victory still frustrated boss Emma Hayes. Such is the high standard set by Hayes that the win was barely celebrated, although she was pleased with her team’s ability to dig deep to secure an important result in the face of pressure from the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Chelsea’s season started with a shock 3-2 defeat to newly-promoted Liverpool on the opening day, which seemed to act as a catalyst for what’s followed – a 19-game unbeaten run in all competitions. It’s clear that blistering form has many punters considering Hayes’ team to be the frontrunners to claim a fourth consecutive WSL title this term. The Blues’ price has shot in as short as 1/3 with some bookmakers, although that doesn’t mean it’s a sure-fire thing…
The red half of Manchester are hot on Chelsea’s heelsEmbed from Getty Images
It’s been a similarly impressive start to the 2022/23 WSL campaign for Manchester United, who are going toe-to-toe with Chelsea at the top of the table. The Red Devils sit just two points behind the Blues with the same number of games played, leaving them in great shape to take advantage should Chelsea slip up in their remaining 10 games.
They were held to a frustrating goalless draw by improving Everton, which established that two-point lead for Chelsea at the top. Prior to game week 12, United were ahead on goal difference – and they still have a better goal difference than the Blues after the opening 12 games, which may yet prove decisive come the end of the season.
Manchester United are 9/1 to win the title, but some fans will find these odds typically have few strings attached as they’ll always back their favourite team. The Red Devils currently trail Chelsea by just two points and have the chance to leapfrog the leaders — who’re not back in league action until next month — with victory over Spurs tomorrow.
Can goal-shy Gunners maintain their title ambitions?Embed from Getty Images
Arsenal will also feel they still have a major say in the title race. The Gunners have a game in-hand on both Chelsea and United, but first they face a tough test against fellow contenders Manchester City this weekend. If they can win this, they will move level on points with United, just two shy of leaders Chelsea.
Arsenal captured the headlines in recent weeks for their world-record transfer bid of almost £500,000 for Alessia Russo, and it was evident how important she would be for the Gunners in their recent goalless draw at West Ham. Arsenal squandered a host of guilt-edged opportunities against the Hammers, with Jonas Eidevall’s side battling to cling on to Chelsea’s coat-tails.
Wasteful City need to be slickerEmbed from Getty Images
Meanwhile, Manchester City are in fourth place, just five points shy of Chelsea having played the same number of games. They lock horns with the champions next month on March 26, which could be a great opportunity for Gareth Taylor’s side to reel in the Blues for the season run-in.
City’s Achilles’ heel this season has been their profligacy in front of goal. In their recent victory over bottom club Leicester, they dominated the early stages with no reward. It took until the 61st minute to eventually break the deadlock. City will know they need to be more clinical in the coming weeks to stand any chance of bridging that gap with Chelsea.
With Everton now seven points adrift of fourth-placed City, it’s clear that this quartet are the only sides with realistic title hopes this season. That number could be whittled down further still in the coming weeks with plenty of crunch six-pointers looming large on the horizon.
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