The new Women’s Super League continued with gameweek two on Saturday and Sunday, with all 12 clubs back in action. There were goals galore up and down the country and here's a look at four key talking points from the games that took place.
First Win Important for Man Utd
Manchester United started the season a week ago with a deserved and hard fought 1-1 draw against Chelsea, but truly joining a WSL ‘Big Four’ season meant that they had to make a statement against Birmingham, and they did.eventually.
Even though United took the lead early, hosts Birmingham actually turned the score on its head and were leading 2-1 after half an hour. The dominant visitors made their extra quality count before long though, equalising before half time and running away with the game in the second half.
Casey Stoney’s side will still get stronger as well, with no Tobin Heath or Christen Press in action just yet following their high profile switches from the NWSL.
Unbalanced But Still Competitive
Ahead of the new season, the WSL was being labelled by many as the new ‘best league in the world’ as a result of the expected competitiveness there would be in 2020/21. That is still true in spite of several thrashings so far, including two nine-goal hauls in gameweek two.
Brighton earning a 0-0 draw against a Manchester City, with Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood handed debuts and more minutes for World Cup winner Sam Mewis, is the evidence of the kind of competitiveness those expectations predicted.
West Ham getting mauled 9-1 by Arsenal and Bristol City beaten 9-0 by Chelsea 24 hours later is not. This is after Arsenal also battered a highly-rated Reading side 6-1 a week earlier.
The top sides have got stronger, but so too have the middle bracket of clubs, as shown by Manchester United and Everton both starting the season well – United still had to work for their win over Birmingham as already mentioned, though.
But there are no objectively easy games, as proven by Brighton’s result in Manchester.
One of the issues that there is still a disparity in the quality of facilities and training the bigger clubs can offer, which combined with no games for six months because of the pandemic, is more obvious for the time being. That gap should close as players get back into things, as long as the confidence of teams like West Ham and Bristol City hasn’t been blown to pieces.
Arsenal Are Proving a Point
If Arsenal’s 6-1 demolition of Reading was worth standing up and taking note of, annihilating West Ham 9-1 was another step towards remind people they should always have been firmly part of the title race discussions, which were heavily focused all summer on Manchester City and Chelsea.
This is not simply a case of Arsenal being fortunate by facing relegation fodder in the opening two games. Reading and West Ham are both capable outfits with good players, and should each firmly be in the middle block of WSL clubs, although a first-half red card certainly hurt the latter.
Arsenal have never been forgotten about, but perhaps being somewhat overlooked has given the Gunners all the ammunition they need. The true tests will come against the other contenders.
Chelsea’s Depth Is Phenomenal
We already knew how incredible Chelsea’s depth is, and that was underlined further on Sunday when nine different players all scored in the 9-0 win against Bristol City.
Manchester United held them a week ago with a sound defensive performance, and it was almost as if the Robins got the full force of Chelsea’s frustrations in response.
Fran Kirby, Maren Mjelde, Melanie Leupolz, Erin Cuthbert, Millie Bright, Bethany England, Niamh Charles, Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr all netted. There were big goals among them two, including Kirby’s first goal since recovering from a lengthy illness, another important one for Kerr, whose first few months hadn’t yielded the goals expected, and a first for Harder.
That depth will be so important when there is the league, two FA Cups, the Continental Cup and the Women's Champions League for them to play for over the coming few months.