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You can never be too Kerr-ful
Even the FA Player couldn't stop us tuning in as the WSL returned
The WSL returned this weekend after an incredibly long break with a showcase fixture at the Emirates, an upset at the bottom, and an absolute thrashing. Ah, how we missed you Women’s Super League.
Arsenal 1 - Chelsea 1
There is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal played better than Chelsea in this top of the table clash, although I’m not sure that is quite the same as Arsenal deserving to win. Chelsea looked sluggish, struggling to progress the ball from their half, with Lauren James a sole bright spark (SIX completed dribbles). With Fran Kirby not fit to start, they lacked creativity in midfield, and Arsenal were able to contain them with relative ease.
Yet despite the dangerous situations Arsenal got in, they fluffed their lines, with Zecira Musovic (playing the biggest game of her time at Chelsea since they were humiliated 4-0 at Wolfsburg last season) not tested beyond some relatively comfortable saves. In some ways the performance summed up what Arsenal’s issue over the next six months is likely to be - they have a lot of good attacking players, but not many goal scorers.
When Sam Kerr headed in her 89th minute equaliser, it did not feel particularly surprising. This is simply what Chelsea do - they find a way to pick up points even when they are not at their best. And once again, Arsenal were left to rue their inability to see out a lead at the Emirates.
Aston Villa 2 - Tottenham 1
The ‘eye-catching January transfer window’ derby did not disappoint as the first WSL game back from the winter break. Aston Villa’s reconfigured midfield did find room to give Jordan Nobbs and Lucy Staniforth starts whilst Bethany England made her Tottenham debut. Villa looked head and shoulders above a Spurs side whose midfield could not lay a glove on the much more organised Aston Villa, but it was England who gave Tottenham the lead after she was left unmarked in the penalty area.
A quick fire double from Aston Villa however gave them the deserved win. Rehanne Skinner’s half time substitutions did make Tottenham more robust as the introduction of Evelina Summanen left them better able to deal with Kenza Dali and Jordan Nobbs. What is astounding is that Skinner still seems unable to land on her best midfield or her best attack, constantly tinkering as if she has only recently come into the job. For Ward’s Villa, their attacking set-up looks to be of a very high quality but defensively they remain open. Laura Blindkilde is wasted out wide but does Ward have the conviction to return her to midfield and leave out one of her “stars”? Only time will tell.
West Ham 0 - Manchester City 1
Manchester City managed to shake off enough of the winter ice to beat West Ham 1-0 in a game which felt less dominant than some of the statistics suggest. It seems feasible that City would have found another gear if West Ham had been able to get a goal but aside from getting in behind City’s defence a couple of times, West Ham were not really able to create good chances.
This West Ham side looks quite unbalanced right now. The return of Thea Kyvag to her native Norway coupled with Jess Ziu’s long term injury has left them looking thin in attacking positions. Emma Snerle’s first appearance since October was a welcome boost but if West Ham are going to continue their high-flying season, signing a proper winger seems essential.
Manchester United 6 - Liverpool 0
Manchester United thrashed Liverpool to go second in the league on goal difference with a confident performance led by Ona Batlle. The Spanish fullback is now on six assists for the season, having played only seven matches, and is third in the league for open play chances created per 90. No one in the WSL is having as much impact as Batlle from the fullback position.
United do not have to play a top four rival in the league until the start of March, and thanks to Chelsea and Arsenal’s draw now have the same record as the teams around them. Arsenal have to play Manchester City in February, opening up the possibility that United could open up a gap ahead of them. At the moment, they only seem to be growing in confidence.
Leicester City 3 - Brighton 0
Willie Kirk said rumours of his demise had been greatly exaggerated in this comprehensive win over Brighton to give Leicester their first points of the season. New manager Jens Scheuer will need time at Brighton as he looks to bed in new players - there were first starts for Guro Bergsvand, Zoe Morse and Dejana Stefanovic. However, injuries already seem to be taking their toll with Elisabeth Terland out for a number of weeks and Stefanovic having to go off in the first half.
For Leicester, this will give them hope that they could somehow cling on to WSL football. A lack of goals is their main issue, although Brighton do have the second worst defence in the league when it comes to expected goals against so if you can’t score against them, who are you going to score against? I still think they will need more attacking reinforcements in January if they are to stay up.
Everton 3 - Reading 2
Everton’s rather topsy-turvy form this season continued with their first back to back wins since September as they held on to beat Reading.
Jess Park is running the show here for Everton and whilst it is hardly a bad idea to bring in talented loanees, you can’t help but wonder how this team will actually look once she goes back to Manchester City at the end of the season. With Hayley Raso rumoured to be joining Real Madrid, there will certainly be a spot open for Park once again in Manchester.
However, there is also evidence that Brian Sorensen’s side are starting to catch on. Katja Snoejis has not had the start to WSL life that she would have liked but her clever near post finish gave her goals in back to back games. Meanwhile Gabby George seems to finally be getting back to the level that we have seen glimpses of in the past. Her solo goal is one example of a player growing in confidence, but her assist for Everton’s opener was equally impressive. Everton could end up being the dark horses of the second half of the season.