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Best of Three: How did Leicester City limit Manchester United?
Plus whether Arsenal deserved to beat Aston Villa and Chelsea's midfield
Leicester City’s 1-1 draw was one of the stand out results of the weekend with the Foxes having never picked up a single point against any of the top four, in sixteen prior meetings. Willie Kirk’s side are now one of only four teams who remain unbeaten and are joint top with Chelsea and Manchester City. This meeting between Leicester City and Manchester United was a clash of the two highest pressing sides in the league this year, and much of Leicester’s joy came from their high-intensity press.
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United struggled to get through the press beyond the halfway line, with play often breaking down as it reached a new look front four of Hinata Miyazawa, Melvine Malard, Lucia Garcia and Nikita Parris. With a front three of Malard, Garcia and Parris, United were clearly looking to get runners in behind Leicester’s defence, and Mary Earps played 20% of her passes more than 40 yards, her fifth highest percentage since the start of the 2022/23 WSL season. United created a handful of good chances but could not put Leicester under significant pressure, predominantly because of a disjointed attack.
Marc Skinner’s decision to leave Geyse at home was strange to say the least, and failing to beat Paris Saint-Germain in the UWCL tomorrow night would certainly make these two dropped points tougher to take. But equally, Skinner was often criticised last season for not making the most of his full squad. The teething problems that we saw against Leicester City might pay off in the long run if it makes his squad more unpredictable. Only time will tell.
What did Carla Ward learn from Liverpool?
Aston Villa might feel hard done by following their injury-time loss to Arsenal but it would probably be truer to say they would have been lucky to hold on given they managed just five shots to Arsenal’s 28. In fact the fewest shots Aston Villa had in the entirety of last season was eight, which tells you just how much Arsenal forced them to sit back.
But Ward’s game plan was admirable, learning from Matt Beard’s impressive win with Liverpool at the Emirates on the opening day. Villa switched to a back five with Lucy Staniforth and Lucy Parker given strict man-marking instructions on Kim Little and Lia Walti. Once again, Arsenal’s progression in central areas was limited, although playing a back four did allow them to have Katie McCabe inverting into more central areas from the right wing. Ultimately though, Arsenal’s substitutes told as Villa got pushed further and further back. Whereas Beard brought on attacking players to keep forcing Liverpool up the pitch, Jordan Nobbs was a lightweight introduction on 73 minutes and no further changes were made until the 88th.
The introduction of Beth Mead certainly was an emotional boost to Arsenal but they did look a lot better going forward against Villa than they did against Liverpool. Alessia Russo’s increase on touches alone from 19 to 44 speaks volumes of how they were able to involve their striker with an increase from three to seven in the penalty area. And playing Bristol City on Sunday night should mean they go into the international break with any crisis club talks behind them for now.
What is Chelsea’s best midfield?
Emma Hayes has used three different midfield double pivots for Chelsea so far this season. Sophie Ingle has started every match, pairing with Sjoeke Nüsken, Erin Cuthbert and Melanie Leupolz respectively. Right now, it is pretty unclear the exact direction Hayes sees this midfield going. Ingle has not looked comfortable in either of the last two matches, finding herself substituted at half-time against Manchester City for Jelena Cankovic and off the pace against West Ham. It seems somewhat reasonable to surmise her regular inclusion has been somewhat forced. Nüsken is new to the club and occasionally looked overrun against Tottenham whilst Cuthbert has barely had a pre-season due to injury. Both those players’ introductions against West Ham were game changing with Cuthbert in particular being crucial to Chelsea taking total control of the match and not allowing West Ham to have a single shot after the 58th minute. Long term it feels like Cuthbert and Leupolz will become the first choice pairing but Hayes is certainly still tinkering.