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The penultimate WSL weekend before Christmas brought goals galore as Chelsea easily dispatched Leicester and Manchester City made light work of Brighton. Manchester United put on a show at Old Trafford to comfortably beat Aston Villa whilst Arsenal’s scoreline looked much closer than it was. There was a shock at the Madjeski stadium whilst Liverpool finally got a second win of the season.
Manchester United 5 - Aston Villa 0
Following their last gasp victory over Arsenal, this felt like a match where it would have been easy for Manchester United to take their eye off the prize, sandwiched as it was between that trip to the Emirates and the Manchester derby. Yet presumably helped on by more than 30,000 fans at Old Trafford, goals from Katie Zelem, Leah Galton, Alessia Russo, Ona Batlle and Rachel Williams gave United a comfortable win. This was United going forward at their very best with Ella Toone’s composure on the ball essential in knitting play together.
Aston Villa were able to exploit some of the spaces out wide but a rejigged attack that was missing on-loan from United Kirsty Hanson struggled to be as connected as it has been so far this season. Hayley Ladd’s four tackles and interceptions helped limit Villa’s midfield whilst Ona Batlle ran riot on the right hand side. The result tees up next week’s Manchester derby perfectly with a City win putting them level on points but a United win really opening up the gap.
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Arsenal 1 - Everton 0
Arsenal overcame what could have been a potential banana skin even more comfortably than the scoreline suggests. A spectacular goal from Vivianne Miedema was the highlight of a performance that indicated she was close to being back to her best. Miedema linked up play excellently in the number 10 role and if it was not for some wasteful finishing from a number of Arsenal players this could have been less cagey than it ended up being by the end.
Everton meanwhile are still struggling to find their rhythm. Emily Ramsey has statistically been the best goalkeeper this season in the WSL, preventing on average more than one goal per 90 minutes. They look defensively leaky but even more concerning is their creation in attack. The fact that they are not conceding as much as might be expected right now is covering up the reality that only Leicester City have a lower xG than them this season, with no player having scored more than one goal in the WSL. It was always going to be tough when loanee Jess Park was their most experienced WSL attacker but summer signing Katja Snoejis needs to start delivering.
Leicester City 0 - Chelsea 8
The King Power stadium is proving to be a happy hunting ground for Chelsea who followed up last season’s 9-0 win with eight goals this weekend. Guro Reiten was the star with a goal and four assists in the first half to take her tally up to nine assists in nine WSL matches this season. There were also goals for Fran Kirby, Jessie Fleming, Sam Kerr, Niamh Charles and Bethany England.
Chelsea were able to use this match to rest players ahead of an important visit to Madrid this week, with neither Lauren James nor Kadeisha Buchanan featuring at all, whilst Sam Kerr was taken off after 63 minutes.
This was unlikely to be a game that Leicester were ever going to win but it was a humiliating performance that coupled with other results sees them now seven points adrift at the bottom. FiveThirtyEight’s WSL predictor now gives them an 86% chance of being relegated - it is very hard to see them clawing back up the table.
Manchester City 3 - Brighton 1
An outstanding performance from Chloe Kelly secured Manchester City a comfortable win over Brighton to extend their WSL winning streak to six matches. With nine shot creating actions, Kelly absolutely rinsed Poppy Pattinson, cutting inside and out in the penalty area with Brighton just unable to deal with her. Meanwhile, Julie Blakstad has proven herself to be an able deputy for Lauren Hemp, with the diving header for her goal straight out of the Bunny Shaw playbook.
The derby against United will be an interesting test as to how far City have come. The results have been impressive, but all six wins have come against the teams in the bottom half of the table. A win against United would arguably put them back in the title race but it will be a level of opponent that they have not faced since Chelsea in September.
Liverpool 2 - West Ham 0
Two early defensive lapses from West Ham allowed Ceri Holland and Katie Stengel score the goals that gave Liverpool the win. West Ham were totally swamped by Liverpool in the first half, failing to truly regain any control until Paul Konchesky brought on Hawa Cissoko after 32 minutes and switched to a back three. Despite a handful of good opportunities to get back into the game, Liverpool were able to contain West Ham and pick up their first WSL win since the opening day victory over Chelsea.
Results for both Liverpool and West Ham have been trending in this direction with West Ham’s expected goal difference per 90 currently the worst in the league whilst Liverpool’s is firmly mid-table. Injury issues have been a contributory factor for West Ham but there is still some cause for concern about how Konchesky is setting up the team.
Reading 1 - Tottenham 0
Tottenham continued their mixed start to the season, losing 1-0 to Reading as a result of an absolutely calamitous own goal from Amy Turner, who neatly headed the ball over goalkeeper Becky Spencer. Reading always looked the more likely team to score, and despite their squad having been struggling with the flu over the past week, managed to hold on for only their second win of the season. With the gap between them and Leicester only growing, Kelly Chambers already looks close to once again keeping her side in the WSL, despite having lost their star player Deanne Rose to injury at the start of the season.
(All data is Opta)