Just five games into the season and the Women’s Super League has already thrown up its fair share of shocks and thrillers. Excuses have been as abundant as goals; this season looks set to provide plenty more entertainment.
It was predicted by many that the WSL would shape up to be another three-horse race between the established three of defending champions, Chelsea, and fellow heavyweights, Manchester City and Arsenal. Yet as we hit the second international break of the WSL season, while it is Arsenal that reside in top spot, Manchester City are uncharacteristically floundering in ninth position.
Despite a win on the opening day for the Manchester club, an injury crisis has subsequently seen them struggle to pick up points. With just one point from their following four games, it seems coach Gareth Taylor’s decision to not run a full pre-season has backfired – quelle surprise!
Results including a 5-0 drubbing by title contenders, Arsenal, as well as a 2-0 home loss to West Ham have left Taylor’s job certainly insecure.
Their only win of the season came against Everton, a team many touted as being able to put pressure on those established three at the start of the season. It was Willie Kirk, however, who has been the first manager to be shown the door at this early stage in the season.
After big spending in the summer, and with only two wins from five, Kirk departs from an Everton side that have thus far fallen below expectations. Everton are clearly still set on their intention to challenge as their results don’t appear too damning when set in context, the other two losses coming against Arsenal and Chelsea.
The nature of these losses, all with at least a three-goal deficit, are perhaps more reflective of how Kirk has failed to fulfil pre-season expectations.
The aforementioned London clubs currently occupy the two top spots with Arsenal three points ahead having triumphed in their clash on the opening weekend. A 3-2 victory for the Gunners set the standard for the WSL and could turn out to be a decisive result come the end of the season.
A league often settled on the finest of margins with only 12 teams making up its number, this season has certainly set up to be memorable
That match saw Beth Mead and Pernille Harder on the scoresheet, two players who have sustained this form and emerged as decisive players for their teams this year. Mead’s winner in this match raised questions over the need for VAR which have been echoed since, although perhaps the professionalisation of officials should be the priority for the WSL.
Sat equal on points with Chelsea are fellow Londoners, Tottenham Hotspur. An impressive start for them saw an undefeated start only recently halted by a 2-1 loss to Brighton, though a relatively favourable fixture list has come to their aid if we can count current form City among the easier games.
Brighton number among those teams that constitute an increasingly competitive mid-table that have the potential to threaten those at the top on their day. Alongside their defeat of Spurs, Hope Powell’s side have picked up impressive wins against West Ham and Birmingham City and so far have looked the most exciting outside the top four.
Meanwhile at the bottom, newly promoted Leicester City are yet to get off the mark despite many having them down to succeed this season. In fairness, their points haul isn’t quite reflective of their performances as they managed to hold Chelsea to 0-0 for 84 minutes before Harder broke the deadlock.
It feels only a matter of time before they do achieve their first points haul. It is reflective of just how tough the WSL has become even with a well-funded and structured set-up, it won’t be easy for the Foxes.
Birmingham City, though, look more at risk this season. Having just survived the drop last year, they’ve shown little to suggest this time will be any easier with heavy defeats to Brighton and Everton not providing hope.
The WSL has proven itself capable of upsets and abundant in quality. A league often settled on the finest of margins with only 12 teams making up its number, this season has certainly set up to be memorable.