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Hot dogs for everyone
Or how WSL referees personally victimised me on Sunday
Imagine you wake up on a Sunday morning. It is cold and you are a little bit tired and hungover from going out on Saturday night. You see that the match you are supposed to be going to is having a pitch inspection at 9:30 and you think it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if you got to stay in bed.
But they say the match is on and you feel excited to head back to Kingsmeadow because you haven’t been since the end of November. So you drag yourself out across London to find a spot in the East Stand. The ground staff are hard at work making sure the pitch is in good shape and you notice some players slipping in the warm up - but the game is on, so it must be fine, right? Right?
Well - wrong.
Six minutes into Chelsea vs Liverpool, the match was abandoned. It was patently the correct decision given the inability of players to keep their footing, but it is still astounding that the match even went ahead.
There are lots of different questions which arise from what happened, and given the vagueness of the official statement from the WSL, little to suggest that we will get many answers.
Why did the game go ahead? Across football, broadcast is king and the fact that the match had been scheduled to be shown on the BBC seems like an important factor in why it went ahead. I have already watched Chelsea play on a clearly unplayable pitch this season when they faced Brighton in Crawley. That game was broadcast on Sky and the ball could barely roll on the grass, it was so waterlogged. Everton vs West Ham was pushed back an hour later whilst Tottenham vs Leicester City was called off the day before.
Are clubs pursuing undersoil heating, and if not, why not? The UK is never going to have perfect weather conditions all year round but the use of undersoil heating has eliminated frozen pitches from the very top of the game. The Premier League requires it of clubs, but it is not quite as simple as installing it in the WSL. Some clubs do not own their grounds and it is unclear whether all of them have the logistical or financial capacity to do so. Crucially, we don’t really know what the feasibility or cost of these improvements would be - but some kind of communication around that would go a very long way.
Obviously, it is not as simple as moving matches to Premier League stadiums - you cannot just open grounds at the drop of a hat - but the image of empty stadiums whilst games are called off is stark. No one is expecting these issues to be fixed overnight, but the silence around the topic from those running clubs and the league makes it hard to feel like the issue is a priority.
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Manchester City 1 - Aston Villa 1
Of the football that was played over the weekend, there was a shock on Saturday as Manchester City drew with Aston Villa. Despite Villa having picked up the win over City on the season’s opening weekend, they had since been comfortably beaten by Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. With City on a pretty impressive run of their own, it seemed unlikely that Villa would cause them many issues.
But with Kirsty Hanson cancelling out Deyna Castellanos’ opener just three minutes after City had gone ahead, City struggled to really force the issue, and it has left them five points off the top three.
Ironically Manchester City have the best expected goal difference per 90 in the league at +1.37. Yet whilst Manchester United are outscoring their expected goals at a rate of close to double, City are pretty much bang on. With a league as short as the WSL is, there is definitely more opportunity for variance to wreak havoc. But I do think broadly it means City probably are not as bad as some people seem to think right now.
Reading 0 - Manchester United 1
It did look like there might be a small reprieve for City on Sunday afternoon with Reading holding Manchester United goalless until Rachel Williams popped up with an 87th minute winner. This was a game that United always deserved to win, even if Mary Earps did pull off a few good saves to keep her 50th WSL clean sheet, and if Katie Zelem had scored her first half penalty, I suspect the second half would have played out quite a bit differently.
As it was Marc Skinner was rewarded for his faith in Rachel Williams, who seemed a strange signing and has only played 77 minutes this season. But with three goals in that time, she has certainly taken well to the supersub role.
United have also made some interesting defensive signings this month, bringing in the highly rated Canadian Jayde Riviere and loaning Estelle Cascarino from PSG. With United on course for 56 points at the halfway point of the season, having never previously broken 50, a Champions League place at minimum is tantalisingly close.
Everton 3 - West Ham 0
So we all remember that ridiculous individual goal Hawa Cissoko scored against Tottenham right? The one where from a corner she runs the length of the pitch and lobs the keeper? Well West Ham have kept that as their corner set up and it is going horribly wrong.
Everton got their first corner after just three minutes and here you can see Cissoko on the edge of the box:
Karen Holmgaard’s run eludes West Ham’s zonal marking and she heads in.
Everton’s second corner was nine minutes later, and whilst Cissoko is not quite as close to the edge of the area, she is still very clearly on the outer edges of West Ham’s defensive line:
This time the unmarked Megan Finnigan nods a looping header into the far corner, leaving West Ham 2-0 down after 12 minutes.
Cissoko’s counter-attack will go down as one of the goals of the season, but once you have become the team to concede the most set-piece goals in the league this season, it might be time to put your central defender back in the midst of the action.