Discover more from Flying Geese
Manchester City falter as Brighton move closer to safety
Meanwhile Manchester United and Chelsea continue to push for the title
It’s been a couple of weeks since we had a full weekend of WSL fixtures with Arsenal and Chelsea participating in the Champions League. This bit of the season has a feeling of either being very frantic or very stop and start. Chelsea are having to play midweek fixtures both this and next week, having already played Liverpool on Wednesday of last week. On top of that they have a FA Cup final this weekend, whilst everyone other than United has a weekend off. That leaves a number of the teams whose seasons are teetering on the edge being forced to wait an extra week before they can resume.
Manchester City’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool was the big upset at the top of the table this weekend. It was a rather strange match with City looking like a team who were distracted. There was an error playing out from the back for Liverpool’s first goal as well as the bizarre moment where goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck wandered out of her penalty area holding onto the ball. Despite having 17 shots, only 3 were on target and City could only score once.
The frustrating part of all of this for City is that they have by far and away the best expected goal difference per 90 of anyone in the league (as per FBRef using Opta data). They are also the side with the lowest overperformance of their expected goals in the WSL having scored 46 from an xG of 44.7. Shot placement in particular seems to be a problem - their xG of 44.7 has translated into a post-shot xG of only 39.6.
Thanks for reading Flying Geese! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
The big beneficiaries of this loss for City are Arsenal. They had their fourth ACL injury in five months confirmed last week with Laura Wienroither joining Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema on the sidelines. Yet despite an increasingly threadbare squad, they were able to get past a resurgent Leicester City on Friday night, thanks to a fantastic finish from Frida Maanum. Arsenal have a number of tough fixtures still to go this season, maybe enough to give City some sliver of hope, but this weekend’s results will make them feel like they have some form of buffer.
Chelsea and Manchester United both threatened to outdo each other this weekend with United able to put the pressure on Chelsea by playing first. Despite some early nervous moments, they made light work of a Tottenham team who seem to have somehow got worse defensively. Leah Galton was once again outstanding, scoring her tenth goal of the season over the weekend. Tottenham was United’s easiest remaining fixture but the manner of their victory showed a team not short on confidence even if recent matches have been tight.
For Chelsea, their 7-0 win against Everton was crucial in reducing the gap in goal difference between themselves and United. After a more nervy result against Liverpool in midweek, this was Chelsea at their freeflowing best, a sight that has rarely been seen this season. The return of Pernille Harder looked particularly inspirational in both matches. Despite reports confirming Harder and Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson’s long-rumoured summer departure this week, there is a sense that both players want to finish their time at Chelsea on a high.
With Chelsea and United meeting in the FA Cup final on Sunday, there is an opportunity for one of them to not only to pick up their first trophy of the season, but also inflict a mental blow on their title rival. Whoever comes out on top will surely be seen as favourites to go on and win the WSL.
Brighton’s 1-0 over West Ham was the crucial result at the bottom of the table with the Seagulls now looking all but safe, having picked up 7 points in their past four games. New coach Melissa Phillips has totally reinvigorated a Brighton team who were previously deeply disorganised, although at the moment, anyone playing West Ham seems to get handed three points.
Obviously West Ham have not been in danger of going down all season really after they won three of their opening five games. But Paul Konchesky’s side have only picked up two points in 2023 and are struggling to create anything going forward. They have had zero shots on target in two of their last three matches. If Konchesky stays in his role, they will surely be favourites to go down next year.
It is Reading who look most at risk right now, as they lost 5-0 to Aston Villa, meaning they have conceded 12 goals in their last three matches. This is a big problem for Reading because given they still have Tottenham to play, there was the potential of leapfrogging them via goal difference, which now looks unrealistic.
Obviously a win over Tottenham for Reading would take them above Leicester assuming Leicester were not to pick up any more points this season. But given Willie Kirk’s side still have West Ham to play, that possibility seems remote.